In June 2015, the Lancaster County Board of Supervisors authorized a contract with Radio Communications of Virginia to begin an upgrade to the county’s aged communications system.  With a price tag of approximately $2 million, the system is designed to improve performance and redundancy for the needs of Lancaster County’s law enforcement agencies, fire departments, rescue squads and schools, for now and long into the future.

The need for this project had been identified for many years; the existing system had been performing poorly and required frequent repairs.  The upgrades will replace the existing equipment with state-of-the-art communications equipment which will improve coverage and reliability.  The system will enhance local and regional capabilities, with greater capability and capacity.

The project was completed in December 2016, ahead of schedule and under budget.  Acceptance testing for the new radio system included field testing of 1/2 square miles block throughout the county.  Each block was tested for the ability to transmit and receive radio traffic.  100% of the grids tested were able to meet expected performance, exceeding the 95% standard in the radio industry.

Over the course of the next several years, Lancaster County will continue to replace radio equipment vehicles and hand-held units to ensure that the equipment used in the field continues to function properly for the lifespan of the radio network infrastructure.

The development of this project is a combined effort of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and Lancaster County Emergency Services; the project is being managed by Lancaster County Emergency Services.  Upon completion, the first responders of Lancaster County will have a safer and much more reliable radio system to communicate on scene and across the County.

In early 2015, the emergency managers in Gloucester, Lancaster and Middlesex counties partnered to work on a regional project to address shortfalls in local capabilities. They three counties submitted a regional grant application to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for the 2015 State Homeland Security Program and was awarded $71,378 to improve capabilities to provide emergency sheltering of residents.

Lancaster 3 trailers-V2

The goal of the project was to acquire sufficient equipment to establish a local or regional shelter in the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane. The project has allowed each county to receive a trailer, fully equipped with sufficient supplies for 120 people. The equipment includes feeding equipment, bedding, personal hygiene supplies and shelter management necessities. Furthermore, because each county has received an identical trailer, this equipment can be used collaboratively within any of the three counties and with minimal additional training of personnel. The mobility of the equipment provided by this project allows for a shelter to be established at a variety of locations, or to support our neighboring localities with an isolated event, such as a tornado.

As a result of this project, each locality is more prepared to care for their residents in the face of disaster.

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In June 2014, a grant application was submitted to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for the 2014 State Homeland Security Grant Program, to establish and maintain a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and to establish and equip a Community Animal Response Team (CART). In October 2014, Lancaster County was awarded $40,500 to complete the project. As part of this grant project, Lancaster County received a trailer stocked with the necessary equipment to provide shelter for pets in the event of an emergency.

The grant program also supported the funding of needed training equipment for Lancaster County Emergency Services’ community programs, including a fire extinguisher training prop. Additionally, the County received equipment to issue CERT and CART volunteers, and to manage credentials. Lancaster County Emergency Services is continuing to develop this program and is actively seeking volunteers.

As a result of this project, Lancaster County has the resources to adequately respond to emergencies and to build a stronger, more resilient community.

In July 2014, Lancaster County Emergency Services made a grant application to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for the 2014 Emergency Management Performance Grant supplemental award process. The grant proposal included enhancement and training for the county’s amateur radio emergency communications program and additional satellite communications equipment, in order to ensure that emergency services would continue to have communication capabilities when traditional services fail in the midst of disaster. In October 2015, Lancaster County receives $26,000 in grant funds to support this project.

This ongoing project provides Lancaster County Emergency Services the opportunity to support the Lancaster-Middlesex Emergency Radio Group with recruiting, training, and necessary equipment to ensure adequate communications during emergencies. This project builds on previous projects which have included an amateur radio repeater station. Lancaster County Emergency Services will be continuing to recruit and train new amateur radio operators to assist in emergencies. Volunteer opportunities are available for anyone with in interest in amateur radio.

This project serves as model for other localities and creates an opportunity for Lancaster County to provide assistance to neighbors in need.