Thursday, April 24, 2014

County eyes emergency tower upgrades

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 2/5/2014

The technology used on Franklin County’s five emergency communication towers needs an update, Alan Radcliffe said.

The county built four communication towers in 2005, improving emergency radio communications for all of the first responders, county documents said, and adding backup for the existing tower. Equipment failures during the past two years prompted TFM Comm, the company that built and maintains the radio communications system, to suggest the county replace parts of the system components, according to county documents.

The technology used on Franklin County’s five emergency communication towers needs an update, Alan Radcliffe said.

The county built four communication towers in 2005, improving emergency radio communications for all of the first responders, county documents said, and adding backup for the existing tower. Equipment failures during the past two years prompted TFM Comm, the company that built and maintains the radio communications system, to suggest the county replace parts of the system components, according to county documents.

“Technology has changed, and the equipment we currently have, we aren’t able to get replacement parts for because it’s outdated,” Radcliffe, director of Franklin County Emergency Management, said. “It was put into service in 2005, so it’s 9 years old this year and the life expectancy [for the system] is 7 to 10 years.”

The new upgrades would allow the system to be monitored remotely, Radcliffe said, so a problem could be fixed before a first responder realizes there’s a problem.

“The way we’re currently finding out we have issues with the system is you either have to go to the [tower] site and sit there and monitor it or look at it and a technician has to do that or we get a phone call from one of the users that the system’s not working properly,” he said. “To me, that’s not acceptable. We need to be monitoring that system and catching those problems before the people in the field are even having them. That’s what part of this upgrade will allow us to do.”

Another possible benefit of the upgrades would be the installation of a remote camera security system at each tower location to protect the sites from vandalism and theft, Radcliffe said.

“I would think for some people [video surveillance] would deter vandal or theft,” he said. “If it doesn’t, it gives the sheriff’s office evidence to find the person responsible.”

Though the county hasn’t had any incidents of vandalism or theft at the tower sites, Radcliffe said, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.

The cost of the upgrades would be a little more than $31,000, he said, and would come out of the equipment line item in the general fund.

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