We have been receiving inquiries via social media about how the new digital radio system will impact scanning and monitoring of radio traffic. We have also observed some well intentioned but inaccurate responses from people who claim to be aware of the proposed system's design and features. We have developed these responses to ‘Frequency Asked Questions’ for the public’s knowledge regarding the new system to shed light as well as to clarify some innacuracies::
Is it true that the new system is all encrypted and the public will not be able to monitor traffic?
No. This is untrue. The new system is a VHF Digital ‘Project 25’ Phase II (TDMA) system. So what do all of those acronyms mean to you? Simply put—the system supports encryption. However, the only talkgroups (channels) that will be encrypted are the law enforcement talkgroups—at the request of the law enforcement community and police chiefs for officer safety.
Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) talkgroups will be digital but will remain unencrypted. Paging channels (the ones that we use to alert Fire and EMS via tones) will actually remain analog (not digital).
So how will the public be able to scan the unencrypted channels on this new system?
There are scanners on the market that will scan the digital system. They will not be able to decode the encrypted law enforcement traffic. However, with the proper programming they will receive the fire and EMS traffic.
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety can not recommend a specific scanner or give programming advice. However, we would encourage scanner enthusiasts to ensure that the scanner they purchase supports VHF TDMA/Phase II operation.
Why did we need such a technologically advanced system?
This system was necessary to address significant coverage gaps in the County’s current antiquated radio system. These coverage gaps pose a significant hazard to first responders in Lawrence County. The first responder communities asked for a more updated system and the County Commissioners responded by authorizing this capital improvement in the public safety budget.
The system was selected based on careful years of study by local public safety officials and outside engineers and vendors who have hundreds of collective years of designing such systems across the nation—ranging from small rural counties and cities to urban, statewide and federal systems.
The system selected was agreed to be the most effective for the budget, topography and radio frequencies that Lawrence County has or has access to. The VHF band is one that we already own the license for many frequencies. It also allows us to cover the county more cost effectively by requiring fewer tower sites. The trunked and TDMA/Phase 2 design allows us to use less frequencies; although we have many VHF frequencies already, additional ones are very hard to get licensed. This more efficient use of frequencies allows for more bandwidth---people who can talk on the system at once—as well as room for future expansion.
While we are very cognizant of the public’s ease of scanning the current system, our first and foremost mission is the safety of the citizens, visitors and first responders of Lawrence County and the new system will enhance that greatly.
Why was the Internet based scanner feed through Broadcastify taken offline?
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety was not the maintainer of this feed. To our knowledge it was graciously provided by a local enthusiast--free of charge--who has since decided to discontinue the service.
We are currently researching providing an official feed of the unencrypted channels--at a later date after the new system is online. Check our website or Facebook page frequently for updates regarding this project.
When will the changes take place?
We anticipate completion and testing of the system through the remainder of 2015 with a projected go live date in the 1st Quarter of 2016.
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety will continue to make adjustments to the system that balance the public’s desire to know, with the public’s right to know through applicable open records laws, along with our important mission of citizen and first responder safety. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.leoc.net/.
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety has been made aware, through reports to the emergency communications center and various social media sources, of explosions or tremors being experienced in various parts of Lawrence County. Below are some FAQ's regarding the sounds.
What is causing these sounds?
The Department of Public Safety is unsure of the source of these sounds. Our office, like many other people in the County, merely speculated as to possible sources when inquired from the news media. An online search of news media actually shows similar reports in various parts of the country. Regardless of the source, we will try to put reporting parties in touch with the appropriate help. We want to be sure that all complaints are being collected in an organized fashion so that the appropriate authorities can be notified of the occurrences and use that data to locate the source.
What do I do if I hear an explosion?
First of all, and most obviously, if there are injuries or property damage, call 9-1-1. Our telecommunications are trained to ask certain questions to determine what resources are needed, and we will alert the appropriate first responders to the location.
However, none of the recent reports have any property damage or injuries. They re located in various parts of the County. They are occurring at different times of the day.
We are not seismologists, and the events appear to be something that seismologic experts would at least be able to analyze. If the report does not have any property damage or injuries, we are encouraging residents to report the activity to the US Geological Survey's online reporting tool at http://earthquake.usgs.gov. You will see a link that says "DID YOU FEEL IT?". Click on that, and then on the next page the button that says "REPORT UNKNOWN EVENT". Since most of these occurrence have not registered on the USGS's monitoring systems, it is necessary to click it as an "unknown event". It is our hope, though, that the amount of reports will spur further investigation. We will share this link on our social media pages as well.
