Photo by: William D. Lewis
Boardman dispatcher Lauren Bruno with Fire Chief George Brown in the township’s dispatch room. The township recently switched to a new state-of-the art radio system. The dispatchers are now using the system for both the Boardman fire and police departments. Last year, Boardman and Austintown police departments joined forces to improve their radio systems and split the $1.5 million cost. Boardman’s share was was covered by seized money and grants, Police Chief Jack Nichols said.

New system gives better signal to Boardman fire department
By Kalea Hall (khall@vindy.com)

A recent switch to a new radio system for the Boardman Fire Department has benefited the department in many ways.

The clearer 800 megahertz trunk system is state-of-the-art technology and replaced the 150 megahertz VHF band this month thanks to Humility of Mary Health Partners St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center’s fronting the bill of about $92,000 for the system.

“We want to be good neighbors to the community, and we want to make sure when we call on the fire department that they have the tools that they need,” said Sally Hammel, manager of public relations for the hospital.

Last year, the Boardman Police Department and Austintown Police Department joined forces to come up with an alternative to improve their radio systems. The townships split the cost of a $1.5 million Motorola digital radio system. Boardman’s share of $750,000 was covered completely by seized money and grants, Boardman Chief of Police Jack Nichols said.

“The systems we had before were technology from the 1960s. For some reason, our area seemed to lag behind technology,” Nichols said.

The fire department and St. Elizabeth’s decided it was best for the department to switch to this new system because it was more cost effective than other options and it worked in the hospital buildings — the older radio system failed inside the buildings.

“What it does for us is help [in a situation where] a firefighter gets in trouble he/she can hit that [emergency] button on the radio and the dispatcher can hear what is going on,” said George Brown, township fire chief.

In addition, it also will get the department to use the major-disaster option that is programmed into the radio and is what the state uses.

“It’s amazing what they can do,” Brown said.

The department has 45 portable radios — one for each firefighter — and 14 mobile units for vehicles, and there will be more spares to come.

With the new technology, the firefighters are able to tell who is talking on the radio; it also gives better, more-extensive coverage and allows the department to get on frequencies other departments use in the event of a need for mutual aid.

In the future, the departments will consider adding the encryption feature so others cannot pick up the scanner traffic.

“Our radio traffic is much clearer now, and we get a lot better coverage,” Nichols said. “It will never be perfect, but by and large, everyone seems to be happy with it.”

The fire department is grateful to have had the infrastructure already in place for the new radio system and for the hospital’s desire to pay for it.

“[The radio systems] are the lifeblood,” Brown said. “[Each call] starts with the radio and ends with the radio.”