New ChesCo emergency radio system one step closer

The Chester County Commissioners have authorized staff to work out final details of a contract with Harris Corporation for $27.4 million to replace the county’s emergency radio system, and $14.7 million for maintenance of the system for an additional eight years following installation.

Chester County operates an emergency voice radio system that provides emergency voice communication for the County’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services responders. The current system was installed in the early 1990s and the technology is becoming obsolete and the equipment is in need of replacement.

“Every day, our current emergency radio communication system is used to provide dispatch and on-scene communications for about 800 incidents, which result in over 8,000 individual radio transmissions,” said Chester County Commissioners Chair Ryan Costello. “As the county population continues to grow, so too will the usage of the communication system.We have reached the point where a decision must be made to upgrade our communications capability, not only for our citizens, but also for the safety of the first responders – many of them volunteers.”

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone commented:  “[This] authorization follows a thorough review of the county’s emergency radio communication needs, both now, and what will be required in the future. The process began with the creation of an advisory group led by our Department of Emergency Services, with representatives from the first responder community and other stakeholders.  This group focused on the county’s needs for design and implementation.  I thank every member for their advice and dedication.”

“One of our main priorities is to ensure a safe and secure community here in Chester County.  But we also have a responsibility to protect the fiscal well-being of the county and spend our dollars wisely. ]\ This new emergency radio system is vital to the communication needs of our 5,000-plus first responders, and it uses existing infrastructure and a pre-planned modernization scheme to keep it in use for many years to come,” said Commissioner Terence Farrell.”

The Commissioners released a Request for Proposal for the new emergency radio system in July 2011. The criteria for the RFP was developed in cooperation with representation from Chester County’s emergency responder community, which included an extensive review of the current and future communication needs of police, fire and EMS personnel. Several responses were received from top industry firms.

Ed Atkins, Director of Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services commented: “A public safety radio system is more than just a part of an integrated Emergency Communications System – it is often the lifeline for our first responders when they need immediate assistance.  A Voice Radio System that provides the best coverage and needed functionality is critical to the safety of our first responders and that level of protection is what the Board of Commissioners is committed to.”

The new emergency radio system will be a P25 Phase II design which avoids the cost associated with a federally mandated transition from Phase I to Phase II for the 700 Megahertz (MHz) band in 2017.  The system design includes remote transmitter/receiver sites configured in two fully-linked cells, modifications to the microwave transport system that connects the remote sites to the 9-1-1 Operations Center in the Chester County Government Services Center in West Goshen Township, replacement 9-1-1 consoles, and field equipment for the emergency responders, including 1,221 mobile (vehicle-mounted) radios, 2,750 hand-held radios, and 132 control stations for emergency responder station applications.

The presidents of the Chester County Chiefs of Police (Brian Sheller), Fire Chiefs Association (Ray Stackhouse) and EMS Council (Keith Johnson) issued the following statement: “We are pleased that this day has come and that a new radio system will ensure necessary on-street and in-building communication, and better audio quality, reliability and security.   We thank the Commissioners for recognizing the need for this investment and for taking the bold step to bring it to fruition. We wish to recognize all of our first responders who contributed to the advisory group over the past four years, and we especially thank the citizens of Chester County for placing their trust in us to keep them safe.”

The contract with Harris Corporation is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Commissioners at a February Sunshine Meeting.  If approved, Harris would begin work on upgrades immediately.


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