Digital E-911 system improves officer safety/communication

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

County E911 Center, along with the Barry County Sheriff Department and Cassville Police Department, has been using a new communication system. The new digital system, known as Missouri Statewide Wireless Inoperable Network (MOSWIN), is a substantial improvement over the prior system according to Mike Phillips, Barry County E-911 director.

"I think in the long run it will be a better system for Barry County with improved officer safety," Phillips said.

The new system was made possible by grants from the state. Both the Barry County Sheriff Department and Cassville Police Department traded old frequencies that the state wanted in exchange for aid in upgrading to the new system and the purchase of equipment.

"We were able to get in on tier one because they needed these frequencies," Epperly said. "So I allowed them to have them because we were no longer going to use them because we were going to have to update to digital anyway."

The Barry County Sheriff's Department received $160,000 in grants and equipment from the state as part of the tier one trade off. The Cassville Police Department also took advantage of the tier one trade with just under $60,000 in grants and equipment. Additionally, Barry County E911 Center received $30,000 from the state to upgrade its system.

Phillips explained that the new system is maintained and monitored by the state, which is beneficial to 911 center.

"Quite honestly the sophistication that they have at these sites is greater than what we could do here locally," Phillips said. "They measure the temperature of the room in Jefferson City, so they know if the air conditioning goes out. We wouldn't know on our end here until the system stops working."

The new system was designed to allow for communication between different agencies. According to Phillips, Homeland Security wanted to eliminate communication issues that arose from events such as 9/11. Ease of communication is something that Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr, has already noticed.

"I was in Pineville on a portable in a building and talked to an officer in a building in Cassville, and it was just like he was standing next to me," Kammerlohr said. "Even in my car radio with the old system I couldn't do it."

Epperly said his officers have also noticed more range and clarity with the new system. However, according to Epperly there are still some minor issues that are being addressed.

"The south part of county around Shell Knob and Golden we have to switch our radios to the old south repeater," Epperly said. "We have addressed that problem with the highway patrol and they are looking into it, and possibly putting another antenna down there which would take care of it."

While equipment for the new system is more expensive than the conventional equipment, both the sheriff's department and police department will be able to purchase the equipment at nearly half the price since the system is under a state contract with Motorola.

Another upgrade to the system is that the new radios are equipped with a panic button. This allows an officer in the field to simply hit a button to notify dispatch they need help without having to talk into the microphone. Phillips said this upgrade could help in case the officer is unable to speak or does not want to alarm a suspect.

According to Phillips and Epperly, both have received several calls from citizens unable to listen to the digital system on their home scanners. Phillips explained that individuals need to buy a digital scanner as the conventional scanners cannot receive the digital signal.

"We are not trying to make it so the public can't listen," Epperly said. "I hope someday the price for the digital scanners goes down and they [the public] can come back and keep assisting us."

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