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Posted on July 8, 2020 at 11:19 AM by Jennifer Ambrose
A project four years in the making, comes to completion
In 2017 Lenawee County Commissioners approved the plan to upgrade from a VHF radio system to an 800-MHz system. The new system installations included having two new towers built, as well as providing 989 vehicle-mounted and portable radios and related equipment for all the city and township police and fire departments within the county. Having these updated communication systems are critical in saving lives, protecting property and serving communities.
The Lenawee County Sheriff’s Central Dispatch, dispatches for fourteen different police agencies and eighteen fire departments. Along with normal calls, the Center is also responsible for all emergency radio and 9-1-1 calls within the county. Clear and concise radio communication between dispatch and responding units is key in emergencies. Nobody wants to think about something terrible happening, but unfortunately well-wishing doesn’t prevent catastrophic situations from occurring. For instance, it’s no secret that the quantity and severity of many of these horrific events occur inside schools, hospitals and office buildings where First Responder radio systems have coverage challenges.
“With the old system, there were dead spots in certain areas where we couldn’t talk to each other. Sometimes we couldn’t even talk to each other from 200ft away, or from one vehicle to another,” reveals Tim Shaw, Fire Chief/ Paramedic of Addison Fire and EMS. “With this new system, we can call on our portable radios from outside our local county and hear one another loud and clear. It’s a tremendous improvement.”
Not only is clear, consistent and prompt communication crucial to first responders, it’s essential. Having an effective, rapid and precise information flow during an emergency can save lives, especially during complex, and evolving events. When that communication is not prioritized, the situation could develop into miscommunication and misinformation, resulting in more injuries or fatalities.
Danielle Williams, EMT/Firefighter of Addison Fire and EMS can recall a worst-case scenario that she has experienced as a first responder, “I was driving and came upon a serious crash on 127. When I arrived on the scene I immediately knew they would need medical attention and a helicopter. I tried contacting dispatch and when I got no response I tried another county dispatch. It became apparent they weren’t hearing me, so I had use my personal cell phone to call them. I had to continue to use it to communicate because any updated information wasn’t being relayed through the radio.”
“When you’re in an emergency situation- seconds count. Having to pick up a cellphone and make a phone call or send a text takes too long. You need help now. This radio helps us in keeping you safe” adds Time Shaw.
While clearer communication is a major benefit in the new system, it’s not the only one. While the old VHF system lasted for a while, this new system is maintained by MPSCS, and will be continuously updated on a weekly basis, which provides consistency and dependability to how it operates. One immense benefit is having all the mutual aid on one single radio through dispatch. Additionally, it allows dispatchers to connect radios together and organize local talk groups for specific situations, keeping the rest of the lines open for other communications.
As reported by SAFECOM, an emergency communications program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, "Communications interoperability makes it possible for emergency response agencies responding to catastrophic accidents or disasters to work effectively together. Finally, it allows emergency response personnel to maximize resources in planning for major predictable events.”
Lieutenant David Aungst, of Lenawee County Sherriff’s Office, informs that on May 1, of 2020 they were 100% on the system and had installed the last radio on May 27. “We’re just cleaning everything up and making some small adjustments, but we fully expect to be completely signed off by the end of June. It’s nice to have a system that brings such clarity to our communications, if there was only one thing I could say, it would be that I wish we would have done it sooner.”