History Of The Fire Police Association Of Berks County

In 1938 when the first seven Directors of the Fire Police Association of Berks County filed for incorporation, they listed the purpose for which the corporation was formed as follows:

"The general improvement of the fire service in Berks County; to promote the welfare of the fire police and create a feeling of goodwill and fellowship among the members."

In the early days, the association provided metal badges of authority to fire companies for their fire police. Eventually, the municipalities began providing their own badges. We also made available license plates for the front and emblems for the rear of their vehicles. We later provided magnetic signs for the sides of their vehicles and insignia for uniforms.

In 1969 when the association saw a need to increased training, Spring Township Police Chief Schlegel offered his services as instructor and the Township Building in which to hold classes. A total of eleven (11) classes were held until 1981 when Reading Area Community College assumed responsibility for the state approved training classes; and subsequently by Bucks County Community College.

In 1983 the association investigated several insurance companies and selected two companies to cover equipment, liability and accident and health benefits. This insurance provided additional coverage to members responding to fire company calls and when on duty at Association functions.

Early incident communications were almost nonexistent for fire police when on duty at fire scenes, accidents and other disasters and at community events. In many fire companies only the Fire Chief, the apparatus, and the Fire Police Captain had radios which were used on the fire band since there was no county wide formal radio dispatch center. In the 1960's, with the advent of inexpensive citizens band radios, a number of fire police chose to use them but the radios were subject to interference and could only be used for short range transmissions. The Association purchased several CB portables for members to use at parades and other functions.

In 1984 the Association decided to purchase professional radios and to license the equipment for use on the VHF public service band in concert with local municipalities and police departments using that band. The results was fire police could communicate between themselves and also directly with police and fire at incidents.

As technology improved, the use of repeaters became popular. A repeater is a radio unit that receives weak signals and instantly repeats them at a higher power over a greater distance. The Association acquired three repeaters for use in most of the county and were licensed to use additional frequencies. When Berks County implemented a central county dispatch center for police, fire and EMS, the Association installed the necessary equipment linking fire police to central dispatch.

Two additional repeaters were installed in 2010 extending radio coverage to nearly the entire county. As of January 1st 2013, all Association equipment is compliant with the F.C.C. regulations to be narrow banded, a technology compressing radio signals to significantly increase the number of channels on a band. In keeping with technological advances to meet emergency communication requirements, the associations supports Berks County's efforts to install a new county-wide emergency radio system. The new system is scheduled to go "live" sometime in late 2013 or early 2014.

The Association has continued its efforts with law and legislative activities on behalf of fire police in conjunction with other county associations and with legislators.

Training for fire police has become a major initiative. each class consists of sixteen hours of classroom and practical training by certified instructors. Classes are provided on a no cost basis for members of the Association. An extensive number of classes are scheduled each year affording opportunities for initial and continued training for members and other interested individuals from police, fire and county municipalities.

In 2013 the Association celebrated its 75th Anniversary.