DARKE COUNTY — All fire, rescue and law enforcement agencies in Darke County are now using the MARCS radio system and it is running well, according to the Darke County EMA.
MARCS (Multi Agency Radio Communications System) is a statewide radio system allowing all emergency agencies the ability to have contiguous communications.
Mindy Saylor, director of Darke County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, said the changeover to MARCS was sorely needed to replace the various VHF communications systems that were being used by first responders.
“We were limping along with VHF,” she said, noting even last week there were issues with the VHF tower in New Madison.
For the time being, emergency departments in the county are still using VHF pagers as a backup, as there are still a few “hit or miss” issues with the MARCS pagers. Despite the “growing pains,” Saylor said the VHF pagers should soon no longer be necessary.
“This took us three years of planning and a long time to implement,” she said.
The donation of MARCS equipment from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was a boon to the county, especially those agencies within with limited funds.
“The ODNR radios really saved the day for those departments who otherwise couldn’t afford them,” Saylor said.
In addition to the ODNR donation, funding for the MARCS gear has come from a variety of sources. For example, 14 fire departments in Darke County received a $600,000 grant from the State Fire Marshal’s Office in 2017. The county received a $500,000 grant from the state to erect a MARCS tower in Union City. A .45-mill levy to fund countywide emergency communications, however, failed to pass with voters in November 2017.
Though older MARCS units will need replacement over time, Saylor said she is pleased with the transition and the service.
“Ohio MARCS to date has been very good to work with,” Saylor said. “They’ve taken it seriously and have been very responsive to our concerns..”