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Orange Co. improving, expanding ECC communications

Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 3:05 PM EDT
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ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - First responders in Orange County have been dealing with spotty signal with their radios for years. Now, they have almost 100% coverage without having to raise taxes.

“The change in this radio system is so large, it’s almost the same thing as going from chipping messages in stone to 21st century technology,” Orange Co. Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Major Michael LaCasse said.

This nearly $8 million project started back in 2018, when the county only had 17% coverage.

“We didn’t advertise it, we didn’t want it public,” LaCasse said. “We didn’t want people to know that many times we were incapable of contacting dispatch out on the street.”

“We previously go into a house fire and not know that we would be able to transmit if we were trapped or injured,” Orange Co. Fire and EMS Department Assistant Chief of Administration Michael Throckmorton said.

One deputy was assaulted on a call and couldn’t get through to call for backup.

“The neighbor ended up calling dispatch and coming outside with a phone on speakerphone for the officer to be able to talk to dispatch,” LaCasse said.

Now the county has seven towers and there is almost total coverage.

“We ended up going with a radio system where now we have 96% coverage county-wide portable radio on the street, which is unheard of for deputy sheriffs in this county for, I mean, ever since I’ve been here,” LaCasse said.

There are also backups in case power outages occur at any of the towers, as well as increased communications with surrounding counties.

“Previously, we were able to not communicate with several of our surrounding partners - Spotsylvania County, Culpeper County, etc. Now, we’re able to communicate with all of our surrounding jurisdictions with a click of a button,” Throckmorton said.

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