Emergency Radio System Repairs Coverage: Cumberland Looks To Improve County Wide

Published 4:53 pm Thursday, July 2, 2015

CUMBERLAND — County officials are considering a replacement tower site to boost emergency communications in Cumberland.

According to county IT Manager Shawn Howard, the county has a tower that was donated. “We’re looking at where the best place to put that would be to try to boost the coverage area. …” he said.

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He said that some of the county’s communication equipment, which serves sheriff’s deputies, volunteer fire departments and rescue squads, is beginning to age, and the county is looking into how much it would cost to replace some of the equipment.

County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles said the board began considering upgrades to the system last year.

“They spent $40,000 during the current fiscal year … to improve and replace some equipment,” she said.

Kevin Ingle, a volunteer fireman in Cumberland who also serves on the county’s emergency services committee and on the board of supervisors representing District 3, told The Herald that he had received feedback from the southern end of the county regarding a lack of coverage.

“There are some dead spots there,” he said, noting the the River Road and Plank Road areas. He added that there are dead spots near Cartersville as well.

“I know our communications aren’t the greatest in the world,” Ingle said. “I know that they have a lot more that could be done to make the service better and that would be something that would be upcoming in the future as we find ways to be able to finance …”

Giles said the county began working to improve the communications coverage 12 to 18 months ago. She said the improvements would concentrate on bringing the equipment up to date.

Giles said the county is trying to do as much as it can, relying on its fire and rescue personnel to notify of trouble spots.

“We haven’t had any specific complaints lately. We just know in general … we need to stay on top of it and make sure it’s functioning properly and as well as it can,” Giles said.

According to Ingle, Cumberland has three communications towers in the county: in Cartersville, at the landfill off of Poorhouse Road in the court house area, and behind the Randolph Volunteer Fire Department on Route 45.

Ingle confirmed that the county had weaker and stronger spots in its communication system. He said when the existing system was installed about 10 years ago, the county expected to have about 90 percent coverage with the system operating at optimal performance. “So we never actually had 100 percent coverage …,” he said.

Ingle said the physical configuration and shape of the county makes it challenging, adding that the northern and southern ends fall off to rivers. He said the only way to correct the weaker areas using the current system would be to put up an additional tower.

Strengthening the county’s communication system will be ongoing, says Giles. “We can’t just dive in and do it all at one time, and financially we just cannot do that.” She said the county constantly monitors all of the communications.

Giles confirmed that it wasn’t the county’s intention to replace the entire system but to work with volunteer personnel as trouble spots are identified and continue to improve areas that need better coverage.

“It’s such an expensive move,” Ingle said of repairing the system. “It’s hard to tune something that’s as old as it is. We’re doing what we can to keep it alive.”