$250,000 grant helps Cortland County overhaul emergency communication system

As Cortland County continues to overhaul its emergency communication system, all police and emergency vehicles will be equipped with a new computer to help them on the road.

Senator James Seward's Office secured a $250,000 grant from the state to upgrade the outdated mobile computers in vehicles to be compatible with the new system.

The computer essentially serves as another person, as the county cannot afford to have two people riding in the police vehicles.

Officers rely on it to communicate with dispatchers, issue tickets, file accident reports, and more.

"Any warnings you have, or pertinent information, the quickest route to a call," Lieutenant David Guerrera of the Corland Police Department lists off the many functions the new mobile data units will serve. "You can also see whoever else is responding (to the call), when an officer may be in danger. You can see where that emergency is on the computer through the mapping system, where the problem is."

"The officers out there in the field will now have the ability to keep close touch with their central office and also have all of the information available at their fingertips to adequately respond to emergency situations," Senator Seward explains.

This is the final step as Cortland County completes its $16 million emergency preparedness and communication network upgrade.

As recently as even two to three years ago, reception was not available in remote areas of the county, putting police, first responders, and neighbors at risk.

The new system allows the Cortland County officials to communicate with other offices around the state -- that have similar systems in place -- to share information. Tompkins and Jefferson Counties already are part of the network, while Seneca and Cayuga Counties are expected to join in the next few months.

"We can reach out from here, all the way to Lake Ontario and throughout the whole state," says Cortland County Legislator Kevin Whitney, who leads the Budget and Finance Committee of the Legislature. "We're now going to have a system in place with all of the computers that's going to allow us to reach out... to share information in terms of individuals they deal with. It won't just be centered in Cortland County."

Two grants totaling $10 million -- secured through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant (SICG) program -- helped build the county's new emergency communications network to help alleviate the burden on taxpayers.

The $250,000 for the mobile data terminals in emergency vehicles comes at no cost to taxpayers.