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Emergency communications get funding booster shot

Albany is continuing to put money into local emergency communications, with a new release of $45 million for emergency services across the state.

While the grant money is available generally, there are some formulas involved so no one can get all of the cash. Erie County Emergency Services Commissioner Daniel Neaverth says his office is putting in for a piece of the action as it continues to upgrade emergency communications.

"We're trying to manage the backbone of a system that can be utilized by first responders across the county," he says. "There are dedicated channels, countywide channels for fire, dedicated countywide channels for EMS, for law enforcement."

The county may need more money than most because it is so varied in terrain, which makes communications technology needs different in different areas. Neaverth says the county was used in an unsuccessful testing of emergency communications because it is so varied.
"Within Erie County, they faced every type of topography that they would face throughout the rest of the state," he says. "Part of Erie County simulates the Adirondacks. Part of it simulates the much flatter Tug Hill region and maybe some of the other not-so-densely populated areas. But that project fell by the wayside."

Neaverth says there are practical limits on how many towers can be installed for communications in all parts of the county, especially dealing with areas where there are "dead zones" for law enforcement.

"When it comes to specific areas that are dead zones, you can't have a thousand towers throughout the area," he says. "To tweak the system, we recently launched a couple of new towers in the Southtowns area to improve those dead zones, because in public safety you can't have zones where there is a lack of communication. So we have slowly but surely, based on this funding, try and identify areas of need, areas of improvement."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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