Ouzinkie recently received a donation of $6,000 worth of emergency response pager equipment from Swissphone, a company in Colorado that designs alert systems and equipment.
In the absence of a fire truck, Ouzinkie fire chief Travis Sheppard has been trying to raise money for new fire equipment to help with response times.
Sheppard reached out to Brian Bonneville, Swissphone sales manager for North America, to see if he could help.
“Travis had sent me an email and told me of his situation out there and how they were alerting their fire department,” Bonneville said. “He told me his wife was using a landline to contact first responders. I couldn’t believe that in these times with all of the technology, that’s how they were alerting their personnel to an emergency.”
Bonneville did some research on Ouzinkie, then called Sheppard, who explained the situation in detail. Bonneville then made the decision to donate 15 Swissphone tone and voice pagers to Ouzinkie.
The pagers will be used to alert the Ouzinkie Village Response Team about emergencies with the push of a button.
Swissphone also donated a programming kit so Ouzinkie firefighters can program and troubleshoot the pagers in Alaska instead of shipping them back and forth to Colorado. One Swissphone worker, technician Chris Haag, even donated personal time to get the pagers working correctly before they were shipped to Ouzinkie.
The pagers have about a 45-mile radius and reception range.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” Bonneville said. “I’ve had a lot of people that have helped me in my life and we made a decision to donate. I thought it was unacceptable that an agency in Alaska didn’t have the simple tools to alert personnel to reach someone in a fire.”
Ouzinkie Mayor and assistant fire chief Dan Clarion said the pagers will significantly help with emergency response.
“It means a great deal to us,” Clarion said. “We’ve had several instances in the past where we’ve had emergencies in the middle of the night and we haven’t been able to get a hold of anybody to get out and respond.”
Before the pagers arrived, emergency response members had to alert each other by landlines or sirens. People sometimes don’t hear the sirens at night, Clarion said.
The pagers were received on Aug. 23, and will by used by the village public safety officer, health aids and the mayor. They will be used for medical emergencies, search and rescue missions and fires.