Tompkins County Awarded $2.8 Million Dollar Grant to Extend Reach of Emergency Communications

By WBNG News

Tompkins County Awarded $2.8 Million Dollar Grant to Extend Reach of Emergency Communications

February 13, 2013 Updated Feb 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has awarded Tompkins County a more than $2.8 million dollar emergency communications grant, supporting enhancements to the County’s radio communications infrastructure that will improve communication between local responders and outside agencies.

According to a news release issued Wednesday:

The County’s fund application, submitted in the latest round of the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant (SICG) program, was awarded in full, and there is no local cost-share required.  SICG funding is provided to facilitate the development, consolidation, and improved operation of public safety communications to support and enhance statewide interoperable communications for first responders throughout New York State.

The grant-funded program will add to the County’s radio communications infrastructure with radio receivers and transmitters that communicate on frequency bands other than the County’s system’s 800 MHz frequency, which can be bridged to the Tompkins County system for use in mutual aid and emergent operations.  New York State's plan to build out a statewide digital system compatible with and connected to Tompkins and other counties was abandoned three years ago after ten years of effort, leaving in operation a patchwork of aging, disparate systems that only operate marginally in many areas.

“Although all of Tompkins County's public safety agencies and a large portion of our local governments operate on 800 MHz—with over 1,400 users on the system and over 2.7 million transmissions processed last year—the users occasionally need to talk with out-of-county, and state and federal agencies that communicate on a variety of different radio frequency bands,” notes Lee Shurtleff, the County’s Director of Emergency Response. “Through the addition of designated national and state mutual aid channels in each of these other frequency bands, incoming agencies will be able to reliably communicate with our 911 Communications Center and be linked to our responders on the 800 MHz system.”

Additionally, the program provides for connecting Tompkins County's system to adjacent county radio systems through the construction of dedicated microwave radio links that will provide the counties with an ability to communicate voice and data with each other by radio and provide access to each others’ radio transmitting sites and base stations.  This will enable the reach of each County's radios to be extended farther into the region for mutual aid and moving operations such as searches and police pursuits, as well as on-line medical communications with trauma and specialty care facilities.

“The grant pairs a statewide need with a region-wide approach to improving the responder radio interoperability and coordination of large scale events that cross county lines,” Shurtleff adds.  “Our proposal carefully considered the County's challenges in communicating beyond Tompkins County borders and leveraged the County's infrastructure and technology to meet those challenges. The State clearly appreciated the approach and is funding the project at 100%.”