Upgrade for Marion County System

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Dec 22, 2004
Article from Indianapolis Star:

Does anyone know when this is supposed to happen, whether this will be part of the SAFE-T system (or just linked to SAFE-T as a separate system for Marion County), and what type of scanner I will need? I assume the latest and greatest Uniden digital scanners will work okay.

July 23, 2006

Crisis channels get an upgrade
City to buy digital emergency system, improve sirens

By Brendan O'Shaughnessy

Indianapolis plans to spend up to $45 million to upgrade the city's emergency communications system so that first responders can exchange information more reliably.

The money also will be used to make improvements to the area's early-warning siren systems.

The current MECA, or Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency, system began operation in 1990, and city officials said it's becoming more difficult to obtain replacement parts to keep it running. It acts as the communications hub for fire, police, medical and emergency dispatch services for the entire county except the town of Speedway and the cities of Beech Grove and Lawrence.

Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 have reinforced the importance of communication in a crisis, said Public Safety Director Earl Morgan. Morgan said a lack of communication between various safety agencies "can't be tolerated."

"When you find that the parts to maintain the system are in short supply, that becomes a problem," Morgan said. "The public want to know that when they call 911, they will have the right connection."

MECA currently uses an 800-megahertz analog system provided by Motorola.
The new system is digital and is designed to be integrated with a new state government communications network and with surrounding counties. It also is supposed to improve coverage by providing a stronger signal in Downtown Indianapolis and increasing reliability and clarity.

The upgrade, several years in the making, includes installing equipment on existing towers, improving backup power systems and purchasing more than 6,500 new radios and 82 dispatch consoles. It will cost $37 million, but the city already has received a federal grant of $6 million to offset the cost.

Barbara Lawrence, director of the city's development bond bank, said she hopes to avoid a tax increase by scheduling debt payments as the old system's debt rolls off. While taxes won't decrease, she said a little more money in grants would keep taxes from rising.
The rest of the money will go to improving a siren system that has warned residents of tornadoes and other dangers since before the Cold War.

Jim White, director of Marion County Emergency Management, said as many as one-third of the sirens have failed in some tests, but the 140 sirens still make enough noise to be heard nearly everywhere. Still, he said the money will increase coverage to 97 percent of the county with 26 new sirens and a cutting-edge diagnostic and maintenance system.
The new system also will be able to set off sirens in a portion of the county rather than work only countywide.

"Obviously, this is a lot of money," White said. "But how much is safety and your family worth?"
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