Fire department's new emergency communications systems receives approval from Common Council

Elkhart Fire Chief talks to reporters during an AED demonstration last month.  

ELKHART—The Elkhart Fire Department is in the process of replacing its communications system that provides the connection between the dispatch center and seven fire departments across the city.

Last week, the Common Council approved $260,000 in funding for the project.

Elkhart Fire Chief Chad Carey said the fire department’s current system is no longer workable due to aging and deterioration. The last time it has been updated, Carey said, was over 18 years ago.

“The current system is old and we’ve been having problems with it,” Carey said. “We looked at replacing components of the current system, but it’s degrading and getting bad.”

Carey said the fire station is only planning to replace the base system, while keeping several parts of the old system.

Quality, cost and compatibility are the three determinants before the department makes a final decision, Carey said; prior to finalizing a decision, Carey said he must ensure the new base system is compatible with parts of the old system.

The system operates by communicating with components that travel to the seven different fire stations in the city, enabling the 911 dispatch center to communicate with each of the stations.

But, Carey said, it’s getting increasingly difficult for firefighters to decipher what’s being said over the communications system due to its age.

“It’s very hard to hear what’s being said,” Carey said. “It’s getting bad.”

Carey said the fire station received several quotes from public safety companies to install the new system but have limited it to two potential companies: G2 Phoenix & Westnet.

Carey said 

Prior to choosing one of the two options, Carey said the department will review the technology to ensure its compatibility with components of the current system. 

With either option the department decides to choose, Carey said it will help the department decrease its response time.

“We already have really good response times, but this will help us improve even more,” he said.

Last week, Mayor Tim Neese announced the city improved its public safety rating to a Class 2, the lowest in the state of Indiana, according to the Insurance Services Office’s (ISO) ratings.

“This is a noticeable achievement for Elkhart, and I feel confident that the success will continue,” Neese said during a Board of Public Safety meeting last week.

After selecting a new communication system from the two remaining options, Carey said he must go before the Board of Public Safety for final approval.


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