Centre County spends $633,000 in 911 radio equipment

Centre County made another bulk purchase for the new 911 system this week, acquiring all the necessary radios for Emergency Medical Services.

The total cost of the purchase was about $633,000, and it will supplement prior radio purchases that mostly were covered by grant funding. The Board of Commissioners approved the purchase at its meeting Tuesday.

Getting the EMS services on this radio system will be a major upgrade in quality and radio clarity for ambulances and paramedics, Centre County Director of Emergency Communications Dan Tancibok said.

Chairman Steve Dershem said he would like to set up a performance test for the public to see how well the radios work.

“The most amazing thing to me is this noise-canceling technology,” he said. “When you’re standing right next to a chain saw and talking to somebody, and it sounds like you’re just talking on the telephone to them. It’s really amazing.”

The county was hoping to try to begin testing some agencies on the new system before the new year, but a minor setback in the microwave equipment software and the holidays have delayed it until likely the second week in January, Tancibok said.

He said they have already done all the coverage testing and know that the system works properly, but they need to make sure the radios are programmed correctly and do what they are designed to do.

Each radio is coded with more than 2,000 lines of data, so the process can get a little bit complicated, he added.

When the new system is implemented, coverage will increase to 98.6 percent, up from the less than 50 percent of coverage on the current system. Final cost numbers are not in, but county officials still expect it to be about $18 million and about $14 million for the county share.

Commissioner Chris Exarchos said the purchase of the new radios was an expected cost and will not put the project over budget.