Centre County 911 system tests reveal better coverage than expected

The results are in, and it’s better than expected.

The team working on the new 911 system project presented the results of the coverage testing Tuesday to the Centre County Board of Commissioners, boasting a 98.6 percent coverage mark in the accessible area of the county. That number is up from the current coverage of less than 50 percent and the expectation of 90 percent.

Though final cost numbers are not in, county officials still expect it to be about $18 million and about $14 million for the county share. Chairman Steve Dershem said the numbers are a testament to how hard the people worked.

“Not only is it done better than expected, but the finances and overall costs of this thing have been, to me, nothing short of amazing,” he said.

Workers spent weeks traveling all the roads in the county and testing them for service. Commissioner Chris Exarchos said they were so thorough they got multiple vehicles stuck on roads that were in complete disrepair.

Perfect coverage in the county is likely impossible, but the areas that aren’t covered likely don’t have any people in them, being forest or state game lands, said Dan Tancibok, director of the Centre County Office of Emergency Communications.

He added that the coverage extends far beyond the county lines and opens up opportunities for usage by other counties.

The county is moving from 13 tower sites to 19, which is part of the reason for the increased service, Gene Lauri, criminal justice planning department director, said.

It will also be an improvement for the users with clearer sound quality and noise-reducing features that will help at loud scenes, Tancibok said.

“With the noise-canceling capability, a firefighter can be standing on an active fire ground where there’s a lot of engines running and generators and power saws and you don’t hear any of that in the background,” he said “It filters all that out, and you get crystal-clear voice capability.”

The county will begin switching over the microwave equipment on the towers and testing a radio switch later this month. If that goes well, they will begin switching the radios over for all agencies in December with an expected completion time frame of January or February.