Pacific Wants New Radios For First Responders - The Missourian: Communities

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Pacific Wants New Radios For First Responders

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Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 10:00 am | Updated: 7:05 pm, Sat Jun 22, 2013.

The city of Pacific is petitioning the St. Louis County Emergency Commission to provide the city public works department with new radio equipment.

City Administrator Harold Selby said he learned over the summer that St. Louis County was using the new emergency system tax funds to provide radios to some Franklin County first responders.

St. Louis County is in the process of constructing new cell towers to accommodate the narrowband first responder radios that Homeland Security mandated after 911, when it was learned that police, fire and ambulance departments could not communicate with each other during an emergency.

Part of the St. Louis County tax money is being used to buy the new radios.

“From a hand-held radio, officers can now communicate with their dispatcher anywhere in the St. Louis area,” Selby said at the Dec. 18 board of aldermen meeting.

Fire chiefs, ambulance and public works officials from throughout the region were at the meeting.

“This program even covers public works,” Selby said. “Every entity will be supplied with the latest communication system out there. If there is an accident on Interstate 44, Eureka, Pacific, EMS and the Highway Patrol will be able to go to one frequency and communicate with each other.”

St. Louis County has been buying the new radios for police, fire, and ambulance districts, and will maintain them.

So far, the city of Pacific has not been given the new radios, but Selby is petitioning St. Louis County to include Pacific.

“The mayor and police chief put together a letter to the St. Louis Emergency Management Commission,” Selby said “We’re reminding them that we have the prison, which requires us to work with Eureka,” he said.

All first responders are required to go to the new radios that operate on a narrowband system.

In addition to eliminating dead spots in radio coverage for first responders, the new system also will allow police, firefighters and ambulance crews from different agencies to talk directly with one another as they respond to emergencies.

In December 2004, the Federal Communications Commission issued an order mandating that all dispatch radios have to be narrowband capable by Jan. 1, 2013.

St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties were granted a 12-month waiver, giving them until the end of 2013 to be on the new system in order to avoid having to convert some older equipment.

This deadline is the result of an FCC effort that began almost two decades ago to ensure more efficient use of the spectrum and greater spectrum access for public safety and nonpublic safety users. Migration to 12.5 kHz efficiency technology, referred to as narrowbanding, will allow the creation of additional channel capacity within the same radio spectrum, and support more users.

“We’re going to continue to work with St. Louis County on this,” Selby said. “We think the city and our public works department should be on the new frequencies.

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