With authorities grants, the Chicopee, Longmeadow police and hearth departments can change getting old radio programs

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There were times when Longmeadow police broadcast information over the radio and dispatchers only heard static electricity.

Radio dead spots in Chicopee about 14 miles away would leave officers with no backup in an emergency.

But that has changed since the Longmeadow Police and Fire Department switched to a state-of-the-art radio system that the town of roughly 15,000 residents couldn’t afford on its own. Next week, the Chicopee police and fire department will switch on new radios that those responsible have been trying to buy for at least six years.

“It’s day and night. So far, performance is better than we imagined, ”said Jay MacSata, Longmeadow Deputy Fire Department chief, one of the key people working on the radio replacement project.

The radio system cost approximately $ 3.6 million and was funded with a grant from the Massachusetts 911 system. It will also eventually provide new communications equipment for police and fire departments in East Longmeadow and Monson, said William R. Jebb, chief of police at Chicopee.

The grant went to Chicopee and Longmeadow, who joined forces to create the regional WESTCOMM Regional Dispatch. The state has urged first responders to regionalize shipping services because it saves the Massachusetts 911 a lot of money on equipment.

The joint shipping center opened in Chicopee last December, and Monson and East Longmeadow have joined since then.

So far there have been many advantages. Previously, Chicopee used police officers and firefighters as dispatchers. With civilian dispatchers assuming this role, nine police officers and four firefighters will be released.

Longmeadow already had civil dispatchers, but they usually worked alone and could be overwhelmed in a major emergency. Now other dispatchers can get involved when this happens.

Jebb said one of his goals when he became boss six years ago was to replace the public safety radios, but the $ 1.5 million cost was an obstacle.

“(The system) was at the end of life years ago. It was pretty disastrous, ”he said.

Chicopee wasn’t the only community that had serious problems with outdated radios. Longmeadow had times when his radios were virtually unusable in places.

“It became a security issue for officers,” said Robert Stocks, Longmeadow police chief. “It’s ten times better than it was. The clarity and communication are much better. You can hear yourself. “

Chicopee is now testing the equipment and training police and firefighters on the various functions offered, said fire chief Daniel Stamborski.

“They are doing a fantastic job at all of the test sites in Chicopee,” he said.

One of the advantages of the new system is that the radios contain GPS tracking devices. This is an important safety feature when an officer or firefighter is seriously injured and unable to communicate. The tracking devices also show the dispatchers where each police officer is so that they can send the nearest car in an emergency. B. a suffocating baby where a minute can matter. Although patrols are divided into sectors across the city, an officer from a different sector can sometimes be closer to the emergency, Jebb said.

As soon as Chicopee turns on its radios, the second phase of device upgrades begins. East Longmeadow and Monson will receive new radios to match those of their new partners, MacSata said.

“With the regional approach, multiple departments are running on a single system,” he said.

That will make a big difference in a fire. Currently, firefighters in Longmeadow and East Longmeadow have radios that operate on different frequencies, so firefighters cannot communicate over the air while working together. MacSata said that while they have a system in place to solve the problem, it is more efficient if they use the same devices.

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