Efforts to upgrade Warren County’s emergency radio system have led to some hiccups this week that have been felt by those who use the system.
The county has received $1.5 million in state grant funding to replace equipment and address dead spots in a system that is supposed to allow police, fire departments, rescue squads and dispatchers to communicate via radios.
Unfortunately, the county’s mountainous topography has caused transmission and reception issues for years. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office was able to get grant funding to replace equipment, including computers and antennae, and the bulk of that work took place in recent days.
Those who use the system, or listen to emergency radio scanners, heard some unusual noises as technicians worked to sync all of the pieces of the network.
Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree, who applied for the grants that were received, said Friday the new equipment should solve a lot of the problems that first responders have noticed in recent years.
Equipment was replaced at six locations — the Sheriff’s Office headquarters and transmission sites in Warrensburg, Lake Luzerne, Johnsburg, Hague and Lake George. Lamouree said a new site on Route 149 in Queensbury is also coming online.
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In addition, new directional antennae that will focus signals downward from towers instead of horizontally, hopefully doing away with dead zones in rural areas, will be put in place at tower sites.
The plan was for the main radio system to be offline for 7 hours when equipment was offline, but the backup system was instead needed for 48 hours.
Among the problems: At one point, a technician accidentally knocked a power cord loose. The system also runs on signals being simulcast between towers, and if the syncing is off — as happened for a period of time this week — there is echoing in transmissions.
Warren County Emergency Services Coordinator Brian LaFlure said there were expected minor issues during the transition, but the upgraded system will be an improvement over equipment that was 15 years old.
“It’s a pretty complicated system,” LaFlure said. “It’s not like changing a lightbulb. It’s all IT (information technology) based now. It’s going to make a huge difference.”
The system upgrades were not deemed responsible for problems to the fire alert system in the north end of the county, where equipment damage caused by falling ice on a tower at Gore Mountain over the winter was still creating problems. That location is difficult to get to with vehicles needed to transport equipment, so the repairs have not yet been done.