Local law enforcement agencies to switch to same radio system

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Chilton County E-911 board recently approved switching to a SouthernLINC Wireless radio network for its primary dispatch system involving law enforcement agencies throughout the county.

Dan Wright, director of Chilton County E-911, said switching from the current VHF (Very High Frequency) system to SouthernLINC would allow the county’s E-911 dispatch center to communicate more efficiently with law enforcement agencies using one system as opposed to different systems.

“That will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations here at 911 and the efficiency and effectiveness of patrol,” Wright said. “Through those avenues, we’re going to be able to greatly enhance and improve the dispatch and make sure everybody knows what’s going on.”

Wright said the Clanton Police Department has operated on a SouthernLINC system for two years, so the switch would place all other law enforcement agencies in the county on the same system as CPD.

“As we currently operate, the city of Clanton’s police department is on one frequency, and the rest of the county’s law enforcement is on another frequency,” Wright said. “We will be able to move all communications countywide for dispatch to one channel. This has allowed us to leverage the already in-place system of SouthernLINC, and for now it’s saving us the cost of having to bid out our own system when we could utilize what’s already there.”

Wright said although each municipality may choose whether to make the switch, he has spoken with police chiefs and the sheriff and is confident all municipalities will be on the same SouthernLINC system soon since the E-911 board approved this form of dispatch.

“There have been delays in relaying information between the two different dispatch channels from the 911 dispatch center,” Wright said, adding the delays could be as much as a minute or more on some calls such as those involving criminal activity. “That minute can mean the difference in catching the suspect or their getting away.”

Wright also said SouthernLINC was the only wireless provider in areas affected by the April 27, 2011 tornados that maintained the ability to communicate.

The SouthernLINC system is a digital radio system with IDEN (Integrated Digital Enhanced Network) technology that meets federal public safety requirements.

The county’s VHF system had to be narrowbanded last year after the Federal Communications Commission mandated all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems switch from 25 kHz technology to 12.5 kHz or better technology by Jan. 1.

The mandate to have the radios narrowbanded left local governments, police and fire agencies to convert their equipment and shoulder the associated costs.

But for the SouthernLINC system, Wright said the E-911 board is funding the installation of 48 mobile radios in law enforcement vehicles, and municipalities will be able to pay for the handheld radio equipment they purchase over a three-year period.

“I was able to present a plan to the board that would allow a three-year plan for the agencies to purchase the needed equipment,” Wright said.

Handheld radios cost $850 each. The total amount each municipality will have to pay for the radios depends on how many officers they have.

Wright said the board is working to implement the switch to SouthernLINC in the next few months by installing the mobile radios in vehicles and making sure the equipment is working properly.

“We are moving forward with it,” Wright said. “We’re just trying to take our time and make sure we do everything right.”