http://www.courier-gazette.com/articles/2008/03/20/mckinney_courier-gazette/news/nnews01.txtOfficials say current system outdated, offers little ‘interoperability’
By Danny Gallagher, McKinney Courier-Gazette
The city’s radio communication system needs an upgrade, and officials are looking to offer better coverage and more interdepartmental capabilities.
“What we have is no longer viable,” said Don Grammar, McKinney’s director of information technology. “So we’re looking at some new digital technology.”
Representatives from the McKinney police, fire, public works and other effected departments will meet with the city’s information technology department and an unidentified consultant to discuss updating their radio system to provide more effective coverage and interoperability throughout the city, police and IT officials confirmed.
McKinney Assistant Police Chief Rex Redden said the current system has some trouble reaching spots in southwest parts of the city.
“It involves police, fire, public works and some other agencies, but mostly police and fire because we use the radio most and those are for emergency situations,” Redden said. “When the current system was built, that area was all farm land, but now that we’re all grown up, our radio coverage is suffering a little bit.”
Grammar said the city’s population explosion surpassed the system’s coverage range.
“This system is like 8 years old and it was designed for a seven- to 10-year life cycle,” Grammar said. “The city’s growth rate has been much higher than anybody expected, and there has been a lot of building that has gone on and that affects radio coverage.”
Another concern is being able to communicate effectively between the city’s various departments over the radio, Redden said.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Federal Communication Commission has aimed to increase interoperability between all levels of communication through a program called “Project 25,” according to FCC archives.
“Nextel and all other devices use the 800 megahertz range and that interferes with each other,” Redden said. “[The FCC] has been moving law enforcement and fire to the 700 megahertz range so we’re not competing with public entities and other companies. Interoperability is trying to be worked into it as well. When we move to the 700 megahertz range, we can make sure all our devices are tied in with each other. One of the lessons we learned from 9/11 is that some critical systems couldn’t talk to each other.”
The new system must have more levels in order to provide better interoperability between departments and give departments the opportunity to develop it as changes are needed.
“This will certainly be a multi-site radio system and what we have currently is a single site (system),” Grammar said. “This should give us much better coverage and the ability to grow the system as McKinney grows.”