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Officials updated on radio system

June 21, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

Safety service officials from across Washington County on Tuesday updated the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Commissioners on the progress of a consolidated emergency communications center.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said after the meeting that the system would allow local, county and state emergency officials to more effectively communicate by radio.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department, for example, has a difficult time using its radios because signals sometimes get blocked by the region's rolling terrain, Smith said.

Smith said the new system would place 10 radio towers throughout the county, and allow municipal police, state police, sheriff's deputies, local fire and public works departments, and medical services to communicate by radio.

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"This way, we're all on the same system," he said. "This radio system will make a huge difference."

Smith said the $25 million system will be paid for using county funds.

If everything goes well, Smith said the system should be in place roughly within the next 18 months.

The state of Maryland is encouraging counties to consolidate their emergency communications system, Smith said. As a result, state officials are awarding grants to help fund the process.

Smith said the system tentatively is slated to be installed in a building west of Hagerstown.

The center would have dispatchers from several safety service agencies working the same shift, Smith said.

By doing so, response times will decrease, he said.

Smith said it isn't uncommon for dispatchers to transfer emergency calls to other agencies under the existing system. This process often makes callers repeat their scenarios at least a few times, which leads to delays and frustration, he said.

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