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New Public Safety Radio System To Make Communication Easier

By Marissa Schwartz, Reporter, MarissaSchwartz@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Feb 25 2014 12:33:57 AM CST
New Public Safety Radio System To Make Communication Easier
SALINAS, Calif. -

In a life or death situation, communication is paramount for emergency crews.  We're learning more about a system that's going to be a game changer for local law enforcement and fire crews.  So if you're the victim of a crime or other type of emergency, officers said this new communications system called Next Generation Radio System or NGEN, will help them work more efficiently. 

A new system will basically cut the middle man out.  Right now when two departments are responding to the same incident, officers or firefighters can't speak directly to one another through their radio.

"We would say it on our end, then dispatch would then call their dispatcher who would then call that agency.  So we had a big delay time," said Salinas Police Commander Mike Groves.

Soon more than 30 different agencies in Monterey County will communicate more effectively as departments start to phase in a new system.  Emergency crews can get on one frequency to talk about a single incident.  But the Monterey County Department of Emergency Communications said there's a lot more bells and whistles they've been trying to bring online for several years now.  One of them is encryption.

"Transmissions are basically scrambled so that they're not heard by all the public," said Monterey County Department of Emergency Communications administrative manager DeAnna Hilbrants.

A policy for deciding what incidents are encrypted hasn't been established yet.  The county said it’s taken a while to get things going because some wireless communication sites need new communications towers, including two controversial sites, one Pebble Beach and another in Royal Oaks.

"So those sites go through the county's permitting process and a couple of those have had changes," Hilbrants said.

This week, county supervisors will look at beefing up funding by almost two million dollars to get things going faster.  Departments will also be able to talk with agencies in neighboring counties.

"Helps the officers to be able to communicate with each other quicker and that's the big benefit," Groves said.

The county said it also plans to work with local news agencies here on the central coast to come up with a plan once encryption starts, giving us the ability to still get the information, so we can get it to you.