Major upgrade coming to emergency responders’ radio system

Current Monroe County radio system only covers 65-70 percent of county

Communication is key when emergency responders are trying to do their job.

A new radio system may make this job more efficient for dispatchers in Monroe County.

The county said the current radio system is very outdated. About three years ago, changes issued by the FCC made the current emergency responders’ radio system even more unreliable.

Since then, emergency responders have been dealing with dead spots all over the county and it was becoming a public safety concern.

But over the next year and a half, that will be changing.

After many frustrating years of asking emergency responders, “Can you hear me now?” and, “Can you repeat that?” the Monroe County Dispatch Center will finally be getting a new radio system.

“It’s vital to have communications so our first responders out in the county can get to those people who have emergency situations,” said Randy Williams, Monroe County 911 dispatch center director.

Because of the bluffs and valleys in Monroe County, the current radio system has rather limited coverage.

“We only had about 65, maybe 70 percent of the entire county where we could speak with officers and firefighters,” Williams said.

But the new system will provide much better service, which Monroe County Sheriff Scott Perkins is looking forward to.

“With this new radio system, we’re going to (have) 95 percent coverage both on the hip, which is our portable radios, and then our car radios, it’s going to be 110 percent better,” Perkins said.

Perkins has been with Monroe County for 27 years. He said the radio coverage is so weak in the county right now, he rarely even carries his portable radio anymore, he just uses his cellphone or the radio in his vehicle.

“I pretty much know where all the dead spots are,” Perkins said.

Beginning this summer, the radio system in the county will begin to be upgraded from the one tower it has now to 10 spread throughout the county, and Williams said that is a big benefit for a lot more than just those in uniform.

“Our first responders need to be able to hear dispatch, and dispatch needs to hear what’s going on out there to make sure that our first responders are safe and citizens in our county are safe,” Williams said.

The $3.8 million project was approved by the Monroe County Board earlier this year.

Williams said because of the layout of Monroe County, it is nearly impossible to have 100 percent coverage.

Williams said the county hopes to have at least four of the towers up this summer. The entire project is expected to be completed by the fall of next year.