Patches and mutual aid
Ozaukee County handles interoperability through a single radio system, mutual aid channels, radio patches — and meetings.
“Interoperability has a broad definition,” said Duane Willborn, radio and telephone systems manager for the county in Wisconsin. “We have a users’ group within the county … we meet probably every three months. We talk high-speed chase policies, emergency operations as far as what happens with hazmat stuff. We discuss holding traffic to a minimum when there is a multi-agency emergency.”
The county also uses a M/A-Com EDACS system that it bought in 1991 for $4.5 million.
“When we moved to EDACS, it was huge political issue because of the money. We had two police departments with brand new conventional systems,” Willborn said. “With Sept. 11, they said ‘enough of this. Our equipment has aged. EDACS is here and proven; it’s time to move.’”
Willborn said that over time, those departments discontinued installing 800 MHz and didn’t have enough units to move over to EDACS. “They wanted the rest of the county to hear them, but most of us had removed our conventional equipment.”
So the county set up a “hard patch” with an audio delay because “when you’re going from conventional to trunked, there’s a key-up delay.”
Communications was tested when a 50-car pileup occurred a few years ago, and “we had six cars spread along the five-mile pileup talking back and forth continuously.”
Other counties have 800-MHz systems, but not the same manufacturer or service provider. Willborn said that Ozaukee can communicate via mutual-aid frequencies. “Those work on our radios, and so that presents little problem.”