This week Motorola/ERS will be putting up new microwave dishes on the Lapeer and Imlay City towers for the new system. These dish’s will be dual system capable, meaning they will be able to operate our analog and forthcoming digital system simultaneously. Preparation work began this morning and early Friday will be the dish cut-over.
We are also in the midst of developing our frequency plan and control channel frequencies for the new system, but nothing is finalized yet. Most of our FCC licenses are in for the 800MHz, 150MHz and microwave systems.
Subscriber programming will be coming up soon and templates are being prepared now.
We are also still waiting on some state and federal studies to conclude before we can begin construction on the new tower in Metamora and we’re working with local officials in North Branch for our much smaller paging tower to be built there.
At this time, we’re anticipating a full system cut-over sometime in September and will realize a new system with 6 voice sites and 8 paging sites to provide excellent county-wide coverage for first responders.
On Thursday March 29th, the new shelter was set into place at the Imlay City Tower site. This shelter with generator inside, weighed in at 81,000 pounds and was carefully picked up by a crane and gently set into place.
This week the new 350′ tower rose from the ground. It will support new 800MHz digital voice and paging communications as well as point-to-point microwave links to our other tower sites. This site will support all of our public safety operations in the area surrounding the tower on the Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS).
The shelter with generator was set in place yesterday at our Burnside Township site. Workers and truck drivers had their work cut out for them with the warm and rainy weather. Lot’s of rain mixed with a 2 inch frost that recently melted made the newly landscaped site very muddy. The trucks with the crane counterweights and shelter were unable to back up the long service drive with their loads. A giant dump truck from a nearby gravel pit was used to tow the trucks up the hill to the site. The truck with the shelter had a gross weight of over 100,000 pounds.
By the end of the day, the shelter was in place and all the trucks made it out of the site and the service drive graded again.
Today we got the shelter and generator put into place on its foundation at the Almont water tower. The shelter houses two rooms: one for the radio equipment and the other for the generator. The whole unit weighs 77,000 pounds.
Work has begun at our new Burnside Township tower site. The Lapeer County Road Commissions has graciously cleared and leveled the area where the tower will be and Motorola/Pyramid Network Services have dug the foundations for the tower, shelter and anchor points. Concrete started flowing into them this morning. This tower will be 350 feet tall and carry digital 800MHz, VHF paging and microwave equipment for our new digital MPSCS radio system. Follow the link below for more pictures of the site work.
Early next week developers, site engineers and other representatives from Motorola will be here. We’ll all be going to drive to the existing and potential tower site areas to start the process of planning and building.
Yesterday afternoon a severe thunderstorm passed through Lapeer County and early on a bolt of lightning is believed to have struck the tower behind the 9-1-1 Center in Lapeer. A dispatcher witnessed an arch of electricity move from one of the stand-off antennas to a leg of the tower structure. The dispatcher also saw the tower glowing briefly. Subsequently, this lightning strike temporarily knocked out all communications in the center including sending the voice radio system into failsoft.
What is failsoft?
If the trunking system loses its control channel or has certain other failures, it is no longer able to operate in the trunking mode. So instead of going into a condition that stops all communication, the system enters Failsoft. In this state all transmitters (channels) turn on and operate in a ‘conventional’ repeater mode. The subscriber radios are able to recognize this state and switch to a predetermined frequency (one of the trunk system frequencies, but not the control channel frequency) depending on their selected talkgroup. In most systems several talkgroups will share a frequency. Some talkgroups may not be assigned a failsoft frequency and these talkgroups will cease to operate during the failsoft period. If a particular failsoft frequency has also failed, the talkgroups assigned to that frequency will also be off the air during failsoft.
The system quickly recovered and went back into normal operation. However, one system was unable to recover and that is the part of the paging system which dispatch’s EMS crews for Lapeer County EMS.
The old Zetron unit which runs the alpha-numeric pagers for Lapeer County EMS is no longer communicating with the paging servers. Several attempts to reset the unit and even change paging servers were unsuccessful. Another problem is that this unit has gone off of the Motorola maintenance contract several years ago. We do have replacement parts on hand for this unit, but working on it will cost the center time and labor. We will be contacting Zetron this morning to seek their assistance in diagnosing the problem and programming spare boards to be put into service.
As of yesterday, all bases of Lapeer County EMS (Imlay City, North Branch and two in Lapeer City) are operating on radio and telephone standby until further notice. It is not known when or even if this system can be repaired.
Fire department paging was unaffected and is in normal operation.
Additionally, the wireless communication link to Metamora Police which runs their AICS and Internet services went down during the lightning strike.
Further updates will be posted when information is available.
On Saturday, June 19, the paging system for fire departments and Lapeer County EMS partially went down in the area of the Lapeer tower. The Imlay City and North Branch tower areas were unaffected. It was a combination problem of a faulty power supply and a circuit board called a nucleolus, which is the “brain” of the paging system. Each site has its own nucleolus, which allows them to continue to operate though one site is down. Fortunately we had several spare power supplies and one spare nucleolus.
We felt due to the concentration of population surrounding the Lapeer tower as opposed to the North Branch tower that we were going to pull the nucleolus from North Branch and put it in service in Lapeer to get paging back online in the area. Blumerich Communications (our radio shop) went to North Branch and pulled the parts and brought them to Lapeer. The boards proved to be a bit different from each site and when inserted wouldn’t work right. By all indications, it was only the nucleolus that was bad as both power supplies were working and showing faults, and the two cards (the nucleolus and another card) were not coming up. Working with several cards and different technical methods took quite some time. We found that the first spare power supply we pulled out of storage turned out to be a bad unit and didn’t work. We were able to insert the original nucleolus into the Lapeer site with a second spare power supply and that brought it back online.
During this time, it was discovered that the nucleolus from the North Branch site was going bad as it would only power up and then go into a reset loop. By this time it was 2am. Earlier in the evening dispatch made phone calls to all the departments advising them of the situation. Sunday morning we returned after getting some rest and took the spare nucleolus back to North Branch. The spare nucleolus needed programming for our system and Blumerich had copied the proper settings from the working board in Lapeer before going to North Branch. Once the spare was programmed and inserted into the system we did a test page with Burlington Fire and people in Tuscola County and Marlette as well as in Lapeer received the page. After the successful page with Burlington it was confirmed that all sites were back online. We directed an ‘all call’ page for the entire county around 1200 on Sunday to alert the fire service that the system was back online at 100% for all three sites.
Additionally, all the Lapeer County EMS bases were on radio standby initially and then only the North Branch EMS base was required to be on radio standby, once the problem was diagnosed. Now all the bases are back on routine paging for calls.
The nucleolus board is an obsolete part and went off the Motorola contract several years ago. Had we not had a spare on hand, it is unlikely that we would be able to get another one or get one repaired. We are going to try and find another one, as well as try and repair the bad one. The nucleolus is a critical part of the paging system.
Coincidentally, earlier in the day Saturday we had a high temperature alarm in the Imlay City tower site. The A/C had gone out and the threshold of heat inside the radio room was exceeded. We contacted the County Buildings and Grounds department and they went out and fixed the problem. Though it was a high temperature, the systems were unaffected. This problem was completely separate and unrelated to the paging problem.