E911 Coordinator Jim Lee said all 29 fire departments in the county will be on the new VHF narrow band frequencies cleared by the FCC for Wayne County agencies by the end of the week. The project to switch all fire, EMS and police radios to the new frequencies will be completed before the end of the year.

Wayne County is making the switch to narrow band.

E911 Coordinator Jim Lee said all 29 fire departments in the county will be on the new VHF narrow band frequencies cleared by the FCC for Wayne County agencies by the end of the week. The project to switch all fire, EMS and police radios to the new frequencies will be completed before the end of the year.

Begun in 2005, Lee said the Board of Supervisors created the Radio Communications Committee, made up of fire, EMS and police authorities, to look into what it would take to change bands to meet the FCC mandate, which requires any VHF users to change from wide band to narrow band by Jan. 1, 2013. The county decided to take this one step further, by switching all agencies over, whether they used VHF or not. The undertaking was huge, but Lee said well worth the effort.

Before the changeover, all 29 fire departments in the county used a low band frequency to talk to each other. The disadvantages being that the equipment is growing scarce, the signal doesn’t penetrate buildings well and, since police and EMS were using high band, intercommunication was impossible. The new mandate required reprogramming and updates to most police and EMS radios, but the major undertaking the switch of every fire department to a VHF narrow band, Lee said.

To help offset the costs of the project, the county applied for and received a grant for over $1.6 million in 2008. Another $1.1 million will come from taxpayer dollars. It took 2 years after that for Lee to gain approval from the FCC and Canadian authorities for the desired frequencies before the changeover could begin.

“It’s good to see the actual installations taking place so we can enjoy some of the benefits,” Lee said.

The county is also increasing their receiver sites from four to nine, which will allow better portable radio coverage. One of these receiver antennae will be placed on top of the Palmyra Village Hall, Lee said.

Changeover in the fire departments began on Jan. 24. Next week, Lee said they will begin updating the frequencies on non-fire department ambulances and EMS vehicles and then move opn to police departments. The grant requires the project be completed by Sept. 30 and Lee assured they moving along on schedule.