A radio connection upgrade has eliminated between six and eight dead areas in Westbrook where portable public safety radios didn’t work.

“We had a lot of dead spots in the city. It made it very difficult for officers, as their transmissions were often garbled in these areas, and you did not know if they were in trouble or had routine radio traffic,” Police Capt. Steve Goldberg said. “Officers on the scene could not communicate with each other, even if they were on the same property. Officers definitely felt unsafe.”

Emergency radio communications are carried out by five radio towers that are connected by fiber links, according to Public Safety Communications Director Greg Hamilton. With upgrades to the links, public safety personnel now are seeing improved communication and no more dead spots where their hip radios couldn’t receive or send messages.

The city entered into a 60-month contract with low-bidder Spectrum for the upgrades at $3,060 a year.

“Most generally, the issue would manifest from the portable radio,” Hamilton said. “The car radio from the cruiser or truck radio is much more powerful.”

The city is also slated to replace 30 key boxes in police and fire vehicles that allow access to emergency key boxes in the city for about $29,000. The boxes allow police or fire personnel to access a building like a large apartment complex quickly without having to wait for someone to unlock it or damage the building with a forced entry.

Goldberg said the key boxes save time and potentially lives.

“Some situations are exigent, and we would need to kick a door in – such as a crime in progress against a person or someone in a dire medical emergency,” Goldberg said. “Our officers will often try to rouse other tenants or employees who might be able to let us into the building. We have had some situations where officers have had to kick in a door because a subject was experiencing a dire medical emergency or had just attempted suicide.”

In addition, the Fire Department will get a narcotics safe for the EMS supply room, said Deputy Fire Chief Sloan. The safe will secure controlled substances if they have to be removed from an ambulance, where they are also stored in a safe, he said.

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