Whoever was jamming emergency radio transmissions in York County apparently stopped roughly two weeks ago, about the same time the Federal Communications Commission was called in to try to track the source of the disruptions.

Jason Cole, assistant chief of Lebanon’s rescue department, said the last interruption occurred on April 22, when he was on a medical call and tried to radio for an ambulance with advanced life support equipment and more medical technicians. As he started to speak, he said, someone else on the frequency apparently pressed a microphone button, blocking Cole’s attempt to contact his communications office.

Cole had to use a cellphone to call for the extra help, walking to the end of the driveway at the house he was called to so he could get reception.

The next day, Cole said, he contacted FCC officials in Boston to report the jamming and seek help in tracking down the person who was responsible. News reports noted that jamming public safety transmissions and buying, selling or operating a jamming device violates federal law and can lead to fines up to $112,500 per act and prison.

FCC officials said they have a “no-tolerance” stance toward jamming public safety transmissions.

“It stopped immediately” after the April 22 incident, said Cole, who had noted that the jamming seemed aimed at individuals – including himself – in Lebanon, North Berwick, Acton, Shapleigh and Limerick fire and rescue crews.

Fire and rescue crews in the area were also affected by jamming in 2004. The calls being jammed were relatively inconsequential, such as a fire crew reporting they were leaving a site after putting out a fire, Cole said. That jamming stopped after officials said they called in federal authorities, who planned to use monitors to locate the source of the disruptions.

The latest wave of jamming seemed to target more serious calls, Cole said, such as his request for more medical help or fire crews communicating at the scene of a fire.

John Lavallee, assistant director of communications for the York County Sheriff’s Office, said the jamming appears to have stopped not only for Lebanon but also for the other agencies. He said it seems clear that the person responsible was scared off by the federal intervention.

“Whoever it is understands that this is a very serious issue,” Lavallee said. “It’s definitely going to be just a matter of time before they get caught.”

Cole said officials from the FCC and another federal agency, which he declined to identify, had installed devices to review technical data collected at the time of any jamming and potentially locate the source of the transmissions.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]