TRUMBULL COUNTY Safety force officials, commissioners discuss streamlining communications

The Warren police chief suggests that his radio communications system could be expanded to cover the county.
WARREN -- Radio equipment and training to allow police and fire departments to smoothly work together is necessary to become better prepared for a disaster.
"I think this comes down to national security," Warren Fire Chief James Nutt told a meeting of safety forces officials and Trumbull County commissioners Monday.
"We have to take the walls down."
Two concerns dominated the meeting: that the hodgepodge of radio frequencies used by Trumbull County safety forces makes it impossible for officers from different agencies to immediately contact one another in the field, and that agencies don't know how to pool resources and work together efficiently.
Sept. 11 problems: Both issues were on display at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport on Sept. 11.
Communications were disrupted between the 911 call center and the airport because the call center did not know what frequency the airport security chief was using at the time, said Tim Gladis, director of Trumbull County 911.
There was also confusion over who was in charge and what resources were available, said John Mandopoulos, Warren police chief.
No genuine threat ever materialized at the airport.
"It was a freebie," said Ernie Cook, chief deputy at the sheriff's department. "Let's learn from it."
Committee: Commissioners put together a committee, which included Warren fire and police chiefs and the directors of 911 and the Trumbull County Emergency Management Agency, to examine issues with the radio system.
Now, officers from various departments can communicate with one another on several special-use bands, or if their radio signals are patched onto the same frequency at the dispatch center, Gladis said.
They can also communicate on another frequency that allows communication over a short distance.
The problem with a patch is that officers can't talk to their dispatcher when they are using it, Gladis said, and it takes about a minute to put it on or take it off.
That is too long in a situation such as a shooting.
"In an emergency situation, you are not going to set up a patch in enough time to save someone's life," Gladis said.
Fixing the problem would require new equipment for many police, fire and emergency medical service agencies.
Mandopoulos said, however that a $4.5 million radio system bought for Warren police two years ago could be expanded to cover the county.
Federal funds: Officials say that the federal government is planning to disperse $40 billion to the states for homeland protection, but it is not yet clear how much or when it would filter down to the county level.
A higher level of training in large-scale incident response was also recommended by Mandopoulos. He suggested a program that includes 40 hours of exercises and lectures.
"This is to help people," he said. "It is strictly so the public gets the best service for the money."