HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — First responders across Luzerne County are reacting Tuesday night with word that major upgrades are coming to the county’s 911 system. County council Monday night approved a motion to borrow some $20 million for the long-awaited and much-needed improvements.
The Luzerne County 911 Center radio dispatch system is reaching its shelf life of 20 years. The first responders Eyewitness News spoke with say these upgrades will improve safety for everyone involved, including firefighters, police officers, EMS, and most importantly, the public.
“We’ve had a few instances where we had firefighters in buildings and we haven’t been able to transmit to them,” Hazleton Fire Department Chief Donald Leshko said.
Leshko says the radio upgrades will make a difference in emergency calls in the county, especially in the southern end of the county.
“The southern end of the county are on one frequency, EMS and fire are on the same frequency. You know you get multiple incidents especially in the wintertime with crashes. You get a house fire in there or a building fire that can really make it into a serious situation,” Leshko said.
That will change when the county replaces its current analog radio system with a faster and cleaner digital system. Basically, it will replace the current patchwork broadcast capabilities with a blanket coverage. Brian Buglio is the police chief of the West Hazleton Police Department.
“It’s going to be cleaner. The communications, it’s going to be better. Comm center’s not going to have an issue listening or trying to hear us or talk anymore,” Buglio said.
Buglio says the current radio system has made for some potentially dangerous situations for police officers.
“Officers calling for help. Other departments heard it. Comm Center never heard it or vice versa. Comm Center and other departments did hear then call for back up. It depends where your radio is at that time whether or not you could get out, whether they can hear you,” Buglio said.
County officials say they hope to start the radio upgrade in the next 30 to 45 days. They know that the current system will be obsolete by the end of 2020.
The project was placed out for bid about six months ago and the county is currently in negotiations with a company to do the work. The county received a $1 million state grant for the project last week. It could cost as much as $20 million.