Officials: Upgrades needed for emergency radio system

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Jan 22, 2008
TORRINGTON - U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, met with municipal officials Tuesday to learn about the city's fire and police radio dispatch systems as he seeks to secure $150,000 to upgrade them.

Murphy met with Police Chief Robert Milano, Fire Chief John Field, Mayor Ryan Bingham, City of Torrington emergency management director Tom Vannini and Campion Ambulance director of operations Fred Rosa, and other municipal employees on Tuesday afternoon. Murphy said he needs to lobby his House colleagues to allot the $150,000 that came from the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill.

The municipal fire and police departments radio dispatch systems operate on old technology that desperately needs to be improved, Milano and Field said. As a result, both departments work harder to exchange information between them and with the ambulance company.
"This system is 19 years old," said Milano, the leader of the roughly 77-member police department. "It is so old we have trouble replacing parts. The pocket of population called Torrington deserve better."


The police and fire departments need to operate on an interconnected communications system, Field said. That is the practice in many municipalities, he said.
"There is very limited interoperability as it exists now," Field said, the leader of a roughly 60 member fire department. "We cannot communicate with the other agencies because we are on different systems. We need to have the ability to speak to EMS without doing it face-to-face."

The upgrade of the new system would be like a double safeguard, Rosa said. First, the new system would automatically transfer the caller's information to each of the emergency responders, he said.
"We all operate together on any 911 call," Rosa said. "There is a minimum of at least police department and EMS ambulance response."

The officials met first in the mayor's office at City Hall at 140 Main St. and then drove to the police department at 576 Main St. There, they toured the dispatch center, where Murphy asked questions about the scope of interactions between the fire and police departments and the Waterbury-based private company Campion Ambulance and the practical effects between having a dispatcher relay the information between the two departments.

Murphy has already secured $150,000 for Torrington in an initial round of bureaucracy. He met with Torrington officials to learn about the existing communications system, learn the deficiencies and learn the wishes of the first responders. From here, Murphy said he is equipped to be an informed advocate to his House of Representative colleagues.

The municipal emergency responders want to combine the fire and police communications systems, they said. Right now, when a person dials 911 in Torrington, the call goes only to the police department. "911 calls come in here for police, fire, and ambulance. We take the call here, interpret it, and then pass it off" (to either fire or ambulance if need be depending on the nature of the call, Milano said, addressing Murphy. "We want to be more efficient, and easier to run."

The rugged terrain of northwestern Connecticut inhibits the transmission of the existing communications systems, officials said.
"I am here to be educated on the project," Murphy said. "... There is no scheduled on a vote yet." "My reason for being here is to share the good news and to be a well-informed advocate in order to lobby my colleagues," Murphy said. "My job now is to go to the full House and lobby for the allocation of this bill."

Bingham said that Torrington wants to partner with Winsted to form a unified communications system. Bingham has asked Murphy to lobby for this money.
David Hutter can be reached by e-mail at
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