Saturday, November 29, 2014

As summer draws to a close Astoria 911's Emergency Communication Manager, Jeff Rusiecki, evaluates the emergency communications site's preparedness for another winter storm season. In the picture below, a skilled worker from Arbor Care (inside red box) climbs high in the tree adjacent to the Coxcomb communications tower to remove limbs that threaten the antennas. This is a site we monitor closely as the trees grow in close proximity to the tower. "At the end of each summer we evaluate whether or not some judicious trimming needs to occur prior to the first winter storm", said Rusiecki. Several of the trees at surrounding the tower were damaged in the 2007 wind storm so this site is especially vulnerable. Given the historic and sensitive nature of this site at the Column we are currently evaluating our options to re-locate this critical infrastructure to a location more suitable to support communications without being in conflict with such a historic landmark.

It's been several years in the works, and given us numerous challenges, but we are finally able to report that our newest emergency communications site located at the Lewis & Clark Grade School is finally operational! We have always had an area on the south side of Astoria that has experienced poor radio coverage. This is just do to the topography we face living in Astoria. Since this area is "shadowed" from our transmitters and receivers we have been trying to identify a suitable location to establish another site to fill this hole. We explored several locations out in the Miles Crossing area before settling on the school. "Being able to partner with the School District was a win-win for both of us", Rusiecki said. This location will greatly enhance our ability to communicate with First Responders when they are needed at the local schools where we have historically had a difficult time with communications. Once the facility construction was complete we were fortunate to be able to partner with the Astoria Parks Department to get the fence constructed around the facility. "The level of craftsmanship and the speed in which they were able to get this facility fenced in was truly amazing", said Deputy Police Chief Brad Johnston. "They really do great work!"

In addition to Coxcomb and Lewis and Clark, we also have communication facilities located at Cathlamet, Wickiup Mountain, Megler Mountain, Tillamook Head, Humbug Mountain, and the Skyline water tank in Astoria. If we learned nothing else from the 2007 storm, it was that we needed to diversify our communications infrastructure. This geographic diversity not only allows for enhanced communications throughout the County but it also allows us to remain operational even if we should lose one or two of these sites. Prior to 2007 most of our critical equipment was located at Coxcomb and when we experienced an outage related to the storm our ability to communicate was severely degraded. The 9-1-1 Center is now connected to these multiple sites by redundant microwave, fiber optics, and control radios so we have several methods of communicating with our mountain top transmitters Rusiecki said.

The 9-1-1 Center itself has several back-up radios immediately available to the Dispatchers and that gives us a great amount of flexibility and capacity when needed.

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