By Kristen Miller
MEEKER COUNTY, MN The majority of the equipment has been delivered for the ARMER Project, which will switch Meeker County over from VHF to an 800 megahertz radio frequency. If all goes well, the change will take place by early September.
The switch will improve communications between departments and emergency services, not only within the county, but the surrounding counties also.
Such equipment includes radio electronics for six different sites both in and out of the county, including Hector and Kimball.
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This is to give the departments better coverage in the north and southwest corners of the county, according to Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin.
All of the mobile and portable equipment for police, highway, county, fire, and ambulance, has also been delivered.
Meeker County Communications Specialist Randy Celander is currently in training that is required by Motorola and MnDOT for the switch-over.
Celander will do programming and installation of the equipment, which will begin in mid- to late June for all the departments within the county.
This will continue through the summer months, with the expectation to go live by the first part of September, according to Norlin.
Installation has begun in the dispatch center and is expected to be completed by late June, with dispatchers to begin their training in late July.
A training plan has been developed and a firm has been hired to assist, along with temporary, part-time trainers from the area.
Such trainers have had previous experience with ARMER, including Patrick Lorentz of the Dassel Fire Department. Lorentz works for an ambulance in Carver County which has already made the switch.
Training is expected to occur later this summer for local departments.
“It’s an exiting project and it’s a good project,” Norlin said.
Eventually, this will allow for the departments to have communication with the school districts and the various school transportation systems for direct communication in case of an emergency, Norlin explained.
The same is expected for medical clinics in the county.
Currently, there is limited communication, and the county is hoping to expand that, Norlin said.
The ultimate outcome and benefit will be improved communications among first responders (and between all users), which will then affect people who are in need during an emergency, according to Norlin.
Currently, Dassel and Cokato emergency responders are on different frequencies (Wright County has already made the switch), making communication much more difficult in cases when mutual aid is needed.
Norlin said currently, many extra steps have to be taken and with the new system, they can go to a common talk group set up for mutual aid.
“It will be much easier,” he said.
The switch to 800 megahertz is a federal mandate as a way to improve communication among all departments.
“Everywhere it’s been installed there has been little trouble and everybody likes it,” Norlin said.