WYTHEVILLE, Va. – Wythe County’s first responders are now enjoying nearly 300 new portable and mobile radios. The newly purchased radios will provide additional safety features for first responders, as well as GPS mapping capabilities for the county’s 911 dispatchers.

Purchasing the radios was made possible thanks to three separate successful grant applications the county made, totaling to over $300,000.

The Wythe—Bland Foundation provided two separate grant funds totaling to more than $225,000. Thanks to the foundation’s endowment, the county was able to purchase 150 portable radios (handheld radios that are attached to the first responder) and 60 mobile radios (radios that are mounted inside the truck), as well as several other necessary emergency equipment items.

The new radios also include GPS mapping capabilities, a function Darlene Lang, Director of Wythe County’s Consolidated Dispatch Center, says will allow 911 dispatchers the ability to see where each emergency response vehicle actually is and aid in routing – helping to cut response times

“This feature will prove to be very helpful in situations where roadways are obstructed and rerouting is necessary,” said Lang.

In addition to the Wythe—Bland Foundation, the county also received $75,000 in grant funding from the Virginia Department of Health’s Rescue Squad Assistance Fund.

All portable radios include the “Man Down” function, which enables a firefighter trapped inside a building to issue a call for help.

“Many of the portable and mobile radios that were being used by local emergency responders were becoming outdated and obsolete,” said Wythe County’s grant coordinator Jeremy T.K. Farley.

“We’re extraordinarily grateful to these grant awarding organizations for making these purchases possible,” said Farley.

The new radios and GPS mapping capabilities are only the latest phase in a comprehensive county initiative aimed at making emergency communications throughout the county more reliable.

Like nearly all of Southwest Virginia, Wythe County’s mountainous terrain creates a challenge for effective radio communications. The county plans to make additional grant applications with the goal of solving these problems in the days ahead.

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