In 2008 Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch began the process of evaluating and upgrading the current VHF radio system. A federal mandate from the FCC stated all licensees of frequencies in the VHF range of 150-174 had to narrowband their radio emissions by December 31st of 2012.
Due to the fact that many of the radios in the county were not narrowband capable, and the fact that the FCC was possibly going to narrowband those same frequencies again in the future, Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch made the decision to migrate to a new radio system.
Discussions began on a region wide system of communications, involving numerous area counties on both sides of the river, and the City of Saint Louis. Currently Saint Charles County, Saint Louis County and Jefferson County are building a regional interoperable radio system. This is a P25 Compliant 800 MHz system, which will allow direct communications for public safety in all 3 Missouri Counties, City of Saint Louis, and 3 Counties in Illinois.
The Board of Directors for Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch made the decision to place a tax initiative on the ballot for the April 2009 Election. The use of the funding was to support the 911 service, provide a reverse emergency notification system (CodeRed) to the citizens of the county, replace the existing radio system with the new 800 MHz system, abolish the surcharge on land line telephones for 911, and to eliminate the fees paid by emergency service agencies for dispatching. This tax passed overwhelmingly by the voters, and we began collecting the tax in October of 2009.
In the following months, both Saint Louis County and Saint Charles County also passed a tax initiative to fund their new radio systems.
Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch contracted with Motorola Solutions to design and build out the system for our County. The design specifies the need for a total of 18 towers throughout the county to provide radio coverage at an acceptable reliability rate. This will give public safety officers the much needed two way communications they require when dealing with multi jurisdictional emergencies. It will also give them the ability to have communications with other counties in the region when handling large scale incidents.
The communication towers are designed and located in areas of the county to provide line of sight communications with a microwave back bone supporting the transportation of voice and data. The system is designed to be redundant, in the event communications are severed at 1 tower site, the system will continue to operate with little or no degradation.
The towers being constructed need to be of a specific height to support the Microwave back bone and the RF antennas needed for the public safety communications system. The current cellular towers in the county do not have the height or tower space needed for our equipment. The new towers are being designed to accommodate up to 3 commercial carriers as well. These towers vary in height throughout the county from 175 foot to 490 foot, depending on location and terrain.
We have been granted a waiver from the FCC, extending our deadline to narrowband until December 31st 2013. This will give Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch an additional year to complete the build out of the new radio system. It is our plan to have the system operational at that time, and new radios deployed to our emergency service agencies.
Information on the radio project will be updated, as the project progresses.