Merkley, Wyden Announce Over $16.5 Million in FEMA Funding for Douglas County’s Emergency Radio System Upgrade

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is awarding Douglas County a total of $16,622,500 over the next few years through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The investments will ensure Douglas County is able to upgrade its analog radio system to current digital technology that will allow for significantly enhanced coordination among the county’s public safety, law, fire, and emergency medical services. This funding comes in addition to the $355,000 Merkley and Wyden secured for the upgrade as a critical community-initiated project in the fiscal year 2023 government funding package. Together, these federal investments will ensure local agencies can better serve their communities during future natural disasters like wildfires, floods, and severe winter weather.

“As I hold a town hall in each of Oregon’s 36 counties every year, I hear firsthand from folks about what matters most to them, including ensuring our communities are prepared should disasters strike,” Merkley said. “These FEMA investments for Douglas County to upgrade its emergency radio system will build stronger and more resilient communities by helping local agencies perform at their best during the worst conditions to help save lives.”

“These crucial federal resources for Douglas County will make sure the emergency response will be quick when disaster hits and every second counts to save lives,” Wyden said. “I know from my town hall last month in the county that wildfires are top of mind here, and I’m gratified these FEMA funds are available to help local first responders when Oregonians face these blazes as well as any other emergency.”

The FEMA Hazard Mitigation grants for Douglas County break down as follows:

  • A total of $15,750,000 over the coming years to fund the upgrade of the existing emergency radio system infrastructure supporting the Sheriff’s Office and 911 communications for Douglas County Public Safety, Law, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services. The proposed upgrade will allow each radio tower to continue to function independently, even if not able to communicate to other towers or the mothership, allowing emergency responders in the vicinity of a tower to continue to communicate and respond during emergencies. The hazards that will be mitigated are coastal storms, dam/levee breaks, droughts, floods, freezing, human causes, mudslides, severe ice storms, snowstorms, and special events such as windstorms, earthquakes, wildland fires, tornados, tsunamis, and volcanos. This project increases resilience and reduces the risk of injuries, life loss, and property damage and destruction, including critical services and facilities.
  • A total of $872,500 for Douglas County over the coming years to fund management costs to upgrade the existing emergency radio system infrastructure supporting the Sheriff’s Office and 911 communications for Douglas County Public Safety, Law, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services. 

“Douglas County is ecstatic that our due diligence has paid off! I am incredibly thankful for the foresight and resolve of our Douglas County IT & Radio Director Nancy Laney for working with me to get through the federal process of applying for this unique federal grant,” stated Douglas County Commissioner Tom Kress. “In Douglas County, over half of our land is owned and managed by the Federal Government, thus receiving financial support to help fund projects that supply vital services to our entire county is imperative. The process to overhaul our 30-year-old outdated Emergency Radio Communications System (ERCS) has been a multi-year, multi-faceted, and financially challenging endeavor. The initial assessment and scope of the ERCS project has been completed. We are currently in the process of conducting an engineering study. With this grant from FEMA, once the engineering study is complete Douglas County will be able to definitively establish project timelines and bring the necessary and critical upgrades of our ERCS system to fruition.”