Statewide Radio Channel Paying Dividends
By Chris Wright, News On 6
COWETA, OK -- The Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security wants to make sure that Oklahoma's police and fire departments, and first responders are on the same frequency during emergencies.
After four years and $40 million, it says its statewide radio channel is paying dividends.
Communication during a crisis is critical, but until recently, officials say it just wasn't possible in many parts of Oklahoma.
It may seem simple, but officials say broadcasting on a same frequency state-wide is a big deal.
"Before this system, you have a lot of different agencies that would have their own frequency, they could not talk to each other," said Lt. Gov. Jari Askins.
Askins touted the 800 MHz frequency program in Coweta on Wednesday. Coweta is one of the final towns to tune into phase one of the program.
That means nearly all emergency personnel in communities along the I-44 corridor from the Texas border to the Missouri line can now broadcast on the frequency.
The Department of Homeland Security provided the money for the program.
"We have a great system that's been put in place, and make communities like Coweta safer. I look forward to expanding that across the state," said Kenny Pettingill of the Oklahoma Dept. of Homeland Security.
The system works much like your cell phone system. A series of towers have been installed up and down the I-44 corridor. So no matter where they are, departments can tune in using the 800 MHz frequency.
"This is a huge tool for law enforcement to help them solve crimes, but it's also a public safety issue, and an officer safety issue," said Askins.
The most recent department to go online says communication, and coordination, among emergency personnel is critical.
Coweta police say figuring out how to get in touch with one another wastes valuable time.
"For any emergency service personnel, that's huge. That's life-saving time, every second counts," said Coweta Police Department Lt. Donnie Crumsiek.
Askins would like to secure funding for phase two of the 800 MHz system.
The second phase would expand the system, and allow every agency in the state to use it.