Emergency Radio Improvements Make A Safer County, Authorities Say

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In the most extreme of crises, first responders say communication is critical: Critical in a public disturbance, a massive fire or a serious car accident.

"On I-96, a little over a year ago, police, fire, ambulances responded and we were unable to communicate as to where they were needed," Ingham County Undersheriff Matthew Myers said Tuesday, referring to a January 2005 pileup that involved hundreds of cars and killed two people.

A year and a half later, those lines of communication are open.

The change comes courtesy of a new radio system throughout Ingham County. It allows law enforcement officers to talk to firefighters who can talk to paramedics -- across city and township lines.

"You're talking about lives being saved, people being assisted by people getting them off to the hospitals," Myers told News 10.

While the new radios can help in the most critical emergencies, they can also assist in the most routine.

"Even if you have a fire, say, in the city of Mason and only the Mason Police Department and Mason Fire Department are responding," Myers said. "They now can talk to each other and say, 'I'm on scene, if you can come in this direction.'"

The system's been up since May, although it hasn't functioned perfectly.

"Within a matter of days of when we got the radio, I was on the scene of a two-and-a-half story apartment fire and again, we had some problems with it," Lansing Fire Chief Tom Cochran said.

Problems with the radio microphones, according to Cochran.

"Those problems have been identified and they were addressed," he said.

Cochran and others say the system is now working well. That after years of work by the county's 911 Advisory Board, and a substantial amount of taxpayer funding.

"Twelve-point-five million dollars out of the 911 fund," Ingham County Board Chair Victor Celentino said.

An expense some deputies on the beat say was needed.

"Our safety depends on communication," one deputy told News 10.