LAKE PLACID Travelers on the Adirondack Northway might feel a bit more secure this winter, as efforts are made to provide temporary cell service coverage. Senator Elizabeth Little announced plans at a press conference on Nov. 9 to provide temporary cell service along the I-87. Three cells-on-wheels (COWs) will be installed this winter to help cover the dead zone that encompasses much of the Adirondack Parks section of the Northway. Temporary service okayed by Governor
Little, along with Representatives Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey, have been working on getting cell coverage on the Northway. Several deaths last winter were attributed in part to victims being unable to contact help with their cell phones. We cannot go through another winter without having cell coverage on the Northway, said Little. Verizon is currently working on installing permanent towers along the Northway, but those wont be going in until summer 2008. Little said environmental officials have okayed the use of COWs this winter, provided their is a time limit on the facilities. An agreement was struck to install COWs until April 1. She hoped they would be operational by December. Under the current plans, COWs would be installed at three sites, including Exit 29, the High Peaks rest area, and in the town of Lewis. Little explained Governor Elliot Spitzer has agreed to release $1 million in funding already budgeted for the project. The state will lease the COWs so there will be no cost to providers. Little said the coverage wasnt likely to be complete, but felt it was better than nothing. Little also cited the call-box system on the Northway as a means of seeking aid. She said that the system is used about once a day. Duprey, who frequently travels the Northway on her way to sessions in Albany, agreed. She said the journey makes her uneasy in the winter, and makes a point to alert relatives when shes traveling through the dead zone. Step in the right direction, but permanent solution needed
(Getting the COWs is) a great and a step in the right direction, I'm just wondering about the rest of the year,said Patty Bashaw, president of the Elizabethtown-Lewis Emergency Squad, which covers much of the Northways dead zone. Lack of cell service is a concern for emergency responders year-round. Bashaw explained a vehicle was on fire for 45 minutes last week because of the delay of getting the emergency call to dispatch. A bystander had to travel to the next exit to seek help. Bashaw stated cell service was essential to prevent delays in calling in an emergency to the appropriate dispatch agency. Its also important to emergency responders, who can use cells to access medical control for orders for medication and life saving treatments much sooner. During major events, responders would be able to speak directly to the hospitals for advise and ED capacity. I just hope that this temporary situation is just that, temporary, and that lawmakers will seek a more permanent solution, said Bashaw. I just wish that the powers to be were the ones responding to these areas with no cell coverage and have to explain to the patient or their survivors that happen to be on scene, that for many reasons this area has no immediate access to emergency help.