MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — They don't always agree on everything, but all members of the Montgomery County Council are unanimously urging County Executive Marc Elrich to replace the county's emergency communications system with "the greatest urgency possible."
"In the last months, this aging system has malfunctioned at least four times," Council President Navarro told the media on Monday morning. "This is absolutely unacceptable."
The current system being used by first responders is close to 20 years old.
The Montgomery County Firefighters' Union says the system has repeatedly failed over the last few months and that's putting lives at risk.
"When we're out there running incidents, we have to have that communication back in case we need additional resources or we need assistance or we need to get status updates, you know, our radio system in operating condition is critical to our jobs," said union president Jeff Buddle.
In one instance, they say radio channels were down for so long that firefighters were forced to use their cellphones instead.
"They had to resort to pretty much anything that they could to be able to communicate not only with each other but most importantly with our communications center," said Buddle.
The plan is for the county to build 22 new radio towers, but Elrich wants to hold off on building two of those, after backlash from residents over things like strobe lights from the towers.
"If the county executive would withdraw his opposition," said Buddle, "the state could begin work on that almost right away."
Elrich's office said it is currently looking into a plan to build just twenty towers.
The Firefighters' Union estimates such a system would only be functional by 2021, and may not provide as much coverage.