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AR county emergency communication towers in need of upgrade

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    WASHINGTON COUNTY, AR (KFSM) — Last night fire crews in southern Washington county lost use of their primary radio tower and now, they are urgently seeking a solution.

They say when this happens and a fire emergency hits they’ll have to rely on an older and outdated system to communicate.

“The system we currently have is showing its age. We’re starting to have issues with it. Their parts are becoming more and more harder to get.” said Elkins Fire Chief JD DeMotte.

The fifteen-year-old analog radio system that most of Washington County Emergency Services use for communication is beginning to fail.

“If the wrong thing goes down then we’re up the creek,” said Round Mountain Fire Chief Shane Wood.

It’s back up and running now but on Friday night the system used by emergency crews in southern and eastern parts of Washington County went down forcing Fire, Police, and EMS to rely on a secondary tower on Mount Sequoyah in Fayetteville.

Chief Wood says if this radio tower here on Mount Sequoyah went down then the communication throughout Washington County would be nearly impossible.

“Everything revolves around the Mount Sequoyah tower site,” said Chief Wood.

When too many people are using it at the same time, it becomes a problem.

“We don’t want to be on an emergency medical call or something like that and a police officer get in a situation where he’s in a gunfight with a suspect or something and we’re walking over him and he can’t call for assistance,” said Chief Wood.

Elkins Fire Chief JD DeMotte says losing connection to a tower and trying to switch to another in the middle of an emergency is also a problem.

“If you’re driving and you lose that tower then the driver becomes distracted try8ing to change the radio to the other tower,” said Chief DeMotte.

A newer system would automatically transition between available towers and clear up any radio traffic issues. Chief Wood says updating the system is critical for all emergency crews in the county.

“What we want is fire, police, EMS, whoever is using this system, we want to be able to pick up our radio in an emergency and know that we can push that button and get help,” said Chief Wood.

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