LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — First responders in Lebanon County are getting an upgrade for their communication systems, the first in nearly 20 years.

This has been in the works for about seven years, but county commissioners just authorized it March 17. Commissioner Mike Kuhn said money from the American Rescue Plan gave them what they needed to make this happen.

The upgrade: replacing the radios first responders use every day. The Lebanon Fire Department has already started experimenting with the new technology.

“The audio quality is fantastic,” Fire Commissioner Duane Trautman said. “I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said, ‘Your radio, you were so crystal clear.'”

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

Trautman said this is a safety improvement.

“Safety’s always better when you can hear what the other guy’s doing,” he said.

The new radios also come with some extra features, including the ability to connect to the air packs firefighters wear.

“The audio’s taken from in the mask and Bluetoothed right into the radio,” Trautman said.

Bob Dowd, Lebanon County’s director of emergency services, in describing the change in technology said, “What we use now is] close to a 20-year-old radio, and this is what we’re moving to.”

This does not just affect the City of Lebanon. All first responder agencies in the county are getting this upgrade.

“Put modern, reliable equipment in every first responder’s hand,” Dowd said.

Dowd said about 2,000 radios will go out to different agencies. The new radios will let responders from different agencies communicate directly with each other.

“Right now, they would let a dispatcher know who then would relay that information to us, where now they could be able to hop right over to the police channel and talk to us directly,” Palmyra Borough police chief Andrew Winters said.

The county is also building more infrastructure to make sure the radios work no matter where emergency personnel are.

“We’re trying to make sure we put towers in places that will cover any dead spots that we currently have in our system,” Dowd said.

Winters said, “You have a lot of rural police departments and some of them definitely lose the reception depending on where they are.”

This is not just a boost for first responders. Winters said the upgrade makes the whole community safer.

“You’re going to start to see better response times, number one,” he said. “You’ll see a better service for everybody”

Police and fire departments are not the only agencies getting the new technology. Radios are also going to schools and other public agencies like the highway department. Dowd said the upgrade will take about two years to completely roll out.