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Davidson County working to improve emergency communication systems

LEXINGTON, N.C. -- The massive fire at the old Dixie Furniture plant in Lexington last Tuesday is the perfect example of first responders in Davidson County working together when every second counts.

"By having communications with one another both on the scene and off the scene it will allow them to do their job better," said Terry Bailey, Davidson County Emergency Communications director.

Bailey says 75 percent of the communication that day was done through the county's two VIPER towers.

The 420-foot towers allow different agencies to cross talk through their radios.

It’s something Bailey says most first responders in the county can't do on their current system.

"It's just an aggravation for responders,” he said. “It makes it a little bit more difficult for them to do their job."

Within the next year, the county plans to build three new VIPER towers, allowing all Davidson County first responders to communicate through their radios.

Right now, only Lexington police, Lexington fire, and Denton fire can use the statewide system.

"They can't use their radio to talk to another radio in another agency,” Bailey said. “Police department can't talk to an ambulance."

Bailey says their current analog system is 30 to 40 years old.

"It works, but it does not work well," he said.

First responders have to call the 911 center to get to other agencies.

"We have a lot of problems when we try to communicate," Bailey said.

Problems he hopes the new towers will help solve.

"This is just another tool for first responders to do a better job of serving the citizens for their law enforcement needs, their EMS needs, their fire needs," Bailey said.

The cost of building the three new towers will be between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Alamance, Rockingham, Stokes, and Surry counties also use the VIPER system.

Davidson County's 911 center will also get new equipment when the new towers are built.