Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 1, 2005

New Germany is part of advanced public safety radio system

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

When it comes to emergency response, communication is key, and New Germany is part of a public safety radio system that towers above the rest.

The system, an 800-megahertz trunked regional public safety radio system, is shared by nine counties, including Carver County.

“The number one benefit is the efficiency and safety of emergency groups and first responders,” Carver County Chief Deputy Bob VanDenBroeke said.

New Germany is part of Carver County’s sub-network of the metro radio system, which has six towers covering the county. The towers are located in Minnetrista, Hollywood Township, Chanhassen, Shakopee, Belle Plaine, and Norwood.

This system facilitates better emergency communication by letting departments have access to nine different frequencies.

New Germany has been a part of this system for more than a year, according to New Germany Fire Chief Steve Van Lith.

“We have no problems, it works out great and comes in clear,” Van Lith said. “We have a lot more options now.”

Under the old system, each office had its own frequency, including the police, fire department, parks, and transportation.

This posed a problem in emergency situations, because if the system was busy, there was no way to get through.

“Everyone couldn’t talk at once, you had to wait if it was busy, and that’s not good in an emergency,” VanDenBroeke said.

The new system pools together nine different frequencies and puts them into a queuing system.

Now all public offices can make use of nine different frequencies, instead of just one.

“We have six channels and one that is just our own, which frees up the main channels in Carver County for dispatching,” Van Lith said.

New Germany also has separate channels to contact Emergency Medical Services (EMS), emergency risk management, and weather watch services.

The system works by automatically searching for a frequency that isn’t busy, and uses that one first.

“You can have eight people talking at one time,” VanDenBroeke said.

Another advantage of this system is that all departments can talk to each other. For example, the fire department can talk to the police department, and the police can talk to the snowplow operators.

In order to make this project work, the county had to supply its own towers and transmitters for the system.

“The metro radio system brought all the players together, pooled our resources, and created some efficiency with it,” VanDenBroeke said.

Using four existing towers, the county built two more. It also added four radio transmitters and a new dispatch center.

These additional towers move the radio signals closer together, which also increases receptivity for towns like New Germany.

For example, under the old system, some signals weren’t strong enough to go through buildings.

Therefore, if there was a fireman in a building, he might not receive a call about a fire that he needs to respond to.

Now, with six towers located throughout the county, the signals are stronger and can get into buildings.

“You have to be able to depend on it for emergency communication every day,” VanDenBroeke said.

The regional backbone for the system is owned and operated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

Local entities, like Carver County and the City of Minneapolis, own and operate their own subsystems.

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