Bath County Emergency Services Once Again Enjoying Full Coverage Thanks To New Tower
Warm Springs, VA – For the past month or so, Bath County’s Emergency Services have been enjoying full coverage in radio communications once again. In mid February a tower on top of Warm Springs Mountain collapsed and brought down with it Bath County’s Emergency Services radio transmissions and WCHG radio’s broadcast signal. Until April 22 when a new tower went up, emergency services communications and WCHG’s signal were affected. Andy Seabolt is Bath County’s Emergency Services Coordinator.
“Folks did well; it was very poor communications, if you had any communications at all” says Seabolt. “The folks did their jobs, continued on business as usual, didn’t miss any calls due to it.”
If the tower had to fall, it happened at a good time, because plans were underway on some upgrades for emergency services communications. But those upgrades did not include a new tower.
“We were ready for it when the tower fell” he says. “It threw a new problem in with the tower falling, but we’d already started the engineering process for narrow banded repeater channels for the antenna arrays. So there really wasn’t a whole lot for us to do other than just put a new tower up along with the new arrays. It allowed us to upgrade the radio systems to be compliant with the 2013 FCC mandates.”
The new equipment that has been installed has many pros and some cons, which couldn’t be avoided.
“We’ve gained some and lost some” says Seabolt. “Along with the narrow banding which is the 2013 FCC mandate, we’ve gained that, and we have better arrays, a heavier duty tower that’s more robust and isn’t as likely to fail as the old one did.”
“However with the narrow band we’ve also lost some ground. We don’t have quite the reach we used to have and in severe weather or fog, communications are not quite as clear as they used to be. We do have communications in some places where we didn’t use to have communications and some places where we used to have very good communications is very limited.”
The old tower collapsed in high winds. Seabolt says the old tower was overloaded with antennas that it was not designed to hold. That tower carried WCHG’s broadcast signal as well as radio communications for the Bath County Sheriff’s Office, the Hot Springs Fire Department, The Homestead and Bath County school buses.
“I’d like to thank all the emergency responders for bearing with us during this time” says Seabolt. “There was no way to rapidly repair; nobody keeps a tower of this style on the shelf, we had to have it custom made, along with the antenna arrays. Everybody stood by and waited patiently and I appreciate their assistance in that. I’d also like thank the Board of Supervisors and the County officials for providing the extra money required to finalize the project.”
Seabolt says he is constantly working on upgrades for emergency services communications. If you need any information about Bath County’s Emergency Services, contact Andy Seabolt at 839-7236.