Equipment failure forces early switch of fire departments to digital system


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A radio equipment failure Thursday forced the Shawnee County Emergency Communications Center to switch several fire departments over to its new digital system earlier than planned, an official said Friday.
Capt. Lance Royer, director of the Emergency Communications Center, said in an email a failure in Walkie talkie equipment providing the link between the 911 center and its master site for the older analog system necessitated a switch to the countys backup plan. The center had to use control stations for its 911 center and fire units in the field, Royer said.
Royer said control stations are radios that remain stationary in the Law Enforcement Center and are attached to an antenna outside the building. They serve as a backup if the dispatch console fails, he said.
While the county already had deployed new 2 way Radio units to the Topeka, Mission Township, Shawnee Heights and Soldier Township fire departments, Royer said, they had been using those on the old analog system because four rural fire departments hadnt yet received the new radios.
We intended to earmark a date to go live for all fire agencies, Royer said.
But because of Thursdays system failure, the county decided to move the departments with the new radios over to the new P25 digital radio system immediately.
The other four rural fire departments Dover, Auburn, Silver Lake and Rossville still are using the analog system communication to the 911 center using its backup plan, Royer said.
The county will issue new portable radios to those remaining departments next week, and they will move onto the new digital system, Royer said. At that point, all Shawnee County public safety agencies except American Medical Response ambulance service will be functioning on the new digital system.
Royer said AMR is currently programming its radios and soon will make the switch to the new system.
Launch dates for the digital communication system have been pushed back multiple times this year. It was initially expected to launch by the end of March, but at that time new radios were still being installed in emergency responders vehicles.
The digital system from Motorola Solutions Inc. cost $12.1 million, according to Capital-Journal archives. Officials said the system would replace a 15-year-old analog system that was outdated to the point where Motorola could no longer repair some equipment that was broken.