County on track for new radio system | PostIndependent.com
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County on track for new radio system

A new and improved radio communications system will be in the hands of Garfield County law enforcement, possibly by the end of the year, thanks to grants from Homeland Security and the state Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).Once it’s up and running, the Digital Trunk Radio (DTR) system will give emergency responders a digital radio network far superior to the one in place now.Running at 800 megahertz, the radios will replace a VHF system that runs on 105 MHz, said Garfield County Communications Authority executive director Carl Stephens.”They don’t need a lot of towers and there are more mutual aid channels,” which will allow emergency responders – firemen, cops and ambulance drivers – to speak to each other, Stephens saidCurrently, if Basalt firefighters respond to a fire in Garfield County “they don’t have Rifle’s channels in their radios,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.Communications between various agencies in an emergency situation came tragically to light on Sept. 11, 2001, when two hijacked airplanes crashed into the world Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan, killing thousands of people. The hundreds of agencies that responded had difficulty communicating with each other and coordinating their rescue efforts.It’s also an issue here in the county.”We always have the same problem, no one can talk to everybody,” Vallario said, because agencies such as fire and law enforcement are on different radio channels.The DTR will give everyone the same equipment and put them all on the same playing surface.The DTR is more like a cell phone than the VHF radios, Stephens said. Users don’t have to switch channels so often, and the radios automatically select the best signal whether it’s coming from inside or outside the county.The higher powered radios will also help overcome the mountainous terrain in the county, which makes radio communication difficult.While most of the Front Range counties have the system in place, it has been slower coming to the West Slope, Vallario said.The new system is being financed by some hefty grants from federal and state agencies. This week the county received a grant of more than $600,000 from the Department of Homeland Security for radios and computer software to run the system. Stephens said the agency gave a total of $900,000 to western Colorado that will be portioned out to both Garfield and Eagle counties.That money will pay for both portable and in-car 800 MHz radios for all law enforcement officers in the county.The county also received a $1.6 million energy impact grant from DOLA to set up three new towers, on Mt. Callahan in west Parachute, north of Rifle, and on Lookout Mountain above Glenwood Springs. An existing tower on Sunlight Peak southwest of Glenwood will be upgraded for the system, Stephens said.”When it’s done it will have equal or more coverage than with the VHF,” Vallario said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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