A new satellite communications system obtained by federal grant funds from the Northeast Homeland Security Council will provide Internet and phone service during times of emergency, Radcliffe, Franklin County emergency management director, said.
“There will be a deployed system that goes with our command trailer, so out in the field we have Internet and phone service,” he said. “It’s a good way for us to be able to check our resources during an emergency, as well as many other uses for Franklin County.”
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to accept the satellite communications system, as well as to pay for insurance on the equipment. The cost of the insurance on the equipment is unknown until an inventory of county equipment is done, Radcliffe said.
The equipment can be used in many different cases, including power outages or even when cell phone service is weak, he said.
“An example would’ve been when we had the homicide here back in May,” Radcliffe said. “We have computers with air cards that connect to the Internet, but when we got to the crime scene, nobody had any service so we couldn’t use the air cards or cell phones. We could’ve used the [satellite communications system] to provide both Internet and phone service.”
The satellite works just like a satellite dish that would provide cable TV service, Radcliffe said, so placement of the satellite is important.
“The satellite dish has to be able to receive a signal from the satellite in the sky,” he said. “If the satellite is facing the south and has a clear line of sight, we’ll be able to get a signal, but we wouldn’t be able to be on the north side of a tall building and expect to get a signal.”
“It’s limited by the amount of information being downloaded or uploaded,” he said. “But it will be faster than a 4G network running cell service.”
In some emergency situations, as well as other situations like last weekend’s Ol’ Marais River Run car show, where a large number of people are in one area using the same cell towers, users can bog down the towers resulting in loss of cell service, Radcliffe said. The satellite system would be able to bypass that problem, he said.
“I think it’s going to be a big benefit to us,” he said. “I’m sure as we go along we’ll find other uses for the system as well.”
The estimated cost of the satellite system is about $21,000, Radcliffe said, but that amount is covered by grant funds, as well as four years of service for the system.