Finally: Houston to upgrade emergency radio system

More than four years after the city learned it needed to upgrade its emergency radio system, and after several news stories questioning the lack of attention to the problem, Mayor White is finally ready to get the project underway:

Houston is poised to build a $107 million emergency radio system that will allow police, fire and rescue officials to communicate with one another in large-scale catastrophes.

The long-awaited update comes more than seven years after the struggles of first responders to communicate after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks drew national attention. The City Council could approve Mayor Bill White's contract with Motorola as soon as next week.

"This will make our law enforcement and public works emergency functions much more reliable as we grow in the future," White said Tuesday. "If we had done nothing, police or fire ran the risk of getting the equivalent of a busy signal over the next decade."

The contract will mean more than 10,000 new field radios for police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and utility workers. It will be the largest single purchase of equipment in Houston's history. The goal is to phase in the project, which will operate on a 700 MHz system, over the next four years, said Richard Lewis, the city's director for Information Technology.

Oh dear. Will Richard Lewis be overseeing the project?

The Chron's story reminds readers that Harris County's emergency radio system was upgraded years ago:

Harris County, which operates on an 800 MHz frequency, has been interoperable within its own system for years, said Steve Jennings, chief information officer for the county's Information Technology Center.

A series of upgrades through 2005 cost $41 million. Excluding the city of Houston, the county's nearly 20-year-old public safety radio system is one of the largest in the country, boasting 35,000 radios from 600 agencies and departments within about 230 jurisdictions, Jennings said.

The county has purchased 2,000 radios since April that can operate on both the 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequencies, he said. Another 8,000 radios will be converted to work on both frequencies by next June.

All radios should be capable of operating on both frequencies by 2012 or 2013, he added.

Harris County may not have all the trinkets Houston does, but it does know how to take care of the necessities.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 10/15/08 04:48 AM | Print |

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