By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – A major upgrade to Hudson’s public safety radio system is nearly complete.
It offers the police and fire departments higher performance and greater reliability while allowing them to more easily communicate with public works and Hudson Light and Power personnel.
The old public safety radio system dates back to the early 2000s and was purchased from Motorola. As the years went by, however, the company stopped selling the specific models Hudson used. Then it stopped manufacturing spare parts. Finally, it ended technical support. By 2020, it was time to upgrade.
“We had basically gotten a good 18 years out of the existing equipment,” Fire Chief Bryan Johannes told the Community Advocate.
Project previously approved at Town Meeting
The upgrade project was approved by vote at last year’s June Town Meeting. Purchase and installation took about a year, with the Select Board unanimously approving a bond of $1,282,981 at its recent July 26 meeting.
That bond will last over 10 years. But Johannes expects to get more than a decade of use out of the new equipment, based on his experience with the old system.
Work not limited to radio electronics
Other aspects of Hudson’s old system, in addition to its electronics, needed to be replaced.
The town’s five radio repeater sites were housed in wooden storage sheds, which Johannes described as “rodent and insect infested.”
“I had the Crestview site fail a few years ago because some mice got in and urinated on the equipment,” Johannes recalled.
As part of the upgrade, the sheds at the Pope Hill and Crestview repeater sites were replaced with new casings of metal and rubber. The upgrade included state-of-the-art HVAC and fiber optics. The communications shelters, emergency generators and fuel supply were also replaced at each location. Full installation was complete as of July 27, although Johannes said, “We’re still working some bugs out.”
The upgrade has noticeably boosted coverage and reliability, Johannes said.
Some areas which were not adequately covered can now be reached, and some interior or subterranean spaces where coverage did not fully penetrate now have full connectivity. For example, clear signals can now be sent and received from inside the parking garage at the Esplanade condos on Main Street. Calls had previously been spotty in that location.
“We think it’s going to improve firefighter and police officer safety,” Johannes said.
Upgrades enable interagency communication
The police and fire departments have their own channels on which they run day to day communications, such as dispatch. They have mobile radios in vehicles and “portables” carried by individuals. The new system has a stronger connection between mobiles and portables, increasing reliability and mobility for all boots on the ground.
While police officers and firefighters usually stick to their own channels, the new system allows for greater sharing of channels in the event of an emergency. It also allows for interoperability with the radios at the Department of Public Works and Hudson Light and Power, a feature which had been lost when public works upgraded their own equipment.