SCHUMER: FIRST RESPONDERS NEED NEW SHARED-FREQUENCY RADIOS FOR RAPID RESPONSE, AND AFTER 4-YEAR LONG STRUGGLE TO FINALLY GET INTEROPERABLE RADIO SYSTEM APPROVED BY FCC, SYSTEM STILL REMAINS OFFLINE BECAUSE OF FINAL FAA HURDLE – SENATOR PUSHES FAA TO EXPEDITE APPROVAL PROCESS SO FIRE, POLICE, EMS, 911, HIGHWAY DEPT RESPONDERS CAN FINALLY COMMUNICATE ON SAME RADIO CHANNEL
In May, Schumer Urged U.S. State Department & FCC To Intervene With Canadian Officials Who Had Blocked New Frequency Approval for Years; Canadian Approval Was Required Because Of Broadcast Tower’s Proximity To Canada
Senator Reveals, As Result Of His Previous Push, U.S. State Department & FCC Have Reached Agreement With Canada To Approve Frequency Agreement; Now, FAA Sign Off Is Still Needed To Finally Turn On New Joint Radio System
Schumer To FAA: Expedite The Approval Process for Wyoming County First Responders
Standing in front of the Wyoming County Fire Training Center and Site of the Radio Broadcast Tower, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite their review that is the last approval currently standing in the way of Wyoming County turning on their new interoperable 911 radio frequency channel. Schumer said that, currently, Wyoming County’s first responder radio system does not allow communication on the same radio frequencies between the County’s Fire and 9-1-1 EMS and the County Sheriff, Highway Departments, or the New York State Police Department. As a result, Wyoming County first responders applied on multiple occasions over the past three years to access Very High Frequency (VHF) radio channels that would allow local first responders to share vital information on the same radio frequency in order to respond more quickly to distress calls. However, each time, they faced significant obstacles. Following his push this past May, Schumer successfully urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. State Department to work with Canadian officials to schedule and performing the necessary test broadcasts between the U.S. and Canada in order to secure the necessary FCC and Canadian approvals to let Wyoming County's new interoperable radio system to broadcast on this new VHF frequency.
Now, Schumer is asking FAA to green light a critical determination needed to finally make this new radio frequency system a reality. Wyoming County is currently waiting for FAA to issue a “no hazard determination” for the 500-foot Wethersfield broadcast tower antennae in Wyoming County. This determination involves the FAA conducting an airspace study to ensure that the tower does not pose a hazard to air navigation, and Schumer said, is the final hurdle that the county’s first responders must overcome in order to improve their emergency communications capabilities.
“Each day, Wyoming County emergency responders put their lives on the line to safeguard their community. But in order for them to do their jobs effectively and protect the residents of Wyoming County, they need to access the same high frequency radio channels that allow them to communicate in unison,” said Schumer. “We need to ensure our first responders and law enforcement have the resources they need to continue their important work of saving lives.”
Schumer explained that Wyoming County first responders have worked for years to get a new, interoperable radio system approved that would allow the County’s Fire, EMS, Sheriff and Highway Departments, along with the New York State Police Department to communicate on one frequency. Schumer said that having all emergency services on the same radio frequency would better allow them to respond during emergencies and communicate effectively. Access to these VHF radio channels would allow fire, EMS and other first responders to share vital information and react quickly to distress calls. Currently, radio communication systems in Wyoming County are not compatible; they operate on different platforms and are not accessible by a single radio. Therefore, any information must be relayed by the County’s 911 center. Fire and EMS responders do not have the ability to communicate directly with the law enforcement or County highway officials. The new radio communications system would bring all Wyoming County resources onto the same operating frequencies, and provide them with the ability to communicate directly in an emergency situation. Schumer said this interaction is critical when units are being dispatched in emergency situations, when they are working in a search detail, or even during severe weather events, such as Western New York’s November storm last year, when first responders were desperately needed to work in concert with law enforcement. Schumer said a new system would allow emergency responders to have a dedicated frequency for all first responders as well as the 911 center, for complete interoperability.
