New Radio System Improves Emergency Response Communication

By KBJR News 1

January 8, 2013 Updated Jan 8, 2013 at 8:20 PM CDT

Eveleth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A new radio system in St. Louis County is making it a lot easier for emergency responders to do their job.

A statewide radio system called ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response) was implemented in all county fire and police departments in December.

The system allows emergency personnel from almost every county in the state to communicate with one another.

It also allows for responders at a given emergency to operate on a single radio channel, making communication a lot smoother.

"It enables us to talk to a number of fire departments," said Eveleth Fire Chief Pete Makowski, "We have standardization and uniformity."

The Eveleth Fire Department found out how useful the system was just minutes after installing the radios, when they were called to a fire at a local bar.

"We had just finished putting these [the radios] into our rigs here at the Eveleth Fire Department when the call came in," said Makowski.

While firefighters battled the flames at Sleeve's Bar in Eveleth, the ARMER radio system allowed the responders to communicate on a single radio channel, without interference from scanner talk at other emergencies.

"It truly believe that through good radio communications we were able to keep this fire from spreading and kept it under control," said Makowski.

Dewey Johnson, Communications Center Supervisor for St. Louis County, says that the system allows the county to use about 400 different communication channels. The system before only allowed for about 25.

"It's taken us to the next level as far as communication," he said, "Benefits, flexibility as far as moving traffic to a different channel so they're not competing for airtime as much as they used to be."

Part of the reason for upgrading to the ARMER system was a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) mandate that all counties transfer to a narrowband communication system, which creates more radio frequencies, by 2013.

Johnson says 71 of the state's 87 counties are in the process of getting the ARMER system.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.