Now we’re talking … two-way radio update almost done

Spotty cell coverage when you need it most is frustrating — and for electric cooperatives, it’s unacceptable. When line crews are dispatched to remote locations or outage areas, they need to be able to talk to each other so they can identify where problems are located and fix them.

To do that, they rely on their two-way radio system, which is shared by Great River Energy and its member cooperatives. Crews use the radios for day-to-day operations, and they are particularly important in times of crisis or when cell service is out.

“We’re on the same mission critical level as fire and police departments,” said Doug Gregersen, Great River Energy telecommunications leader. “That’s a standard we need to maintain so we can restore power quickly during outages and work safely.”

The radios allow crews to talk to each other, to local system operators, to Great River Energy’s system operators, and to crews from other cooperatives who use the system while pitching in to help.

This year, Great River Energy worked with 15 of its member cooperatives to update the radio system from analog to digital technology. The old system, installed in 1999, is near the end of its useful life and spare equipment is hard to find. Think of it like going from a cassette player to an iPod.

The new radio system will provide better sound quality and expand the area where service is available, helping ensure reliable service.