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New Essex County radio system to help emergency officials - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New Essex County radio system to help emergency officials

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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. - Two North Country teens drowned on the Ausable River revealing a communications break down with first responders.

But now a new radio system should help with future rescues.

Emergency officials in Essex County say a new radio system will fix problems first responders were facing in the field. They say it will better equip them to protect people.

When emergency responders in Wilmington received the 911 call about two swimmers in distress in the Ausable River, communication among agencies was a problem.

"A hard time communicating with our personnel that were on the river, in the beginning it was a moving scene where it was going down river," said Randy Preston, first Assistant Chief, Wilmington Fire Department.

Both Plattsburgh teens died. Preston doesn't think a new radio system would have helped save the boys, but that it might save lives in the future.

"Working on a 1050s system was ridiculous," said Chief Preston.

Chief Preston says the county currently has one radio channel for emergency officials to work on. A new state funded public safety radio system in Essex County will replace the old one from 60 years ago.

"This not only helps communications with state and county officials, this helps communications for federal agencies, border patrol, others that come in to assist in emergency response," said Travis LePage, Public Safety Radio Communications System Manager.

The services of this $17 million project will be shared with New York State Police and New York State Electric and Gas. Work on the new radio system began in back in 2006 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

"It's been a long process, especially with permitting. Environmental Protection Agency permits and DEC permits," said Mike Blaise, Essex County Emergency Services deputy director.

The new system has three parts to it, new pagers for first responders, a new wireless microwave system and new radios in emergency response vehicles. The number of channels will grow from one to four with each channel designated to police, fire, EMS and public works.

"Be able to communicate with other agencies should there be another event. Also no matter where we are should be able to get the calls very clearly with the new system up and running," said Chief Preston.

Officials say the new system will expand radio coverage of Essex County from 60 percent to 90 percent.

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