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NEWS STORIES

Northwoods County Looks at New System to Help ER Workers Get PagesSubmitted: 10/31/2011
Story By Dana Blado

VILAS COUNTY - Firefighters and EMS crews in areas like Presque Isle and Manitowish Waters aren't always getting the emergency pages Vilas County sends out.

To find out why, we have to take a look at government on the federal level.

This is how some of the pages from Vilas County come through in remote ares of the Northwoods.

That's if they even come through at all according to the Manitowish Waters Fire Chief.

Chief Skrobot says, "We can transmit to Vilas County, and we may or we may not get a response that's intelligible."

This story doesn't change much in Presque Isle where Fire Chief James Nelson says sometimes, listening for emergencies requires time since Vilas County dispatch has to individually choose towers to send out pages.

Chief Nelson says, "The people on one end of town will hear the first page, and the people on the other end of town might not hear it until the third page."

Lt. Gary Peske with the Vilas County Sheriff's Office says this is a result of the FCC's narrowbanding mandate.

He says narrowbanding reduces radio transmission width, which shortens the distance they travel...causing workers to miss pages. "Since the narrowbanding has been implemented, that radio transmission now might only travel 1 1/2 miles instead of the previous 2 miles."

To fix the problem, Peske says the county is looking into a simulcast system, which lets calls go out from multiple towers at the same time.

The total cost is estimated around $1 million.

Peske says, "Once we went to the narrowbanding, we anticipated we would lose some of the transmission distance, but we didn't know exactly how significant it was going to be until it actually happened."

But for Chiefs Nelson and Skrobot, it's money well spent. "We're really concerned about the people and getting care to them as quick as possible."

Keeping the lines of communication open when time is of the essence.

Peske says some funding for the simulcast system is available.

He says the rest would be considered into the budget, or written into a borrowing/leasing agreement.

Peske says once funding is secure, it will take only months for the system to get up and running.


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