ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — It started with a highlighted Tweet Thursday morning, saying Monroe County is switching to a new trunked radio system for first responders. It listed high costs and doubts on the functionality of the product.
“Two things firemen hate: change, and how nothing changes,” says Timothy Kohlmeier, Monroe County Emergency Manager.
Kohlmeier would know. He’s a third-generation firefighter and the county emergency manager. He’s currently in charge of taking the 30-year-old radio system in place and upgrading it.
“If I can use the analogy, we’re moving from a rotary phone to an iPhone environment,” he says.
The new radios will have off-system notify if firefighters cannot make a connection due to obstacles, allow firefighters to communicate through barriers like concrete walls, and offer traffic management.
“We have to do better. So what it does is it clarifies communications,” adds Kohlmeier.
The radios will still operate using radio waves, but on a higher quality end of the spectrum; portable and mobile radios will have equal reception.
“We’re going to the 700-800 megahertz range. So, all around, it’s a better package for our first responders.”
Radio costs will range depending on features. And the $6,500 price tag cited in the Tweet? Kohlmeier says probably not. “The $6,500 is a manufacturer’s suggested retail price. It’s not quite what the government pays for equipment.”
Kohlmeier says this system, which will be in place by January, is needed to save the lives of first responders. “The features that we’re bringing to bear are going to enhance firefighter and responder safety beyond the system that they’re on today. Our challenge is getting the message out, and those that are using the product love it.”
There are other things in the Tweet, presumably from a firefighter, that need clarification. The fire departments within Rochester we spoke to directed us to the city for comment, which is still pending. We are also waiting on a statement from the Firefighter’s Union on this matter.