Work ramped up this past week on the construction of eight new communication towers and at the sites of nine existing towers in Erie Co., PA. The towers are part of an intricate infrastructure upgrade of a $23.2 million next-generation public radio system that will improve communication between emergency responders, their counterparts in neighboring communities, and dispatchers.
The project marks what public safety officials believe is a long-overdue transition to a digital platform. Safety forces now operate on a patchwork of frequencies, from low-band to UHF and VHF.
Remediation work started in April at an existing tower site on Sharp Road in Waterford. Crews are improving the access road and an equipment shelter at the site, among other things.
Land was drilled this week for a concrete pad for a new tower behind Fairview Volunteer Fire Department Station 53 on West Lake Road. Work at other tower sites in Harborcreek Township, Greene Township, and Springfield Township is also ongoing. Tower construction is required to be complete by the end of July.
Public Safety Director, John Grappy, said the project remains $3.2 million under budget from original projections.
In October 2017, first responders from 20 police, fire and EMS agencies were equipped with the mobile and portable devices. Those digital devices are backward-compatible, meaning they can function on the UHF or analog frequency that many agencies still use until the infrastructure is in place for the digital transition.
As part of the project, EmergyCare received more than 40 mobile radios, which are now mounted inside ambulances and other emergency vehicles. This week, 90 portable, or handheld, radios are being distributed to EMTs, paramedics, and supervisors.