As storm clouds stirred several miles to the south, crew members from Top Hand Towers worked in heat indexes measuring over 100 degrees to complete the latest Pottawatomie County emergency radio tower on July 8. Paid for through funds secured by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, it stands 395 feet high and offers the community of McLoud, Oklahoma, increased 911 and emergency radio coverage.

Due in part to McLoud’s location at a slightly lower elevation compared to the areas just south and east of it, the community’s emergency responders occasionally have radio communication difficulties.

Staff members from Top Hand Towers secure the final 20-foot section of the radio communications tower next to FireLake Express Grocery McLoud.

“This tower, located right next to FireLake Express Grocery McLoud, eliminates that,” said Citizen Potawatomi Nation Emergency Communication Specialist Jodi Opela, who helped oversee the project. “The radio tower is well above that, allowing for clear communications from the Pottawatomie County 911 dispatching center to responders in McLoud.”

A concrete pad and a housing unit for the radio equipment will be completed, increasing radio coverage in northern Pottawatomie County.

Since signing an agreement between then-Pottawatomie County 911 Trust Chairman J.R. Kidney and Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett in June 2015, the Tribe has taken over costs and dispatching services for the county. On Oct. 13, 2015, the services officially switched over to the upgraded dispatching center located inside the CPN Tribal Police headquarters.

The Tribe spent $500,000 upgrading the technology and infrastructure of the building as well as hiring 10 county 911 employees. The dispatching center remains there today and acts as the main dispatching agency for first responders from all communities across the county outside of the City of Shawnee, which has its own system. The two systems create a safety redundancy, allowing first responders a secondary option in either community should one go offline.

“With the distances between our fellow agencies, we want to see about providing better service when our first responders are out there,” CPN’s Opela said.

In collaboration with the county 911 authority and other agencies, he said the Tribe is now exploring opportunities to construct a second tower in the southern part of the county.

“The service provided by the Nation to build out these radio communication towers are saving lives all over the county,” said CPN Tribal Police Chief James C. Collard. “This is positively impacting thousands of people in our community, and I’m very proud of our emergency management staff for taking the lead to help care for citizens in our area.”