However, Schumer said, this process of getting the approvals needed to access VHF radios has not been an easy one. Wyoming County first responders applied on multiple occasions to access these radio channels, but each time they were denied by the Canadian government. Given its close proximity to Canada, Wyoming County was required to go through the Canadian government to access frequencies given its proximity to the country. As a result, in May, Schumer implored the State Department and FCC to find an amicable solution that would allow Wyoming County first responders to have access to the necessary frequencies while still remaining within the parameters of Canada’s broadcast frequency guidelines and regulations.
Schumer said today the FCC and State Department, following his push, recently worked with the Canadian agency of jurisdiction to perform testing, and determined that Wyoming County’s proposed sites are not a source of radio interference to Canadian facilities. Now, the final hurdle left is receiving a “no hazard determination” for the Wethersfield broadcast tower in Wyoming County from the FAA. In order to issue a no hazard determination, the FAA must conduct an airspace study of the area to ensure that the tower’s 500-foot antennae does not present a hazard to air navigation. Therefore, Schumer is urging the FAA to expeditiously test and review this tower so it can render a decision on Wyoming County’s request for a no hazard determination. Schumer said this determination is one of the final hurdles that the county’s first responders must overcome in order to improve their emergency communications capabilities.
Given the numerous bureaucratic hurdles Wyoming County has had to overcome and the delay that has already resulted due to the State Department, FCC and Canadian negotiations, Schumer is requesting the FAA complete this review as quickly as possible. In fact, Wyoming has already secured a grant for $1.8 million to pay for new radios and tower equipment, but has been unable to move forward without these approvals. Once the FAA deems the Wethersfield tower does not pose a hazard to air traffic and navigation, Wyoming County first responders will be able to access the VHF radio channels and effectively communicate with one another in emergency situations.
Schumer was joined by Wyoming County Director of Fire and Emergency Manager Anthony Santoro, Wyoming County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Berwanger, local elected officials and local first responders.
“The new VHF Fire/EMS radio system will allow all first responders in Wyoming County to operate to the most efficient level possible and take away communication obstacles that we currently have. The current Fire/EMS community does not have the ability to communicate directly with the law enforcement or county highway recourses,” said Wyoming County Director of Fire and Emergency Management Anthony Santoro. “We appreciate Senator Schumer’s assistance to get our new fire/EMS system cleared to operate which will bring all Wyoming County resources on the same operating frequencies so that we will have the ability to communicate directly in an emergency situation.”
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FAA appears below:
Dear Administrator Huerta:
I write to urge you to swiftly render a decision on the request for a no hazard determination for the Wethersfield broadcast tower in Wyoming County. This determination is one of the final hurdles that the county’s first responders must overcome in order to improve their emergency communications capabilities.
In Wyoming County, first responders have been working diligently over the last several years to improve their emergency communications. They secured significant grant funding, which will expire next year, in order to complete this project. However, for several years, the county has run into hurdles in securing Very High Frequency (VHF) radio frequencies for the county to operate Fire and EMS Communications. Because of the county’s proximity to Canada, they were required to gain Canadian approval for their new radio frequency. Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently informed me that they worked with the Canadian agency of jurisdiction to perform testing, and determined that Wyoming County’s proposed sites are not a source of radio interference to Canadian facilities.
The FCC is prepared to provide Special Temporary Authority (STA) for the county, but first, the county requires a no hazard determination for one of the tower sites from the FAA. In order to issue a no hazard determination, the FAA must conduct an airspace study of the area to ensure that the tower does not present a hazard to air navigation. It is my understanding that the county had previously submitted the request to the FAA with incorrect coordinates, and has since corrected the error and recently resubmitted the application. I appreciate the FAA’s commitment to ensuring the safety of our nation’s airspace, and I urge you to process this application as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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