Reception problems would persist if antenna were moved, ESFD says

Friday, August 15, 2008

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The antenna that the Eureka Springs Fire Department had hoped to use on Ark. Hwy. 23 South will not be a benefit to the department after all, Chief Eddie Davis told the Western Carroll County Ambulance District (WCCAD) board on Aug. 6.

It was thought the antenna, which is on a tower on land owned by Jerry Clark of Springdale, would have solved some problems with WCCAD's Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) in that area receiving calls.

It would have become the primary transmitting antenna instead of the one located at the police department, which is only 400 feet high. The new tower is 1,400 feet high. The radio signal can only be transmitted to one tower at a time, Davis said.

"I live at the far end of Rockhouse Road, on 221 near the Kings River Bridge," Eureka Springs firefighter Mike Fitzpatrick told the board in June. "There are places where the radio works well. I hear it at my house, but then I get out on the road, and I'm out of range for 10 minutes."

EMR Alliance Coordinator Lynn Palmer agreed it would benefit the EMRs, who are equipped by WCCAD to respond to medical calls in the rural areas.

At the June meeting, the WCCAD board agreed to share in the cost of leasing with the city and the rural fire district. Each would have paid $60 per month for the lease.

"After we got approval we started doing a feasibility study."

But after testing the antenna, Davis had bad news.

"We found moving it would have increased our capabilities in some areas but made them worse in others," he said. "Moving it two miles out of the city -- we don't think it would be better."

He said radio signals are affected by the weather and the topography. Most of the mobile radio units work well and hit the tower in town just fine, he said. It is the handheld units that have problems, and when there is bad weather or features like hills and valleys, there are dead spots.

He said there are other options, such as using 900 frequencies, which operate like cell phone frequencies, when those become available, but the technology is some years out.

In other business, WCCAD:

* Approved a motion to require training equipment such as mannequins to be used in the district only. Mannequins had been lent to other departments.

* Discussed the need for traffic directors in some areas of the district, such as Hwy. 23 South.

* Discussed where to keep 12 to 15 years' worth of WCCAD records, which have been kept at the homes of board members. Treasurer MaryAnn Schaefer will contact the county clerk to find out the legal requirement.

* Reviewed the WCCAD equipment and EMR lists.

* Discussed having a formal audit done of the books. The last one was done in 2002.

* Heard call performance reports for June and July. In June there were 23 in Holiday Island; eight on Hwy. 62 East; five each in Grassy Knob and Inspiration Point; three on Hwy. 23 South; one on Hwy. 62 West; and none on Hwy. 23 North, for a total of 45. In July there were 24 calls in Holiday Island; six on Hwy. 62 East; four in Grassy Knob; three each in Inspiration Point and on Hwy. 23 South; two on Hwy. 62 West; and one on Hwy. 23 North, for a total of 43.

The next meeting will be Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Holiday Island district office at 110 Woodsdale Drive. The public is welcome to attend.

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