NEW LEXINGTON — With the addition of a new communication system, if a first responder needs a little help it is now just a call away.
The Perry County EMA unveiled the latest in communication system upgrades Friday with the latest version of the MARCS radio system, with 79 new radios to be distributed among local law enforcement and fire and EMS squads.
EMA Director Rita Spicer applied for federal grant money in July to purchase the radios which arrived last week, a portable version costs $3,225 each, a mobile unit is $3,700 and with the range of communication they offer Spicer says, makes them worth every penny.
“It’s been a long road; we need a lot more of these radios. When I leave the county I can take a portable radio and anywhere in the state I can communicate with any EMS or dispatch.”
Towers that support the MARCS signals are popping up across the state, a tower located along Panther Drive in New Lexington will soon be able to carry the signal, further boosting the system capabilities.
“This is good for first responders, fire and EMS police Sheriff’s Department it’s going to be good for all of us,” County Commissioner Ed Keister said. “Rita did a super job, when it comes to finding grant money she’s one of the best.”
With the equipment upgrade plus the boost in signal strength Spicer says it is possible for responders to communicate nearly anywhere between Lake Erie and the Ohio River and from border to border.
“Perry County can use both the radios and the financial assistance like probably most of the counties in Ohio can,” said John Born, the director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “MARCS is the way to go because you can have any first responder communicate and that’s proven to be key in saving lives. Our hope is to have every first responder on a MARCS system or a compatible system. Getting everyone on the same channel is a life saving effort.”
Born says the state legislature has allocated $90 to upgrade the system further starting next year and with the upgrade will come the capacity to place upgrade equipment in every car in the state.
Perry County Sheriff William Barker knows well the performance of the MARCS system in and around the hills of the county; his department was one of two pilot programs for the system.
“We haven’t found any areas other than in the southern half of the county where you might find a dead spot, but if you move to higher ground they work pretty good. The goal is try to have portables work in every part of the county,” Barker said adding “With the help of these new towers going up around the state that will only aid in our communication.”
“Since 1998 one of my goals is to try to make communications better in the county,” said former Crooksville fire chief Fred Redfern. “This has finally happened but a lot of meetings, discussion and praying in between. Hopefully this will cut down on miscommunication.”
More of the radios could be on the way soon, Spicer says her office has applied for additional funding through the Assistance to Firefighters grant that if approved would bring an additional $150,000.
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