“It (narrowband) reduces the audio that you actually hear out of the speaker; it’s not as loud because the frequencies are so narrow,” he said. “So everybody’s wanting to go ahead and just go digital. That way, they can get that audio part back.”
Winchester Police Chief Kevin Palmer said local first responders have been preparing for the changes since late 2009.
“There’s only so many frequencies in the air for radios to be on, and with the addition of wireless technologies, it’s getting crowded up there in the airways,” Palmer said. “So they’re moving emergency services to a narrower band. It’s like turning the channel.”
The digital radios also are compliant with Project 25, or P25, a federal, state and local effort to move public safety users to the same radio system. Any P25 device can communicate with another.
P25-compliant devices can also communicate with analog radios to help agencies during the transition from analog to completely digital.
Palmer said the police department wrote the grant for radio equipment for all the local first responder departments, and has been providing each with digital radios as the equipment arrives. Every department won’t be completely digital by the time they’re required to go narrowband, but dispatch will have the capability to talk to both digital and analog radios, he said.
The new infrastructure needed to communicate with P25 devices is being funded through grants from the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, said Clark County CSEPP Director Gary Epperson.
Most of the grant funding for the new equipment locally is coming from the Bluegrass Area Development District and theU.S. Department of Homeland Security, Epperson said.
A benefit of the digital radios, Palmer said, is that officers and deputies will have better reception in more rural areas and will have encryption capabilities if necessary.
“A third option that will help us in digital, is we will be able to identify the officer as soon as he keys up the mic and locate him, even if he doesn’t speak to us,” Palmer said.
Palmer said communication between first responders will still be in a public domain.
“This is meaning nothing to the public, until you say the word ‘scanner.’ The police department is not against scanners, because sometimes it’s helpful that our radio traffic is in a public domain,” he said. “It will still be in a public domain, except they will have to have the capabilities to receive our digital signal.”
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