New Emergency Radio System In Place

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

April 2, 2006

A new 800-megahertz emergency radio system was launched in our area Sunday. It was the first day, of the next 30 days, in which emergency crews will slowly go on line with what they say is a much improved radio system.

"Historically, the different agencies over time had different networks, different name brands, different equipment, different frequencies, different bands that they operated [on]," explained Charlottesville Battalion Chief, David Hartman. "Now, this network basically brought everybody together."

Local fire and police departments, for the first time ever, are now able to talk directly with one another thanks to the new emergency radio system. Both police officers and fire fighters say it's a huge improvement that will save valuable time, when it counts the most.

"When we respond to fires we can go directly with fire command to see what they're doing [and] what they've got, or if we have situations that involve both the city and county police departments," said Sgt. Stephen Upman, of the Charlottesville Police Department.

"All the fire departments within the city and the county can now speak on any one channel they choose to go to and talk together," said Hartman.

The idea to bring everyone together has been in the works since 1995, and the new system will also eliminate areas where signals were once weak. Starting Sunday, the County and City are 99% covered, according to Hartman.

"Now we have the ability to pass on critical information and with a better rate of assurance, we're going to receive that information as we're traveling through the city and the county," he said.

Most importantly, according to both police and fire rescue, it is local residents that will benefit the most from the more efficient lines of communication.

"When we go on calls we'll be able to talk directly with one another, which makes us more efficient on those calls, and just give better service to the public," said Upman.

The system will also allow the University Police, the Sheriffs Department, the jail, and just about everyone in the city and county to talk to each other on the same channel, if needed. Six new radio towers were also constructed. The testing over the next few weeks will determine if more are needed.

The cost of the new system is $18 million. About a third of that money came from a Homeland Security Grant.

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