With technological progress comes the cost of keeping up. For Saugerties fire companies, that will mean thousands of dollars for new pagers.
Ulster County’s Emergency Dispatch system will be changing the radio frequencies it uses to alert fire departments beginning May 1, 2016, which will render pagers using the old system useless.
Steven Peterson, director of the county’s emergency services department said Motorola “is no longer making the low-band pagers that firefighters carry to let them know when there is a call.”
The change won’t affect the police department or the radios in the fire trucks, which are already high-band; just the pagers.
Low-band has been around longer than high-band and in the past was the traditional set of frequencies used for emergency service communications. But over the last 25 years, high-band has become the standard because it provides better coverage.
The cost of the switch will vary. For the village fire department, it’s around $20,000, which will either have to come from the village budget or via grants.
“Right now we are looking for grants to pay for the new pagers,” said Dave Mason, village of Saugerties fire chief. The new pagers cost $400 each and the village fire department needs about 50 of them.
Town fire companies are funded through fire districts, led by commissioners.
Steve Gakenheimer, a fire commissioner with Mount Marion Fire Company and a past chief, said the switch will be a benefit to the companies and “it should have been done years ago. This switch will clear up the dead spots.”
The Mount Marion Company has ordered 10 pagers of the 25 it will need to ensure all its active members have one.