What are you doing about this?
As mentioned before, our first action is to help everyone determine what the cause of these sounds is. Once a source is located, we will follow up with the appropriate local, state or federal agency that can further investigate and/or eliminate the cause. We are also looking at several local methods of electronically reporting the incidences. The Department of Public Safety will issue further news releases or updates as we receive information that is not speculative but factual.
We have received some inquiries regarding the future availability of text to 9-1-1 service in Lawrence County. Please know that like most other counties in Pennsylvania, we are currently upgrading our telephone technology (early 2015) to support this important feature. We are also active in the statewide and national efforts to implement Text to 911. We plan to notify the various cellular carriers, as per the FCC recommendations, of our intention to offer this service in 2015, as soon as our telephone upgrade is complete. We also plan to roll out text to 9-1-1 service with our surrounding counties in a joint effort. Thank you to those inquiring of this feature. Even when the feature is available, we will always encourage the public -- 9-1-1: Call if you can, text if you can’t!
December 8, 2014 - New Castle
Pictured, from left, County Administrator Jim Gagliano, Hickory Township Supervisors Kathy Abranovich and Jon Sweet, County Treasurer Richard Rapone, Register and Recorder Jan Kalajainen, Commissioner Steve Craig,
Public Safety Director Brian Melcer, Commissioners Dan Vogler and Robert Del Signore, Sr., Judges Dominic Motto and J. Craig Cox, and Hickory Township Supervisor William Dean
Photo Courtesy of Justin Aller, Aller Photography
A group of county and local elected officials, public safety employees, first responders, contractors and other dignitaries officially started a new era in public safety in Lawrence County on Monday by officially breaking ground on the County's new state of the art public safety facility.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the 42 acre site of the new facility, located on County Line Rd in Hickory Township. Lawrence County Director of Public Safety, Brian Melcer, welcomed the officials to the site and provided a history of the project, which is being financed through a bond issued by the Lawrence County Commissioners. The facility is anticipated to be completed in early 2016, in conjunction with a countywide digital radio system upgrade which is also being financed out of the same bond issue.
Melcer started off the ceremony by stressing the importance of this fully redundant and technologically advanced facility for the safety of the community. The project has been in the planning stages for over 10 years. The Department of Public Safety's 9-1-1 center has been housed in the Cathedral Building in New Castle since the formation of the Lawrence Emergency Operations Center in 1982. While the Cathedral has served the department well, the County eventually outgrew the space and had the need for more modern and secure facilities. Melcer recognized the various public safety officials who in the past had advanced the communications and emergency response systems to where they were now, and added that without their contributions this project would have not been possible.
On behalf of the Board of Commissioners, which is comprised of Chair Dan Vogler, Steve Craig and Robert Del Signore, Sr., Commissioner Vogler emphasized that the Department of Public Safety is one of the only County departments that "potentially could impact every life in Lawrence County, from a newborn infant to an elderly person". He affirmed that the current board of Commissioners takes that responsibility very seriously, and this was why they felt that the public safety capital upgrade projects in communications and facilities were a very important endeavor for the Commissioners to undertake. He acknowledged all of the County and local officials present, as well as the first responders and contractors, for their role in seeing this project to reality.
The facility will feature a 10,475 sq. ft. 911 and emergency operations center and administrative suite, as well as an 8,281 sq. ft. garage to house the County's various response assets and equipment. The 9-1-1 center itself will have 7 positions and be fully redundant to provide communications in all circumstances. The Emergency Operations Center will have a capacity of 25 persons. The entire complex will have the capability of "surviving off the grid" for a minimum of 72 hours. Since the County was able to locate a 42 acre site, Melcer added that there are future plans to construct first responder training facilities such as fire training props, a shooting range, and a wet pond for water supply.
The project is being completed by a diverse and experienced team of contractors and consultants. Eckles Architecture, of New Castle, PA, in consultation with the Architects Design Group of Winter Park, FL, designed the facility. The County has been working with Mission Critical Partners, of State College, PA, for technological consulting on both the facility and radio projects. Frank B. Taylor Engineering, of New Castle, PA is serving as the civil engineer and Cornerstone Construction Management, of New Castle, PA is serving as the construction manager. The facility will be constructed by Rien Construction, of Brookfield, OH, as the General Contractor. Other key contracts are being completed by McCurley-Houston Electric of New Castle, PA, for electrical, Guys Mechanical Systems, of Rochester, PA as the HVAC contractor, Rabe Environmental Systems of Erie, PA as plumbing and fire protection contractor and JG Contracting, of Carnegie, PA will be constructing the radio tower on site.
