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Fire department updates paging system

In order to keep in step with changes required by the Federal Communications Commission, the Wadena Fire Department has modernized the paging system that alerts firefighters to emergency calls. The system has been switched over to what is called a narrow band frequency.

According to the FCC's website, narrow band essentially means a broadcast that is at lower-than-normal frequencies, and therefore provides more channels for emergency workers to talk on, since each channel has a narrower bandwidth.

The idea is more channels equals more efficient broadcasts with less congestion, but the new broadcast system is not without perceived drawbacks.

"The concern is that when they get narrow banded, they will not have as much range," Fire Chief Dean Uselman said.

The sheriff's office recently took steps that may nip those concerns in the bud. Since all the paging calls the fire department gets actually start at the Wadena County Sheriff's Office, the department on Wednesday had two boosters installed on their radio towers in Sebeka and Wadena. The devices will amplify their signal to the maximum point within FCC limits and extend the range of where the pages can reach, Sheriff Mike Carr said.

"They'll be the highest strength you can possibly have getting the page out to your local fire or your local ambulance services," Carr said.

Carr also said without the boost, the page system was still operational. The new equipment, though, will give it more strength.

"It's no different than listening to a radio on a car. You get so far out of the area, sooner or later the radio station's going to get all scratchy," he said.

Uselman said the Wadena Fire Department will not have to change the devices that receive the page.