Radio silence no longer a fire district problem

By Meg Olson

Thanks to a new communications system, the fire department now has radio coverage throughout Point Roberts with no dead spots.

“We’re tweaking it all the time for better coverage,” fire chief Christopher Carleton told commissioners at their February 10 meeting, showing maps illustrating the old coverage pattern and the new one. While a year ago substantial areas showed poor or no radio coverage for firefighters, today “we have excellent coverage,” he said.

The district started work on a new communications system in March 2015, amid growing concern that poor radio communications were hampering department members’ ability to respond to and manage emergencies. Commissioners approved $70,000 for Carleton to install a dish on the Whidbey Telecom tower so communications with firefighters and EMTs originate from that antenna, rather than traveling all the way from Sumas Mountain. The new system required a web of agreements with other agencies, and stand-alone equipment in the county’s dispatch center.

Ironically, Carleton said, the poorest reception is in the area of his new home, but it’s still more than adequate.

“I’ve done multiple tests with my paging and haven’t missed a page,” he said.

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