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Additional Funding For Albany County First Responders

WAMC photo illustration by Dave Lucas

First responders across Albany County will soon be able to make radio contact with one another through a new countywide interoperable radio system.

Law enforcement relies on two-way radios. But for years, Albany police have been unable to use their devices to contact and co-ordinate operations with Colonie police.  And first responders, for example, in Altamont, may not be able to check in with their peers in Voorheesville. That's changing. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple explains there's a $19.9 million interoperable radio upgrade under way...    "We're building a system from the bottom, basically from the foundation all the way up to the tower. We're building new sites throughout the county, and it's going to be a completely interoperable system for all public safety disciplines.  Needless to say, there's agencies that want x amount of portables and x amount of mobile radios. We have enough funding to get mobiles for all of the fire apparatus, all the police cars, all the ambulances. Some of the funding for the portables was a little light."

The units cost $3,000 apiece.  That's where state Senator George Amedore stepped in, securing $60,000 in funding from this year’s state budget.  "It's common sense that our police officers, our fire departments, and EMS services are able to communicate with each other when they are responding to calls. And we want them to be able to do their jobs safely and more efficiently. And when they have improved communications between departments, it will lead to faster response times and improved public safety for all residents. I am happy to be able to secure some funds to allow this to happen throughout Albany County, and this is a good thing for the residents."

The sheriff, who joined Amedore for Friday’s announcement, says the 20 new radios that will be secured by the funding are very high-tech, basically portable computers that can process a great deal of information quickly, while channeling communications in a way that could never be done, until now. "Now the police can talk to the fire, and the fire can talk to neighboring fire companies. Right now how the system is set up in Albany County, it's an antiquated system, and most towns can only talk to the disciplines within that locality. Like Albany, for example, cannot talk to Colonie. You have two of the larger populated areas unable to communicate, and I find that pretty poor to be in 2015."

Apple notes the drive to ensure interoperability began with 9/11. The new system will also enable Albany County police and fire to communicate with their colleagues in Saratoga County. The additional funding secured by Amedore will help complete the countywide radio system launched last year by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office. The system is being funded with a combination of federal grant money and county funding, and is expected to be fully operational within the next six months.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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