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Rumors about communications system shutdown discussed

February 14, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. officials expressed concerns Monday night to the mayor and town council after hearing rumors that the low-band analog communications system used to dispatch emergency calls was going to be shut down in two months.

County officials have no intention of shutting down the low-band analog system, Charlie Summers, the county’s deputy director of emergency services, said in a phone interview after the meeting.

The county phased in a new digital-communications system in 2010 for police, fire and rescue, Summers said. Emergency calls are dispatched on the digital system and simulcast on the analog system.

Funkstown Fire Chief Dave “Buck” Fraley brought concerns about the rumors to the mayor and council Monday night. In case the analog system was to be shut down, Fraley asked town officials if the fire company could activate the sirens, which are on top of Town Hall and at the firehouse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to alert fire company members of fire calls.

That’s because firefighters have not yet received the digital-alert pagers that would notify them of an emergency call, Fraley said.

Currently, the sirens only go off between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., said Dale Hill, fire company president. People in the vicinity of the town can hear them, fire company officials said.

After learning later Monday night that the plan to shut down the analog system was just a rumor, Fraley said the fire company would not need to extend the hours for the sirens.

Summers said parts for the analog system are getting more scarce, but county officials intend to keep it operating as long as possible.

The new digital-alert pagers still need to be drive-tested for coverage throughout the county, Summers said. Then, they will need to be programmed, he said.

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