Public Safety Communications Upgrade Completed
From HPD Chief Matthew Stone and HFD Chief Michael Cassidy
The Holliston Police and Fire Departments are pleased to announce that their public safety radio improvement project has been completed. Beginning in 2018, Police Chief Matthew Stone and Fire Chief Michael Cassidy joined forces to address a long standing operability issue that affected first responder communications throughout town. “We knew there were areas where the signal dropped off, but the scope of the solution was not known until we began looking at the system through a much wider lens.” Chief Cassidy noted.
Cyber Communications Solutions, the premier service provider in New England for Motorola, was contacted to perform a propagation study to determine the current level of service provided by the existing system. The results of this study quickly confirmed the inadequacies of the radio system and made recommendations for upgrading the antiquated radio infrastructure.
The next steps were to seek funding support for a project of this nature. Chief Cassidy, Chief Stone, and the Town Administrator requested to meet with State Representative Carolyn Dykema and Senate President Karen Spilka’s Chief of Staff to ask for financial support from the Commonwealth. Our champions on Beacon Hill were able to secure a $100,000 legislative earmark that moved the project from a conceptual idea to a technological solution. In April 2019, the Town of Holliston was notified that our request to the State had been approved, moving the project closer to becoming a reality.
Recognizing the scope of the project and the importance it had to public safety, the Holliston Select Board and Finance Committee supported a joint public safety request to fund the remaining portion of the project through an article on the 2020 Annual Town Meeting warrant. The voters approved this $283,000 request on July 20, 2020 and the project continued to move forward.
Over the next several months, Cyber Communications Solutions and Green Mountain Communications began to install microwave links throughout town. This phase included placing radio antennas and microwave satellite dishes on three locations in town; creating an enhanced communication system for our public safety personnel to use. A strategic decision was made to invest in microwave infrastructure, utilizing line-of-sight technology, instead of leasing fiber lines that would result in monthly charges to town departments and could be subject to multiple points of failure. Subsequent phases also included the installation of standby generators at several field locations, to ensure continued service if there were a power outage. Lastly, the project included the installation of equipment and software to allow real-time monitoring of the status of the microwave network by public safety dispatchers.
Within hours of the improved system going fully online, responders benefited from the improved signal quality. The fire department responded to a fire in an industrial building in a section of town from which units had historically been unable to clearly communicate with dispatch by either portable or mobile radios. At this recent incident, the Incident Commander was able to seamlessly reach both the station and personnel operating on scene by radio. “This was in stark contrast to a motor vehicle crash which occurred a few months ago in a nearby location, from which the incident commander had to resort to multiple phone calls to the dispatcher to provide updates from the scene,” Chief Cassidy explained. The improved signal quality also extends beyond the borders of town; the transmissions when crews are at nearby hospitals is also noticeably enhanced.
“It’s a significant upgrade to our capabilities, and it’s been several years in the making,” added Chief Stone, who said that the implementation was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This project was a collaborative effort between many, but ultimately made possible by the residents of Holliston for which we are extremely grateful.”