Make the McKenzie Connection!

How radios can help out

New GMRS radio group forming

LEABURG: About 40 people showed up on a sunny Saturday to learn how to better cope with area disasters like ice storms. According to McKenzie Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Dana Burwell, the last ice event generated about 40 calls to the district in 24 hours. “We can’t organize with staff during an emergency because they’re going to be out or helping on emergencies,” Buwell said.

Deputy Chief Bart Thompson agreed, noting that at times the call volume can get so high that the district will ask the dispatch center to start logging calls “if they’re not an emergency.”

He was supportive of the idea of neighborhood groups organizing to connect via radios, because “that’s going to help us by not calling 911.”

Walter Wilson, of the non-profit McKenzie Community Communications (MCC) group was also there to give an overview of what people could expect if they bought a General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radio. The organization, he said, had formed to improve area connectivity after disasters because landlines and cell phones proved to be very vulnerable.

“We want to build a GMRS network,” he said. “We don’t want to control it but we’ll support you.”

The plan, Wilson said, was to help organize small community groups equipped with handheld radios, similar to a system now operating in the Blue River and McKenzie Bridge area.

Burwell said the McKenzie Fire District could also “help organize and steer the district.” Those plans will include installing a more powerful base station radio at the Leaburg station.

“We’d like to see each neighborhood form a small group,” he said, “with a radius of one to two miles.”

Each neighborhood could elect a chairman, Burwell said, to organize weekly or monthly radio checks to test equipment and familiarize people with their equipment.

Following the Meeting, Scott Dano of Leaburg set up an online group to begin organizing in that area. For more information, go to:

To view videos of the meeting, go to:


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