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A life safety issue

Published March 21. 2011 05:03PM

Carbon County has set a date to meet with the municipalities that have expressed interest in partnering for a grant to replace their emergency services radios, pagers, and phones.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein announced that a narrowbanding meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, March 23, at the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency in Nesquehoning. The purpose of the meeting will be to determine how the county, as well as the 17 municipalities who expressed interest in the county's help, will proceed with applying for grant money to cover the estimated $1 million that it will cost to comply with the federal narrowbanding mandate.

A representative from each of these municipalities, as well as a representative from the emergency services in the municipality that will be affected should attend the meeting.

Nothstein said the reason for the narrowbanding project came about after emergency services requested more radio frequencies. Currently, if there are numerous emergencies happening, the channels get blocked up quickly.

"I think it's a very serious and life safety issue, not only for the responders but also for those who may be trapped in a burning building, possible hostages, or people in need of emergency services," he said.

Nothstein also addressed a handout that Robert Dages, a member of the Carbon County Constitutionalists, presented to the board. The handout was a Supreme Court ruling about dual sovereignty.

He said that he understands Dages' reasoning, but feels this issue will help the county better serve the people in the long run.

Dages said he understands but feels the hefty fines that the Federal Communications Commission has written into the mandate for anyone who doesn't comply with the changeover by the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline are unconstitutional.

Commissioner Charles Getz also wondered what would happen if the county was not ready when the deadline occurred.

Nothstein added that his major concern is the availability of the radios because every emergency service agency in the country needs to prepare for the changeover.

The narrowbanding project came about after the Federal Communications Commission created a mandate that will make more radio frequencies.

According to the FCC website, "On Jan. 1, 2013, all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems operating in the 150-512 MHz radio bands must cease operating using 25 kHz efficiency technology, and begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology. This deadline is the result of an FCC effort that began almost two decades ago to ensure more efficient use of the spectrum and greater spectrum access for public safety and nonpublic safety users. Migration to 12.5 kHz efficiency technology will allow the creation of additional channel capacity within the same radio spectrum, and support more users."

This means that police, fire companies, emergency personnel, and public works, as well as others, will be affected.

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