Emergency responders and Internet users in Stamford and Readsboro no longer are no longer locked in a communications dead zone.
New equipment mounted on a weather tower at the Hoosic Wind Farm on Bakke Mountain has provided a needed boost in emergency communications, enhancing public safety and cutting down on response times for first responders.
An antenna for high-speed broadband also was installed on the tower as part of the project when the radio repeater was put up in October. The project involved the Southern Vermont Broadband Cooperative (SVBC), the Stamford Volunteer Fire Department, North Adams Ambulance Service and Iberdrola Renewables.
Requirements of the Federal Communications Commission were fulfilled last month, and the repeater went live on Feb. 2.
When North Adams Ambulance began serving Stamford and Readsboro a couple of years ago, the radio issue became apparent right away, according to ambulance general manager John Meaney, who said there was spotty reception in Stamford, and no reception in Readsboro.
“Once we went over Dutch Hill, we lost all radio contact,” he said. “It was a safety issue. But this project gave us gave us coverage in almost all of Readsboro and Monroe. It works quite well, so we’re very excited about it.”
Typically, an ambulance crew is in nearly constant contact with either dispatch, the ambulance service or the hospital, Meaney said, communicating needs for assistance, medical information, new calls coming in, or a need for additional crew such as paramedics for elevated care needs.
Without a radio signal, he said, “you’re on your own.”
Until now, if crew members needed to contact their base, they would radio Keene, Vt., which would then phone North Adams, which would then radio the base with the information. Return communications used the same process in reverse.
“It was a cumbersome process,” Meaney said. “This project takes the middle man out and gives us direct contact with our dispatcher, which is the ideal scenario.”
Every year, North Adams Ambulance responds to about 50 calls in Stamford and 100 calls to Readsboro, he said.
The project started as two different efforts: The need for emergency radio access, and a need for more broadband communications coverage, according to Robert Briggs, president of SVBC. Before long, the two efforts coalesced.
“It worked out really well for all of us,” Briggs said.
Stamford Volunteer Fire Department Chief Paul Ethier said Iberdrola gave its approval for the project in June 2014. The fire company, with 34 volunteers, responds to about 90 calls each year.
“We’d been having radio problems forever,” he said. And when Iberdrola was contacted, he said, “they really stepped up to the plate. They were a great partner to work with.”
“They were very receptive,” Briggs said.
So the fire department and ambulance service split the $16,000 cost of the radio repeater and all three partners split the cost of the weather-proof cabinet in which the equipment is mounted, and the cost of the installation, about 40 feet high on the 200-foot weather tower.
Iberdrola Renewables spokesman Paul Coleman said the proposal did not require much consideration.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority, and that means the public’s safety as well in the communities we serve,” he said. “When the opportunity presented itself to upgrade these critical local institutions’ capabilities, we were glad to help. In this instance, all they did was ask us, and we worked out the details and logistics together. We take our role as a responsible business partner and a good neighbor very seriously, and we’re proud to have worked with the talented teams at these nonprofits.”
“Iberdrola really made this happen,” Meaney said.
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