Putnam Co. Goes Digital to Increase Radio Coverage


by Marcus Washington

PUTNAM COUNTY, Tenn. - When you call 911 you expect emergency responders to help you in your time of need quickly, but in one county poor radio frequencies put first responders in need of help.

Putnam County emergency dispatchers work hard to keep emergency crews up to date to what's going on.

Keeping up with crews became difficult when the FCC changed requirements for emergency centers, forcing them to narrow banding.

"That's where the path that we use on our two-way radio transmission is going from large path to a very small path. What we found out is that decreases the range of our two-way radios," said Randy Porter director of the Putnam County EMS/911 center.

For crews responding in rural areas of the county, particularly the western part of Putnam, the old analog system became unreliable.

Corporal Jamie Greenwood with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office said he knows too well the risk involved with poor radio frequency.

"It was a general sickness call, which usually they don't send with back up because it's general sickness," said Greenwood. "It turned out the family escalated it and I had to fight one of the family members. I tried to get on my portable to call out and there was no signal."

To fix the problem the county is moving to a digital radio system starting with EMS and the sheriff's office.

The county will now have three towers placed in the eastern, central and western parts of the county, working like a cell phone towers.

Cpl. Greenwood said the new towers would also help in keeping folks in the western areas safe.

"The routine patrol will happen more. We will go down in those areas because we know we can get [a signal] out and it gives citizens of Putnam county better coverage," said Greenwood.

"With the new digital system, there are a lot of areas in our county that the analog did not cover that the digital works in. It's almost kind of amazing at the increased coverage that we get with the system," said Porter.

The new digital system is expected to be fully operational by the end 2011, first starting with the EMS and sheriff's office.

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