Placer communication plan gets boost |

Placer communication plan gets boost

Andrew Cristancho/Sierra SunPlacer Sheriff's Deputy Mke Main wears an analog radio on his chest. A county-wide technology program will replace the older equipment with digital radios by 2010.

In the shadow of the disastrous 9/11 attacks in New York City in 2001, the federal government ordered states and counties to install radio systems that allow first responders to communicate with one another.

Now, with a grant from a recent federal budget bill signed into law the day after Christmas, Placer County has received $1.6 million to apply to their county-wide technology program.

Placer County will spend the new grant money on the last phase of a three-part program to comply with the federal regulation. The Placer County board of supervisors approved the county-wide Interoperable Radio Network Project in Feb. 2002, explained Placer Director of Administrative Services Clark Moots.

“The ultimate goal is having a [digital] radio network from Roseville to the eastern end of Placer county,” Moots said.

Many of Placer County Sheriff’s deputies still use 20-year-old analog radios, said Moots, making it impossible to communicate with other law enforcement or fire personnel without first calling into a dispatch center. Also, analog repeaters on radio towers did not always pick up signals from the portable radios that officers use while on patrol.

The new digital technology will allow 95 percent geographical coverage for fire and law enforcement personnel, Moots explained.

The county-wide project should cost about $22 million and is expected to be completed before 2010, said Moots.

Including last month’s grant, the county has secured $7.3 million so far.

Some of the new hardware and software is already installed, said Placer Information Technology Analyst Tom Poole. In a small room close to Lake Tahoe’s Placer county dispatch office, Poole points to new equipment that makes it possible for Auburn police and firefighters to patch into Tahoe City’s radio system.

“We can use Auburn’s radio, and they can use ours,” Poole said.

Before the installation of the equipment, the second phase of the county- wide plan, an Auburn agency had to call the sheriff’s dispatch by phone and then be patched to the officer through the dispatch center, Poole said.

Phase three of the county-wide project will include outfitting law enforcement with digital radios, and building the infrastructure to connect the pieces already installed, said Moots.

Some new radio towers will be built, while others already equipped with old analog transmitters, will be renovated with new small computers that will require shelter, heating and cooling.

“Some of our locations are at 8,000 feet,” Moots said.

The county-wide radio system will allow officers to use encryption to protect the security of their transmissions.

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