E-911 Committee hears about new technology

Published 4:10 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

The Grady-Decatur County E-911 Committee heard from representatives from two companies, Harris Communications and Williams Communications, about the possibilities offered when updating their current radio dispatch technology.

Kenneth Williams, owner of Williams Communication out of Tallahassee, Fla., and Tyler Carroll, sales manager, provided the committee with an overview of the current status of broadcast capabilities/system evaluation in Grady County, which was done at the request of Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye.

Carroll explained that as of Dec. 31, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be narrowbanding, which will be splitting frequencies in half in an effort to free up more space by providing more frequencies for agencies to use.

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The company representatives explained that currently there are multiple agencies in surrounding counties and even states sharing the same frequency, which creates bleed-over. The new regulation will double the number of usable frequencies, in turn increase clarity but could possibly reduce the amount of coverage areas for broadcast towers.

The radios used by agencies, which include police officers, firefighters, EMS, etc., will need to be reprogrammed to the new frequencies. Older model radios may not be able to be reprogrammed and will have to be replaced.

In order to comply with the new regulation, broadcast licenses, which are held by E-911 Director Tonya Griffin holds, will also need to be updated.

The representatives from Williams Communications along with James M. Potter, area sales manager for the Harris Corp., provided committee members with information on trunked radio software they provide.

A trunked radio system is a computer-controlled radio system that allows users to create talkgroups, allowing for more specialized groups to communicate. A talk group can be set up for different agencies, instead of being assigned a specific channel or frequency. Talkgroups are also assigned system priority levels attempting to ensure that communication between critical units in maintained.

One other advantage of the system is that they are run through conventional PC computers, which can be replaced quickly and easily unlike conventional systems that commonly must be repaired by a specific vendor with obtaining older model parts at times becoming difficult.

The representatives recommended an independent study be conducted on the current status of radio communications in Decatur and Grady counties before moving forward with the purchase of new systems or equipment.

Decatur County Finance Director Carl Rowland said he has already been seeking and in contact with engineers who conduct the studies.

Members agreed that all parties—city and county representatives and departments—interested in taking part in the upgrade should convene and be in agreement on taking part in the independent study and radio communications upgrades.

“We need to get every department on the same page,” said Griffin. “They don’t need to be buying any new equipment without knowing what we are doing.”

E-911 Committee meeting

The committee discussed budget issues in their regular quarterly meeting.

Griffin said repairs were made to lights on broadcast towers, which cost $5,300, and members decided to take the expenditure out of remaining funds from last year’s budget.

Griffin also discussed her need for an additional full-time employee on top of her 11 full-time budgeted positions for fiscal year 2009-2010. She explained that she currently has 11 full-time employees and four part-time employees. She requested that she be allowed to eliminate one part-time position and create a full-time position. She said that would eliminate overtime hours therefore not calling for an increase in the E-911 budget.

Decatur County Finance Director Carl Rowland and committee members noted that over the past year, Griffin had decreased expenditures at the department, effectively through creative scheduling methods.

The committee approved her request with the stipulation that it didn’t cause a budget increase.