It's the difference between talking to someone outside the building and talking to someone across the county, Collingswood Fire Chief Keith Davis said.
That's the order-of-magnitude improvement that the new radios to which the department is upgrading offer.
As part of an overhauled Camden County emergency communications system, Collingswood firefighters will receive a one-for-one replacement of their existing radios.
Every firefighter is issued a radio, and every firefighting apparatus in the department has a mobile radio and four portable units, Davis said.
The new equipment is being issued at no cost to Collingswood, Davis said. It was paid for by a $35 million allocation approved by the Camden County Freeholders in November 2011.
The upgrade will bring the county into compliance with a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) mandate to migrate all emergency services communications to narrowband technology.
The new models will operate on the 700 MHz band, "which is going to be a much greater communications system," Davis said.
In a fire, "communication is our lifeline, basically," Davis said.
"If someone’s in danger and they need help and their radio doesn’t work, it could mean a life in that situation."