"ICOM, FD 3 solve paging problem"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:01 PM
"Fire District 3 Chief Don Smith said he was highly impressed late last week when Tom Shaughnessy solved a years-old radio communication problem in one week.Shaughnessy, who is the interim director of the Island County Communications Center (ICOM), made a quick radio channel changeover at the agency's Oak Harbor dispatch center that should prevent radio interference from 911 dispatch centers in neighboring counties from interfering with the emergency pagers FD 3 volunteers and staff carry.Smith asked Shaughnessy to come up with some type of solution to the interference last Thursday. By Wednesday, both the ICOM and the fire district had switched to a rarely-used paging channel that should prevent Snohomish and Skagit county emergency pages from being broadcast over those for FD 3. For the past few years, those two counties and Island County have used the same radio frequency to dispatch fire, rescue, and medical responders to 911 calls.Last week, Smith said, his agency needed to find a way to stop the interference. In recent years, high call volumes in the mainland counties had overridden so many South Whidbey calls that the situation had become a safety hazard, Smith said.The fix was simple. The fire district uses a second radio frequency on which district volunteers communicate during large operations to avoid taking up airtime on the dispatch channel. Shaughnessy and Smith decided that the district should use that channel for its dispatches.Smith said he was pleased to get an immediate and helpful reaction from Shaughnessy and ICOM.I was beyond pleasantly surprised, he said.Using this backup channel will not be a permanent solution to the problem. Smith said his agency is waiting for the Federal Communications Commission and the Canadian government to approve a new radio frequency for use in FD 3. When those approvals come through, he said, he expects the district to use the new channel for 911 dispatches. "