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Archive for Monday, May 28, 2012

City, county mull upgrade to emergency radio system

May 28, 2012

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Thousands of Kansas University fans flocked to downtown Lawrence in celebration of Elite Eight and Final Four victories earlier this spring.

In preparation, teams of law enforcement officers stood at various points along the street, interacting with the crowd and dealing with problems caused by a handful of unruly fans.

In addition to Lawrence police and Douglas County Sheriff’s officers on duty, Kansas Highway Patrol troopers and other area officers assisted as part of a plan that was months in the works. But it was not seamless setting everything up, especially as organizers tried to ensure officers were on the same radio frequency.

“We had over 250 officers from around the region in town, and we have challenges with other jurisdictions that were on a different system,” said Scott Ruf, director of Douglas County emergency communications.

City and county leaders are eyeing a $6 million to $7 million upgrade to the local emergency radio communications system, mostly because of outdated technology, lack of system capacity and state and federal mandates. Local public safety officials are recommending that county commissioners grant them authority to continue formal negotiations with Motorola Communications to implement the change.

One part of the recommendation is to expand Douglas County’s aging 911 radio system into one the Kansas Department of Transportation uses, which would be beneficial for responses such as the downtown Final Four celebrations or other events like a natural disaster response.

“In the future, we would move to an event channel, and we would just patch everybody to the same channel,” Ruf said.

The upgrade would expand the county’s radio capacity, Ruf said, and it would alleviate other issues with the current system that include the difficulty police and firefighters have communicating with one another.

The process comprises several steps, including figuring out how to pay for it. Under an agreement to fund operations of the emergency communications center, the city pays 66 percent and the county pays 34 percent, but that agreement does not technically cover capital improvements.

“We are working with the county on a multiyear financing plan to pay the city of Lawrence’s share of this cost,” City Manager David Corliss said.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said conversations between the city and county were ongoing, and he’s hopeful they can reach an agreement in the next few weeks.

Separate from the financing, Ruf said he planned soon to ask county commissioners for permission to enter more detailed negotiations with Motorola Communications.

Ruf said once the new system is in place, anyone who has a capable digital radio scanner should be able to hear law enforcement and medical traffic. According to news reports, as Shawnee County officials have worked on a radio upgrade, they have considered encrypting their new network. That could restrict what the public could hear in certain situations.

But Ruf said encryption has not been discussed in Douglas County. Under the current system, he said, agencies in Douglas County do have one small “encrypted talk group” or channel that is used for special operations on a case by case basis.

“There is no plan at this time to encrypt the new radio system,” Ruf said. “However, there is a need for some level of encryption for certain public safety functions.”

Comments

texasjustice 1 year, 10 months ago

they want to eliminate scanners from listing to what's going on thus not havimg the public [ watching thrm ] they had an upgrade in the past and piss poor planing on thier part should not create a reason to pay twice for it by the tax payers

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nativeson 1 year, 10 months ago

Investment is required, but there is always the trump card that lives are on the line. When this is put out to the public, it means do not question the cost, just do it. What is frustrating about this situation as well as the facilities needs for the department is a lack of options.

The alternatives, or lack thereor, are always about short changing the department and threatening that any other option will not provide protection for public safety personnel. Ironically, the City has failed to invest in automation for the solid waste department for decades in a vocation that has one of the higher injury rates for any occupation. There is no discussion of those facts.

Let's see the options. Good, better, best. Understand the consequences of those decisions and make an informed choice.

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mikekt 1 year, 10 months ago

I would be for an encrypted GPS that would locate field units by where they are at, physically, for the purpose of management & the safety of the officers on patrol, firemen, etc... What if they get in a wreck responding to a call or get shot? Is there an On Star like capability that would notify dispatch or locate them if on foot away from their vehicle? I ask because i don't know & i don't know if anyone else is asking what you get for a few dollars more that might function a whole lot longer & better. I have nothing against a bid process but i would truly be in favor of a system that costs a few bucks more & has been prove effective & more versatile elsewhere, vs the low cost leaders with no, or a bad track record, elsewhere. You may recall the digital system that KCMO bought from Ericsson radio systems a few years back, where the firemen inside of a building had to broadcast out to a repeater tower somewhere else, before those outside of the same building could hear them, which would black out in coverage, in some parts of KCMO. Not good! They had to do an expensive fix with added equipment.... & they didn't solve it over night! That, if i recall right, was a low bidder job & i guess that they got what they paid for in cash & in a lack of checking it out, before they bought into it. These are jobs where live are on the the line of both the departments members & of the general publics. MIGHT AS WELL DO IT RIGHT.

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BigfootHunter 1 year, 10 months ago

Why does Motorola get the contract??? Shouldn't this be an open bid process. Motorola sells radio equipment for a premium over their competitors. They are a near monopoly.

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swampyankee 1 year, 10 months ago

how much is KU chipping in to help with their celebrations ?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

Didn't taxpayers already pay for an upgrade in recent times?

We don't need to militarize local law enforcement.

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oletimer 1 year, 10 months ago

The city and county should be very careful of working with Motorola. They have a history of selling radios that are not what they say they are. They have sold fire department radios all over the country that have been found to not be fire rated. In other words, unusable to the fire departments. Motorola has the luxury of being about the only radio supplier around. And they take advantage of it. Be very very careful dealing with them. Once you sign the contract, you are bound to it.

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