BATH | A slight delay at one transmitter site is the last hurdle before county officials are ready to switch over to a new communications system for fire departments.
Tim Marshall, head of the county's Emergency Services department, told legislators Monday that a problem with a tower site on Meeks Hill, shared with NYSEG, will push back completion there until August or September of this year.
“Most of the equipment has been installed at the tower sites [around the county],” Marshall said. “We do have a delay at the Meeks Hill site.”
The site is set to serve the City of Hornell and surrounding areas.
“NYSEG is doing an upgrade to their systems at that site, they’re actually in the process of putting in a new building,” he said. “Once we can get the equipment installed there and get everything switched over to the new building, we’ll be ready to move forward.”
The goal of the project, according to Marshall, is to get fire departments off a system that's been in place since the 1950s and on the new, higher-frequency system already used by law enforcement and ambulance services.
It’s part of a push toward what’s called “interoperable communications,” allowing more efficient communications between multiple agencies. It’s been a goal from the federal level on down since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
One other key element of the new system is that it uses 'simulcast,' which means every radio in the county should receive transmissions at the same time. Currently, officials say transmissions are on a 30-second delay.
The system uses a frequency band set aside by federal officials for that purpose.
The federal push has meant the county’s part in the project has been covered by grant funding, with some additional funds being made available through the county to help local fire departments purchase compatible equipment.
Shifting around some funds has also created the possibility of adding on some extras.
“We’re looking at adding a tactical channel for command purposes,” Marshall told legislators.
Even with the delay, an August or September launch is in line with projections from a year ago.