Schenectady County unveils $19 million emergency radio system – The Daily Gazette


ROTTERDAM — When the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office responded to incidents in western parts of the county just last year, officers often had to communicate with each other using cellphones due to inadequacies long standing in the county’s emergency communications system.

According to Chief Deputy Sheriff John LuBrant, who noted that cell service in some parts of the county can be unreliable.

“It was a volatile situation,” LuBrant said.

A $19 million upgrade to the county’s emergency communications system that has been underway for four years has not only closed communications gaps, but put nearly 30 police, fire and county EMS on the same radio frequency, which facilitates communication between first responders.

Problems with the communications system were first identified by the county in 1980 but were never resolved due to cost, said Schenectady County Legislative Speaker Anthony Jasenski.

“The task was deemed too daunting, too complicated or too expensive, and as such has remained on our wish list for my public safety colleagues for at least the past 42 years,” he said. at a media event held at the county’s Unified Communications Center. , where officials touted the improved system.

Jasenski, a former detective from Rotterdam, recalled an incident while investigating a possible suicide and encountered a man wielding a knife hidden in a closet while questioning a woman in a residence.

He managed to get the woman and himself to safety, but when he tried to contact the radio for backup, his communications never went through. Help only arrived after a sheriff’s deputy drove by and was able to call for reinforcements.

As part of the upgrades, the county purchased 1,500 new portable radios for first responders across the county and made improvements to its unified communications center. Three new radio towers have been built and lease agreements have been made with owners of other towers, including CDTA, according to Kevin Spawn, the county’s director of emergency communications.

Spawn said the county also received $9 million in state and federal grants to help offset costs.

The new system was first rolled out in September, and the county slowly added new agencies over the months that followed. A majority of agencies across the county have been added and the rest should have access by the end of the month.

“I can tell you…not knowing when an officer is calling for help, not knowing when a firefighter is in trouble, and not being able to understand what they’re saying is heartbreaking,” Spawn said.

County Legislator Tom Constantine, chairman of the Public Safety and Firefighting Committee, said the upgrades required close communication between various county agencies and the project is an example of what happens when government works together.

“Radio communications are a lifeline for our first responders and can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations when every second counts,” he said.

Contact journalist Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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