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Etowah County mountains blocking some first responders' radio and phone signals May 24, 2023

When emergencies call, Black Creek Volunteer Fire Department Captain Timothy Burgess and his crew can't always count on their radios, walkie-talkies and cellphones to communicate. Burgess said they get poor service because of the mountainous terrain in Etowah County and surrounding areas.

Burgess said crews stay prepared but never know when the signal may drop. In some cases, and if available, first responders have to use landline phones belonging to the people who called 911, just to relay updates and messages to other first responders.

"We need a tower and it's just not for Etowah. If we had a tower here that would facilitate cellular and the two-way radios for us with a repeater, from there, we would be able to facilitate multiply firehalls," he said.

He believes another tower could be beneficial for not only Etowah County, but surrounding counties. He said the problem is signals need to go beyond the mountain tops to reach first responders on the ground. Long range radio is also very much needed. Brodeur said towers are not cheap. He said the last time he built one was in the 1990's at a cost of almost half a million dollars. While finding money for towers has always been an obstacle for the county, it's not the only challenge.

Brodeur said he has been given the green light to work on securing funds like a federal grant and state monies for the new tower. He hopes if all goes well, a tower should be built in the next nine months.

There is another hope for the county. Brodeur said St. Clair County is expected to have a new tower up next year. He said that tower will also help strengthen service in Etowah County.

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