Earlier this month, Daviess County officials attended a staging event for the new P25 digital radio system at Motorola’s corporate headquarters.
It was an opportunity for first responders to see how the tower equipment will operate during large-scale emergencies.
“We taxed the system by doing mock emergency failures so we could see what would happen,” explained 911 Director Paul Nave. “We staged it to fail at different towers and at different times to see if the system would redirect and still function.”
The equipment passed all the preliminary requirements with the install scheduled for later this year.
“We are anticipating that infrastructure being installed mid-to-late summer and going online around November 2021,” Nave said.
At present, Daviess County first responders communicate on a legacy VHF radio system that is 20 to 30 years old.
“It’s been upgraded over the years but it’s to the point where upgrading is not sufficient with the issues of radio interference and radio coverage in this community,” Nave added.
The new system is digital instead of analog, which means it’s digitally encrypted and IP-based. It will be more efficient and provide better coverage for emergency personnel.
“In the past, we’ve had trouble communicating with Dispatch or sometimes even unit-to-unit,” explained Fire Chief Jeremy Smith. “With this new system, we will have 90 plus percent better coverage outdoors, which will be huge in emergency situations.”
Smith said the new system will offer a multitude of channels for communication between first responders.
“Say we have a large incident, such as a storm system move through with multiple trees down, we will be able to assign each volunteer station their own channel so they can talk to each other and not interfere with the next incident coming in,” he said.
First responders in the City of Owensboro have already transitioned to a digital radio system.
“It’s going to be a joint P25 infrastructure system, so it is seamless for Dispatch to be able to communicate with all the first responders on the same type of system,” Nave said. “It’s going to be more efficient and a better way to communicate.”
“We respond with the City at times and they respond with us,” Smith added. “Now, we pack two radios, one with their system and one with our system. In the future, we will be able to go with one radio and communicate back-and-forth.”
Smith said Henderson County also made the switch to digital. However, McLean, Ohio and Hancock counties still operate on a VHF system.
“We will have the capability with the old system to still talk with our other surrounding counties,” he confirmed. “At times, we assist them and they assist us.”
Smith and Nave wished to thank the Fiscal Court for investing in the new digital infrastructure, noting the benefits for first responders and the community.
“When someone calls for help, we will be able to get that information out more efficiently and communicate with Dispatch,” Smith concluded. “Overall, it gives us a better end to whatever situation we may respond to.”