CATSKILL — First responders in Greene County are preparing to switch over to a more powerful communication system in a few days.
Greene County lawmakers were updated on the new high-bandwidth radio system on Wednesday.
The switch from low-band to high-band radios for first responders has been several years in the making, Greene County Emergency Services Deputy Director Randy Ormerod said Wednesday.
Emergency medical services personnel and law enforcement made the switch to the new system Sept. 10 and on Oct. 9, fire departments will make the changeover.
But a few of the fire departments have not purchased the high-band radios required for the new system, Ormerod said.
Public Safety Chairman William Lawrence, R-Cairo, asked if Greene County EMS would continue running the low band and high band systems concurrently.
“For awhile,” Ormerod said.
“How long?” Lawrence asked. “A year?”
Emergency Manager Specialist Daniel King said the low band system would remain in effect for about 30 to 60 days.
Departments received plenty of lead time to make the transition, Ormerod said.
The cost of going high-band varies by department size, King said Friday.
“It’s about $200 to $500 per radio,” he said.
There are 27 fire departments in the county, King said.
King said did not know which departments had not purchased their radios, he said.
Ormerod could not be reached for comment Friday.
In theory, departments that do not have the proper equipment when the low-band system is shut off will not be able to communicate with the 911 center, King said.
“But we’re not going to let that happen,” he said. “We will work with the towns and the fire districts to get the radios before we shut off the low-band.”
Using low-band technology is problematic for a few reasons, King said.
“It is outdated technology,” he said. “We get can’t get replacement radios.”
The high-band radios work within more effective frequency ranges, King said.
“The basic reason low-band is going away is because in that frequency range, there is a lot of radio interference.”
Many electronic devices such as laptop charges, traffic lights, fluorescent lights fall within the same range as the low-band radios and cause problems, King said.
The radio transition from low-band to high-band was part of a four-year communications overhaul at the dispatch center.
The upgrade cost about $2 million, with the computer-aided dispatch system at $1 million, the radio upgrade at $750,000, the phones at $500,000 and the voice recording system at $100,000.
“We are light years ahead of where we were,” Ormerod said Wednesday. “There have been a lot of advancements in the last four years. It’s mind-blowing to me.”