SHERMAN – Emergency service radio communications has been a primary concern for the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department and Public Works Department for many years. A recent conversation with Captain Chris Fuchs of the SVFD brought to light the equipment currently at the fire department’s disposal.
Two types of radios are used: mobiles and portables. 50-watt mobiles and 100-watt portables are mounted in all five fire department vehicles, and 5-watt portables are given to each member to carry on his/her person. With these radios two frequencies are used; the first is the fire ground. This is a simplex frequency that can reach either a one-mile radius or down a straight open road; however, if there are any obstacles (buildings, hills, etc.), the signal is weakened. The second is the repeater frequency. A repeater is stationed on top of the firehouse, and when it receives a signal, it bounces off of the antenna and rebroadcasts at a higher wattage.
Some of the drawbacks, aside from the limited range, are that the DPW doesn’t have a repeater frequency, and in many areas of town, no signal can be received, which puts the lives of residents and volunteers at risk.
“That’s what scares me the most,” said Fuchs. “I need to try to prevent line-of-duty death or injury.”
Now, a two-site Simulcast system will be set up at the northern end of town on the East Mountain tower in Dover, NY, and the tower on Hardscrabble Rd. at the southern end. When a signal is sent out, the Simulcast system will first determine which tower better receives it, and then trigger both to broadcast at 50 watts each. Captain Fuchs explained that the signals would be stronger in the areas closest to the towers, but that the signal range would be farther than in previous years because the equipment will be set at a 70-foot elevation. Additionally, there will be two frequencies. “One will be used by the fire department, and one will be used by the town highway department.”
Bringing the Simulcast system to Sherman has been in design for the past two years, and was a project that initially would have cost about $1 million for land and equipment purchases, and building costs. Since existing equipment and towers will be used, the costs have dropped significantly.
“We’re building two systems for two infrastructures using existing infrastructure, and working really hard to keep the costs down.”
A request was submitted for an expenditure of no more than $147,000 from the Capital Non-Recurring Fund to purchase the system; the expenditure will be voted on at the next Town Meeting on January 20th at 10 a.m.
“We’re vested in protecting the town,” Fuchs stated. “This is going to make our systems better, safer, and we’ll be able to better serve the community. We want to keep the community safe.”
By Anne-Marie DiDomenico