Putnam County placing radios in all school buildings

April 6, 2013

OTTAWA — Beginning early next month Putnam County schools will have new communication radios in each building.

According to Steve Odenweller, director of the Putnam County Office of Public Safety, 20 radios were purchased and will be placed in all the public and private school buildings in the county. These radios were purchased at a cost of $49,859 using a Department of Homeland Security Grant.

“The vendors have the radios now,” Odenweller said. “We’re working on getting them into the school by May 1 or so.”

The radios are part of MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System), a statewide system that allows communication between different departments.

Odenweller said the radios in the schools will provide two-way communication between the schools and county safety service offices, including law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service. The radios will also allow school officials to have communication with other school buildings in the county.

“Communication has always been an issue,” Odenweller said.

He said during the 2007 flood the county had just received the MARCS radios.

“It helped us have connection with other counties and helped us to get the assets we needed in a more timely fashion,” he said.

Currently, Putnam County law enforcement, fire departments and EMS use MARCS in the county.

Odenweller said more townships and villages are also moving over to MARCS.

“It’s not inexpensive to purchase these radios,” Odenweller said. “But the old radios only had a five to 10 mile range. With these radios you are only limited by the positioning of the towers.”

Odenweller said if there is a weather incident or an emergency such as the Sandy Hook School shooting, cellphones get tied up. He said this is why it is important to have MARCS radios in the schools.

Odenweller said a future goal for the county is to place a radio in each of the school buses.

“This would not only be important while they are doing their regular routes, but also be beneficial on field trips,” Odenweller said. “They could use the radios as a system of communication anywhere they were located.”