Good communication is a critical element to ensure public safety. And it’s not just passing information from one police officer to another. It’s more important than ever as agencies are asked to respond to various types of emergencies. Lexington officials are preparing to make a sizeable investment in radio technology as required by the federal government.
The 9-11 tragedy caused emergency response officials to re-think how they communicate. New York City agencies found themselves unable to exchange information. Lexington officials want to help ensure communication isn’t a problem by investing 18 million dollars in new radio technology. Nine-one-one director David Lucas says now is the time to act.
“There’s a federal mandate to narrow band radios…the new technology…they actually implemented this deadline over seven years ago…and like most governments …we have delayed it…but we’re at a point…we can delay anymore…we need to migrate…so we will be legal and we don’t get fined for using a system we don’t have licensed,” said Lucas.
The multimillion dollar radio system project includes the purchase of about 15 hundred new mobile units for police and hospital use. Assistant Police Chief Robert Stack says the ongoing need is for communications across several agencies
“The problem that we face right now is that our radio system is an analog system that is running radios that cannot talk to fire, cannot talk to airport…cannot talk to UK. Our mobile units are not upgradable to the p-25 standard…they cannot be narrow banded,” explained Stack.
The so called p-25 standard is the latest radio technology. Lexington plans to use eight-year old technology, which Lucas says, can be upgraded. Fire officials like Major Paul See says his agency would benefit from being included in this project.
“The system for the fire department…we have big gaps in coverage…because we only have three towers currently…and we have some areas where we do not have adequate coverage..and what this was...yes we could just upgrade the police system..but then you’ve spent several million dollars…just to do the police…you’ve not done anything for the coverage issues the fire department has,” said See.
There have been questions about the expense of the new radio technology. The cost for two-thousand units includes about five million dollars in maintenance over the ten year period. Urban County Council member Peggy Henson worries about an already tight budget.
“I would feel more comfortable knowing that we are going to have the money…so if we sign this contract…we are obligated for this company for 18 point eight million dollars,” explained Henson.
The federal mandate requires the new equipment to be in the hands of officers by the end of 2012. David Lucas says it will take about a year to fully implement the new system.