December 20, 2013


New radio system to be online Feb. 1

Final testing under way for county’s new emergency communications

RadioJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland County Legislator Kevin Whitney, left, works with digital communications specialist Cody Pericho Wednesday while fine-tuning new digital emergency handsets for area first responders at the Cortlandville Fire Department.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Cortland County’s new $16 million emergency communications system is expected to be fully operational by Feb. 1.
Emergency response officials are finalizing the upgrade of the Motorola radio system, testing and programming portable radios at the Cortlandville Fire Training Center throughout the week.
County Legislator Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville), who also chairs the county’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and is an Ithaca firefighter, was programming the radios at the center Wednesday, and explaining how they will enhance safety for first responders.
The radios are already being used by the county Highway Department and Marathon school district, said Whitney, and will be dispensed to all departments over coming weeks.
Motorola is contracting with Syracuse-based United Radio to do the programming and technician Cody Pericho was working Wednesday with Whitney.
Pericho and Whitney were making sure that each radio had the proper template stored into it to coincide with that radio’s department and channels.
There are also channels that allow for interdepartmental communication, something the county never had before and a feature they say will enhance safety and ensure swift and comprehensive response to events like accidents and fires.
With the new system, for example, if a state plow truck driver comes across an accident, the driver can immediately call for police to respond. Before, the state Department of Transportation would have had much back and forth through various channels and dispatchers before relaying the message, Whitney said.
Emergency Communications Manager Scott Roman said that for the most part things are moving along smoothly.
“There are some programming issues,” said Roman. “As you work through the programming, you find you either forgot a function or put in a function that you shouldn’t have.”
Once operational, the system will vastly improve communication for responders, he said.
With the old system, all emergency responders are communicating over a few frequencies, resulting in difficulty hearing conversations.
The new system will have designated talk channels for each group, such as city police, Homer police and Cortlandville firefighters.
These groups can talk among themselves or to different departments, depending on the channel.
There is also an emergency button that a responder can hold down for three seconds in the event of an emergency and it will automatically send an alert to the 911 dispatch center so the center can send help.
The function could help any responder in an emergency situation who cannot reach people through the designated channels or who just needs to push a button and record what is going on around him without being heard.
Roman expects significant improvements once all departments have been rolled onto the new system.
“With the quality of the new equipment, you’ll be able to hear each other and have better direct communication between field providers and dedicated talk groups,” Roman said.
“We are expecting a lot better and faster communications,” he said.


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