Emergency Communications

Published 7:00 am Friday, October 10, 2014

Volunteer fire departments in the county have addressed the need for an updated communications system for a number of years.
Their current system uses an old VHF system to send and receive signals. Most adults remember the old days of picking up television signals via VHF and UHF. Today televisions are connected to cable or a satellite signal, and the sound and picture quality has greatly increased.
The same is true with a relatively new system installed throughout the state called the Mississippi Wireless Information Network. This system works off of a 700 megahertz signal, as opposed to the 12.5 megahertz signal used by the aging system being used today. The best part, it’s already operational everywhere in Mississippi.
For comparison, think about the difference between the sound and picture from an old VCR compared to today’s Blu-ray players. Basically, the sound and coverage is better with the new communications system.
So if there is a better system out there, what is keeping the county from upgrading? Put simply, price.
Each handset costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
To outfit all of the volunteer fire departments with radios and conduct the necessary improvements at the county’s dispatch center would cost more than $500,000.
That’s no small chunk of change.
Volunteer agencies are of the opinion that funds collected in the E-911 account could be used to pay for that upgrade, even in annual payments.
County leaders say those funds are already being used and there’s none to spare.
The end result is while a resolution is being sought, emergency responders using an antiquated system are left in a lurch when they respond to a fire or accident in a dead spot. If they are lucky they can use a cell phone to get help, if they aren’t then the situation becomes more dire.
We feel confident the board of supervisors will find a way to fix the problem. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later

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