St. Clair County could soon get more than 600 state-of-the art pagers that would help firefighters hear dispatches more reliably.
The current paging system has been “antiquated for many, many, many years,” St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency director Herb Simmons told the county Emergency Readiness Committee this week.
To get the new pagers, Simmons is negotiating with Motorola, which provides communications for public safety employees in Illinois, to exchange new radios St. Clair County received in a deal with the company. The county’s current radios perform well and don’t need to be replaced.
St. Clair County owns its public safety communications infrastructure, and Motorola needs to use the towers to meet contracts with the state, Simmons said.
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He expected to complete the deal in a couple of weeks.
Thousands of dollars have been spent on fine-tuning the current system, and “it works,” Simmons said.
“We’ve never missed a fire call,” he added. “There’s been no loss of property.”
But some areas of the county have dead zones where the current pagers don’t pick up a dispatch, he said. Testing the new pagers throughout the county, Simmons said he hasn’t found a single area where they don’t get reception. They get 98 percent coverage in buildings, including basements and elevators, he said.
This is a major step in a positive direction for the fire departments. Everybody’s ecstatic about it.
Fairmont City Fire Chief Bob Allen
The old system will continue to be used as a backup in case the new one experiences problems.
St. Clair County would be among the first in the country to acquire the new pagers, Simmons said. Each one costs $539, and he is seeking between 600 and 625 to outfit fire departments throughout the county, for a total of about $335,000.
“This is a major step in a positive direction for the fire departments,” said Bob Allen, the Fairmont City fire chief. “Everybody’s ecstatic about it.”
Allen hasn’t had any problems with the old pagers, but some departments have a hard time getting every call because the bluffs along Highway 157 make calls sometimes overshoot firefighters, he said.
Not everyone will get a new pager. Each department will get a number roughly proportional to the number of active firefighters in their department.
Allen, who has about 25 firefighters, will give pagers to about 23 people, he said.