Balto. Co. unveils $76 million emergency dispatch system

Baltimore County officials announced Thursday that they have launched a $76 million radio system for police, fire and other emergency crew members designed to improve sound quality, cover more territory and make transmission more reliable.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told a gathering at the Circuit Court building in Towson that emergency communications equipment is "one of the most important public safety investments that any community can make." Like new bulletproof vests for the police or a new fire engine, he said, the new digital system improves emergency crew members' "ability to protect our community."

Police Chief Jim Johnson said the new system would allow for more clear and reliable transmissions and had "virtually eliminated" gaps in communications. Transmission has in the past been spotty in parts of the county, mostly because of topography or distance from transmission towers. More transmission stations and better radios will improve on that performance and also improve communications with emergency crew members inside buildings.

Rob Stradling, director of the Office of Information Technology, said the new digital system replaced the analog version that was 21 years old. The county built six towers and added equipment to four existing towers to boost the total number of transmission stations from eight to 18.

The system upgrade includes a new emergency call center. County funds — approved by referendum in 2006 — cover $71 million of the cost; the balance was made up in state and federal money.

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