FCC rules impact officers, deputies

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

According to a rule enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), all private land mobile radio users operating below 512 megahertz must move to a 12.5 kilohertz narrow band voice channel by the end of the year.

"The narrow banding mandates will have little effect on the 911 Center," said Mike Phillips, Barry County E-911 director. "The majority of our equipment or radios are already narrow banding compliant.

"There will be costs with the modification of the radio license but that will be minimal because the majority of our radio licenses are already narrow band," said Phillips. "The big impact will be on the local police and sheriff department."

Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr said the city has budgeted $2,000 for the changes that will need to be made in order to make the police department compliant with the new rules.

"We will need to change our FCC license, and our radios will have to be reconfigured to meet the mandate," said Kammerlohr. "Our licensing has already been processed, and we have talked to the individual who works on our radios so that he knows what we need and want."

The changes will only alter the department's communications equipment. No changes will be made in response procedures or operations, said Kammerlohr.

The police department plans to change to the narrow band frequency at the same time as the Barry County Sheriff's Department completes the transition, said Kammorlohr. Sheriff Mick Epperly hopes to complete the change by June.

"The state needed some of our frequencies, so our changes will be funded by the state in exchange for the frequencies," said Epperly. "Otherwise, this change would have cost the county several thousands of dollars. It is a good deal for us."

Epperly said that the sheriff's department will receive the radios and repeaters, which will be installed in deputy vehicles, in order to comply with the narrow band rules.

"After this change is complete, our portable radios will be able to key up and hit the repeaters in the cars," said Epperly. "We should be able to talk to a deputy in Jefferson City. Our communications will reach out a lot farther.

"This is a win-win situation for Barry County," said Epperly. "When you have to make the change anyway and you can do it at no cost, it's a good deal."

Epperly said the change is also designed to improve communications among law enforcement and other emergency services during major disasters and emergencies.

"Once they have updated their systems, we will reprogram our radios to accept the new (frequencies)," said Phillips.

Area law enforcement officials will be meeting over the next few weeks to discuss how the narrow banding requirements will impact city storm sirens.

"The storm sirens are set off by a wide band frequency," said Phillips. "This must be updated to narrow banding by the deadline. I do not know if all the sirens are able to be upgraded or if they need to be replaced for them to still work.

"Some cities might not be interested in upgrading them due to people having weather updates and weather radios," said Phillips.

The narrow banding mandate is designed to double or quadruple the avaliable bandwidth, which is utilized by a variety of data and video applications.

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