Washington County looking to upgrade 911 centers

·2 min read

In every car and on every officer in Washington County, you’ll see one thing and it’s a radio.

“The bottom line is we have areas where a police officer presses that button the radio to call 911 or another officer and there’s no transmission of that request,” said Peters Township Police Chief Douglas Grimes.

Grimes could go into depth when talking about the county’s radio system.

“It’s what I would term as antiquated. It’s in need of an upgrade dramatically. We have a significant portion of areas in the county that don’t have adequate radio coverage,” Grimes said.

The county is one of the last to operate with an analog 911 system and the first step to upgrading to digital involved the county commissioners conducting a feasibility study.

“The service rate you have to have here for P95 and Homeland Security it wants you at 95 percent coverage rate. We saw we were at an 80 percent in most of the county, but some parts of the county it dipped to as low as 30 percent,” said County Commissioner Nick Sherman.

That means first responder’s radios only worked 30 percent of the time. That’s why Sherman said this upgrade is critical, but it will come with a multi-million dollar price tag.

The county plans to use American Rescue funds, but there will be a cost to each municipality and department in order to replace all the field radios to fit the new digital system.

“This will be about a year and a half so let it be known you have to start budgeting now because not only is the county going to be accruing costs, but each individual fire department, EMS and police department are all going to be accruing costs,” Sherman said.

The county commissioners plan to vote next month to get proposals from vendors for the project and determine what the overall cost will be.

“I think it’s a necessary investment for public safety. If you are that one person that needs fire, EMS, or police and they can’t get there because the call doesn’t come out or they need more assistance at your residence or business and that call doesn’t go out. Who loses? It’s not just us, it’s the public,” Grimes said.

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