The $6.48 million project is anticipated to be completed in early 2016 with a cutover date to follow that shortly.
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety's Winter 2014 newsletter has been released. It is available by clicking on the "Biannual Newsletter Archive" link under programs. Enjoy!
EMA/EMS Planner receives "Pennsylvania Commendation Medal" for coordination with PA National Guard during "Vigilant Guard" Exercise
Tina Marshall, EMA/EMS Planner with the Lawrence County Department of Public Safety, has been awarded the "Pennsylvania Commendation Medal" from the Pennsylvania National Guard. The medal was issued by Governor Tom Corbett and the Adjutant General of the PA National Guard, Major General Wesley E. Craig.
Tina was instrumental in coordinating a large portion of the bioterror portion of the "Vigilant Guard" exercise which occurred in May 2014. According to the PA National Guard, Vigilant Guard was designed to improve interoperability between agencies in disaster situations. With more than 2,500 participants including: eight National Guards, U.S. NORTHCOM, more than 20 Pennsylvania state agencies, more than three federal agencies, and other agencies, this exercise demonstrated a massive united response to multiple simulated disaster scenarios. According to the Guard, Vigilant Guard 2014 was the largest guard exercise in the nation. Although there were over 2,500 participants and planners, only a few received the Pennsylvania Commendation Medal.
Tina worked tirelessly on planning the portions of the exercise that involved Lawrence County, including the receipt of the strategic national stockpile from the Department of Health as well as a simulated incident site at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds. She also escorted the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's Deputy Adjutant General as well as the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The award was presented to the Department of Public Safety on Tina's behalf at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency annual conference in Seven Springs in October, 2014. Tina was awarded the medal by the County Commissioners at their meeting on October 7, 2014.
The Department of Public Safety is proud of Tina's accomplishment and most importantly recognizes that Lawrence County is more prepared for such events due to her hard work and dedication.
Contract No Type of Contract
14005.000-01 General Construction
14005.000-02 Plumbing/Fire Suppression Construction
14005.000-03 HVAC Construction
14005.000-04 Electrical Construction
Bids will be accepted no later than 3:00 pm, local prevailing time, Monday, October 13, 2014, at the Office of the Controller, Lawrence County Government offices, 430 Court Street, New Castle, PA 16101, Attention James Gagliano, Jr, County Administrator. Bids will be publicly opened and read aloud at 10am, Local prevailing time, Tuesday, October 14th in the Commissioners Meeting Room at the Government Center 430 Court Street, New Castle, PA 16101. All interested parties are invited to attend.
Prime Bidders may obtain one set of Bidding Documents as follows:
· MAIL a deposit check in the amount of $300.00 payable to LAWRENCE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA to Printscape Imaging and Graphics, 700 Vista Park Drive #7, Pittsburgh, PA 15205. Write “14005 Public Safety Facility” in the Memo line, and include a request on company letterhead that includes your firm name, contact person’s name, email address, UPS shipping address (no PO Box numbers), phone and fax numbers.
· Fax to 724 652 0751 a copy of deposit check and written request (email address required).
· Bidding Documents will be shipped postage paid upon receipt of faxed request.
Additional sets, or partial sets, of Bidding Documents can be purchased directly from Printscape 412-788-0640.
Deposit will be returned provided Bidding Documents are returned to Printscape within ten calendar days of bidding date, in good usable condition, and a Bona Fide Bid is received by the Lawrence County, otherwise deposit will be forfeited. DO NOT RETURN DRAWINGS TO ARCHITECT
In addition, Bidding Documents may be reviewed beginning at the Office of Eckles Architecture and Engineering, 301 North Mercer Street, New Castle, Pennsylvania 16101, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM; or by contacting the following:
Each bid must be accompanied by a proposal guaranty, a certified check, bank cashier's check, trust company treasurer's check, bid bond on the form provided and furnished by the Owner, or other form of security permitted by applicable law, in an amount of not less than ten percent (10%) of the total of the Base Bid made payable to or indemnifying the Lawrence County. In addition, submit the following with each bid: Non-Collusion Affidavit, Qualification Questionnaire, and a Certificate of Authority (if applicable).
Notice is given that the Project for which construction bids are being solicited hereby is a Project constituting public works in Pennsylvania and is subject to applicable provisions of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act, Act of August 15, 1961, P.L. 987, as amended and supplemented, and appropriate prevailing minimum wage rates as promulgated under provisions of said Act must be paid by Contractors in connection with performance of the necessary work.
