New emergency radio system goes live and increases coverage from 60 to 95 percent countywide

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Accident report

~ Press release issued by Page County on social media

LURAY, Jan. 20 — The county went live on Wednesday, Jan. 18 with its new emergency radio system, bolstering public safety and narrowing a service gap that formerly saw as much as 40 percent of the county without radio coverage.

“It was a frightening fact that there were several places in Page County with no communication during an emergency, whether a domestic situation, car accident, hostage situation or fire,” said Page County Administrator Amity Moler.

The $6.5 million project, continued Moler, is an investment in the community that will keep residents, visitors and first responders safe.

“The project was critical for public safety because of the additional coverage,” said radio program manager Woody Brown, who retired as Page’s director of emergency services on March 1, 2022, but stayed on to see the radio upgrades through.

Overall, the new system increases radio coverage from 60 percent to 95 percent, boosting interoperability and performance for nearly a dozen Page County agencies, including the Page County Sheriff’s Office, EMS, town police and fire and rescue in Luray, Stanley and Shenandoah. County officials additionally opted to add multiple talk groups to the system, ensuring interoperability for outside agencies when they are in the area. Efforts are underway to expand the infrastructure to include Page County Public Schools by July.

County officials began working on plans to replace the emergency radio system following a grant-funded radio system needs assessment in 2017 that highlighted problematic designs and limitations of the county’s former system. The system reached its end of life in 2019, limiting the infrastructure’s serviceability and the availability of parts.

In March 2020, the county awarded L3Harris Technology the project’s contract. The company is headquartered in Lynchburg, but has a service center in Harrisonburg. Through the contract, L3Harris oversees design, installation and testing, as well as maintenance through the system’s 15-year lifespan. The new emergency infrastructure is part of a shared system with the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, making it Page’s largest-ever collaborative project with a second locality.

“The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center has been a huge part in getting this where we are…with helping us,” said Brown, adding that Page is connected to the system through two core links in Rockingham, ensuring “redundancy in case one link fails.”

The shared system cut down overall project costs and decreases future maintenance costs, as well as bolsters overall coverage in Page — particularly the county’s southern end. In addition to tower sites at Tanner’s Ridge, Big Mountain and Kibler Hill, the county utilizes Rockingham’s site along the Massanutten peak.

The system in Page officially went live at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, beginning with law enforcement agencies. Page County fire and EMS agencies then switched over to the nee system at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Brown said on Jan. 20 that no major issues had been reported and the system’s expanded coverage was already apparent.

Just one day after the system went live, said Brown, first responders were called to an incident in Cubbage Hollow — an area that previously had no radio coverage at all. Fire officials called Brown later to note the now-perfect coverage.

“They’re seeing it firsthand,” said Brown. “This is going to save lives.”

“Going live with the L3Harris system is something to celebrate,” added Moler. “This advancement benefits everyone in Page County, whether you are a first responder, a member of our community or just visiting.”

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