Martin Hedgelon, director at the Wayne County Communications Center, advised the Commissioners Thursday to hire a consultant to find out whether high (VHF) or low (UHF) band frequencies are better in the hills and dales of Wayne.


The old Scot song bids, “Oh! ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road, And I'll be in Scotland afore ye...” For firefighters in Wayne County, they don’t want to end up in Scotland when confusion over high and low radio bands come into play.
Martin Hedgelon, director at the Wayne County Communications Center, advised the Commissioners Thursday to hire a consultant to find out whether high (VHF) or low (UHF) band frequencies are better in the hills and dales of Wayne.
Most local fire companies use low band; a few rely on high band. As a result there may be no signals received because of companies using high verses low, explained Honesdale Fire Chief Stan Pratt, who was contacted after. There are also many “dead spots” with no reception due to the terrain. He said that the few fire companies in Wayne using the high band currently are on the same frequency as Lackawanna County, which relies on high band. Lackawanna’s frequency is very busy with emergency calls, and so radio communications frequently are “stepped on.”
A similar problem occurs on low band, using the same frequency as Susquehanna County and to some degree in Pike County- communications from different counties on separate incidents bump into one another.
Fire companies from Wayne that have only low band radios, cannot use them to talk to Lackawanna if responding to assist in an emergency there. The signals have to be relayed.
Pratt said that depending on the result of the study, new radio equipment may be needed by the fire companies in Wayne which will be able utilize high band. Changes to the six county tower transmitters would also be required.
Radio equipment is very expensive, Pratt noted, and they are working on a nearly $1 million grant application to Homeland Security to help with the cost. But first they need to do a study to determine the best way to go.
Pratt stated that the ideal situation, given confirmation by the study, would be to have four high band frequencies dedicated to Wayne County, to utilize in multiple incidents occurring at the same time in various parts of the county.
Wayne has already been allocated its own high band frequency, should the study verify its need.
The ambulance companies and police departments are already using high band.
Hawley Fire Chief Eugene Kraus stated they are in the process of switching to high band but cold have as much as $20,000 in expense to fully equip their company. Lakeville, Gouldsboro, Hamlin and Browndale fire companies are on high band now.
Pratt added that low band was once seen as state of the art, and most local companies are still using low band radios several decades old. When he started as a Honesdale fireman 41 years ago, most fire companies in Wayne didn’t have radio, he said.
Hedgelon recommended a constant, New York State Technology Enterprise Corp., based in Rome, NY, to analyze signal propagation in Wayne County. Hedgelon will supply the pagers, coordinates and cabling needed by the firm to create a map showing how effective low and high band is in different areas.
The $4,140 study was approved. Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith said it was important to enable the fire companies to work together rather than have a “hodgepodge of equipment.”