Corporations seeking to bid and organized under the laws of a state other than the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must secure the appropriate certificates and authorizations permitting them to conduct business within the Commonwealth.
Owner reserves the right to accept or reject any or all Bids or part thereof or items therein and to waive any informality in the bidding.
Prime Bidders will be required to REGISTER to receive notification of Addenda and project information updates, and to obtain access privileges to the DFS Project Website. Registration as a Prime Bidder is automatic upon payment of required deposit, and a request on Bidder’s letterhead. Notification of addenda and updates will be via e-mail. Addenda, questions and responses and other update information will be posted to the DFS Project Folder at www.MyPrintscape.com.
Scheduled Site Visits: Bidders are responsible to visit the site to examine the location and existing conditions of the project, and are advised to do so on their own time during bidding. A PRE-BID CONFERENCE is scheduled for Thursday, September 25, 2014. Bidding documents will not be available at the pre-bid conference. The meeting will be located at the Lawrence County Government offices, 430 Court Street, New Castle, PA 16101. The meeting will begin promptly at 2:00 PM in the Gettings Annex – Lawrence County Government Center.
Questions pertaining to the content of the Bidding Documents shall be directed to Mark Scheller, Eckles Architecture & Engineering by fax at 724-652-0751, or by email at mes@EcklesGroup.com using the Pre-Bid RFI. Phone calls will not be accepted and the use of the Pre-Bid RFI form is mandatory.
By order of Lawrence County Commissioners
Daniel Vogler, Chairman
Robert Del Signore
P25 Radio Contract awarded to Motorola Solutions, Inc., microwave contract to Microwave Networks/Communications International
At their meeting yesterday, the Lawrence County Commissioners awarded the contract for a new P25 Digital VHF (Phase II) radio system to Motorola Solutions, Inc. and a contract for Microwave Radio connectivity between the sites to Microwave Networks/Communications International.
Radio Infrastructure Contract
The contract with Motorola is in the amount of $5,705,384, and will include the following items:
The radio infrastructure system is expected to be a part of the ICORRS regional radio system shared with the other Region 13 counties of Armstrong, Indiana. This will be the first VHF and Phase II system placed on the ICORRS master switch in Westmoreland County. Lawrence County is currently in negotiations with Motorola and the ICORRS Council to make this regional effort a reality. Lawrence County expects that joining the ICORRS system will save the county approximately $300,000 of the cost of the new system up front and even more significant savings over a 10 year cost of maintaining the system.
Microwave Backhaul Contract
The contract for Microwave Networks/Communications International is in the amount of $798,940. It will provide 99.9995% reliable backhaul in a looped configuration between the 8 sites in the system.
We are excited to move to the next step in the County's Capital Upgrade program, which will entail detailed design reviews and system setup. Subscriber units are expected to be delivered this summer and installed into first responder vehicles this year. They will be able to operate on the existing system and easily migrate to the new system, which is anticipated to be accepted and completed in late 2015 or early 2016. Public safety staff are currently verifying inventory totals with each first responder organization so that an appropriate order can be placed.
We also anticipate awarding a contract for tower construction very soon, with construction commencing this summer.
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety now has a newsletter available for first responders to read. It is available by clicking on the "Biannual Newsletter Archive" link under programs. Enjoy!
At yesterday's meeting, the Lawrence County Commissioners agreed to select Eckles Architecture, Inc. of New Castle to serve as the prime architect for the construction of the new public safety headquarters on County Line Road in Hickory Township.
Eckles Architecture will serve as the prime architect for the project, and in conjunction with our consultant, Mission Critical Partners, will oversee all design aspects of the project. Eckles is a local firm with a proven track record of providing full service architectural design and engineering services in the public sector. For our project, Eckles has teamed up with the Architects Design Group, of Winter Park, FL. Architects Design Group is a nationally recognized, award winning firm specializing in the design of Police, Emergency Operations and 911 Center Facilities. We are excited that this team will provide Lawrence County's residents with a state of the art, resilient, and cost effective design that will serve the county for many years.
The architectural team was selected from a field of six firms who responded to the County's Request for Qualifications in late 2013. Firms were shortlisted and the ultimate selection was based on various criteria, including cost, locality, and previous public safety facility experience.
We anticipate the design process to end with a public bid some time in mid 2014. It is our intention to move into the new facility in mid to late 2015. We will continue to keep our constituents aware of the project through this page and on our Facebook page.
Below are some news articles regarding yesterday's action:
Ellwood City Ledger, 1/22/2014, "County Picks Design Contractor for Public Safety Project", Eric Poole