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Thursday, March 22 Local

Emergency communication upgrades approved

The Representative Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved the spending of $587,000 to improve the emergency services communication system, which does not cover the entire town.

The vote was 75 in favor, 1 against on Monday.

The original emergency services communication was installed in fiscal year 1998-99. Production of the current hardware ceased in 2011 and technical support will only be available for a few more years.

The project will take place in two parts. The first will address the "dead zones" where emergency services personnel have no communication with headquarters and other personnel.

The "dead zones" in town affect approximately one-half to three-quarters of a square mile along Hoyt Street, according to Marc McEwan, the deputy fire marshal.

"When the emergency services respond to these areas it also jeopardizes their personal safety when they're unable to receive or transmit from these areas, including the safety of those they are responding to assist," McEwan said.

Additionally, when responders are in that area, they are unable to receive their next call, which can impact their response times.

The portable radios that responders use while at a scene do not work in the dead zones, according to McEwan. Responders use cellphones to communicate with dispatch and each other in those areas.

"Sometimes it is knowing where to pull over a vehicle so as not to be in the dead area," McEwan said.

To address the dead zones, Darien will pay for an additional transmitter site to be added at the Sterling Farms golf course in Stamford.

Additionally, the technology will be upgraded.

The new communications system is expected to be operating within three to six months, according to the memo given to the RTM.

Holly Shultz, of District III, asked if through the newly adopted Council of Governments structure, Darien could work with surrounding towns to use similar systems to find cost-saving consolidations.

Police Chief Duane Lovello told Shultz that there is no system statewide that would allow for a "build out" of the communication systems. Each town works on its own communication infrastructure.

mspicer@bccnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews