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Jul 28

Public Safety Radio Communications

Posted on July 28, 2015 at 7:52 a.m. by johnb johnb

Orange County has been a nationally recognized leader in public safety communications since the first County-wide radio system in 1934. For the last 65 years, the County and all municipalities enjoyed discipline-specific inter-operability, with the availability of direct radio communication between police agencies and Orange County Communications. In 1999, Orange County Communications and every municipal agency implemented the current 800 MHz Countywide Coordinated Communications System (CCCS). This current iteration of the CCCS provides all-discipline inter-operability, an expansion which allowed agencies from various segments of the public safety system to directly communicate via radio. Now, police officers can talk directly with members of other public agencies, such as firefighters, lifeguards, and public works representatives. The CCCS has gained national recognition as a model of an inter-operable radio system. 

The current iteration of the CCCS was expected to reach end of life several years ago. However, due to the proactive work of Orange County Communications and the partner agencies, that life was extended to approximately 2018. Currently, and over the next several years, the County and every municipality will be replacing radio equipment to implement the next generation of the CCCS. This includes new Dispatch consoles, mobile radios in police and fire vehicles, and handheld radios for every member of the Brea Police and Fire Departments. The City’s Public Works Department will receive an allotment of radios for its field personnel. Also, the system’s backbone, which runs the entire inter-operable system, will be replaced.

The importance of interoperability cannot be overstated. In an emergency incident, such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or significant crime, the ability of allied public safety agencies to directly communicate can be the crucial element in saving and protecting lives. One of the lessons learned in the 9/11 tragedy was that a lack of radio communications between responding agencies contributed to difficulties in rescue and evacuation efforts. The CCCS enjoyed by Orange County agencies provides dozens of available radio channels that can be accessed from any mobile or handheld radio. Some of these channels are intended for countywide coordination during emergency situations, and others for selected regions of the county to allow coordination of neighboring jurisdiction agencies. The system also provides alternate channels for each agency’s local operations, allowing non-emergency or routine radio traffic to be conducted, keeping the agency’s primary channel open for emergency operations.

Initial estimates on the cost of system replacement were approximately $158 million countywide. However, due to early proactive work and the fact that the hardware has cost less than anticipated to date, that figure is likely to go down. The City of Brea will spend approximately $3 million total by the time our portion of the project is complete. Some of that has already been contributed through backbone construction cost sharing. The Brea City Council recently authorized the expenditure of the remaining cost to purchase all of the equipment necessary, including dispatching consoles, mobile radios, and handheld radios.

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