Wheatland County is upgrading its radio communications to a new digital system to help better direct emergency services across wider areas.
During its regular meeting on Sept. 15, Wheatland County council voted to award a sole source contract to BearCom, a wireless communications provider, to upgrade the county’s local radio system. This upgrade will include the installation of a new radio tower at Hammer Hill, located east of Namaka Lake.
The county’s local radio system is used by all nine fire departments within the county, as well as by its public works department.
The existing analog system is older technology nearing the end of its lifecycle, making maintenance and part replacement difficult, and cannot be programmed to allow for interagency operability, explained Michael Bourgon, Wheatland County’s manager of fire and emergency services.
The new digital system will also provide better coverage, which is currently lacking in some areas of the county, noted Bourgon.
The county considered transitioning to the Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System (AFRRCS), a two-way radio network for first responders across the province that became operational in July 2016. However, following a comparison report conducted by Transitional Solutions Inc., the county opted instead to upgrade the current system, allowing for five levels of redundancy and resulting in less cost and training than moving to AFRRCS.
Given this decision, Wheatland and Adjacent Districts Emergency Medical Services Association (WADEMSA) and regional municipalities will not have to move to a new system or invest in new equipment, said Bourgon.
The county started working with BearCom on the upgrade in 2017, and since has purchased some of the necessary equipment, including batteries and repeaters. The upgrades, for which the county has already budgeted $275,000, will cost $272,762.11, before GST.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times