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New towers to help emergency response

By Sheryl Marsh · 340-2437

Rural Morgan County residents should get better emergency response as officials continue to build communication towers.

The County Commission approved paying $141,581 to Terra Communications to install a microwave communications network on a tower atop Brindley Mountain.

Johnny Cantrell, a planner with the county’s Emergency Management Agency, said the microwave network looks like a satellite dish.

“The installation of the equipment will mean faster response time for the people who live in the east of end of the county,” said Cantrell.

Kelly Armor, an operations supervisor at the Morgan 911 call center, explained how the equipment works.

“It’s going to enhance coverage for emergency responders,” said Armor. “The current equipment covers 90 percent of geographical areas of the county and sometimes there’s trouble with signals. When there’s a wreck, law enforcement, fire and rescue and emergency medical service respond. Although they’re a few hundred feet from each other, they can’t radio each other because of the signals.”

The new equipment will improve signals.

“There will be some areas that will have double coverage,” she said. “It’s like a cell phone that gets signals from various towers.”

Currently, a tower is at the call center on U.S. 31. It’s part of an interoperable plan that was written three years ago for homeland security grants, Armor said.

A third installation of equipment will give the county 100 percent coverage.

“Our last hurdle will be in the south end of the county: Hartselle, Falkville and Massey,” Armor said. “There’s always going to be holes in any radio system, but that will pretty much cover the county.”

The homeland security money for the towers comes through the Federal Emergency Management Agency annually, according to Cantrell. He said there’s no guarantee the county will receive the money, but more than likely it will.

The next grant will pay for tower equipment for the third phase.

“We’ll probably know something about the middle of 2007,” said Cantrell.

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