Radio communication

Calaveras celebrates the new radio communication infrastructure

San Andreas, Calif. – First responders in Calaveras County have received an upgrade that will help them especially in the event of an emergency.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for a new communications site above Arnold. The tower will improve radio coverage and make the existing system more robust.

The need for improved infrastructure came to light during the Butte Fire in 2015, when the electrical structure at one of the county’s radio sites was damaged, causing a domino effect failure in two additional sites (having served as relays indicate). Meanwhile, another site that relies solely on solar power failed due to the large amount of smoke casting a shadow on it. All in all, this caused great pressure and crippled what was left of the communication system.

Prior to the Butte fire, plans were being made to research ways to improve radio communications. A small group consisting of Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Wade Whitney, Radio Engineer Paul Shinn, Sheriff’s Office Volunteer, John Gomes and Oliver Tarap of the Calaveras County Water District, Hans Weihofer, County IT, Deborah Mullen of the County Transportation Department, and Melissa Eads, County Council de Calaveras Governments had made efforts to identify the problems and potential solutions.

Various CCWD-owned locations were considered for the new communications site.

Shinn, who is also chief engineer at Clarke Broadcasting, donated his time and equipment to conduct real-world radio studies from each spot, and then a final location was chosen.

The efforts received a boost with a $108,000 grant from the American Red Cross to fund the project above Arnold. The new communications site both fills gaps in the coverage area and provides scalable expansion capabilities for more first responder radio systems as they become desired in the future.

Several members of the county, sheriff’s office, CCWD, Red Cross and others were in attendance for Friday’s groundbreaking event.