Santa Cruz County's new system to improve radio communication fo - Tucson News Now

Santa Cruz County's new system to improve radio communication for first responders

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

In December 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed after being shot while tracking suspected border bandits, and it was the interaction between local, state and federal first responders during this incident that encouraged the Santa Cruz County emergency department to begin looking for ways to improve their emergency communication system.

"The community responders couldn't directly talk with Border Patrol," said the county's emergency management director Ray Sayre. "So, we've been working on a project since that time to increase radio coverage for Santa Cruz County."

In just a few weeks, the county's emergency communication system will have two new sites added to its wireless radio channel. This was approved by the county's board of supervisors Wednesday, April 5.

A third site is set will be added in a few months.

"Communications ... it runs across all the sectors," said Sayre. "It's really critical, and when you can't deal with communications, everything else begins to fail."

Sayre said the county tried to enhance their existing radio system, known as the Arizona Intra-operable Radio System (AIRS) but due to some structural issues, those improvements weren't possible.

This new three-site system is expected to expand communication coverage for local, state, and federal law enforcement within Santa Cruz County from about 17 percent coverage up to 95 percent.

"If we have a wildfire event and the sheriff's department is helping with evacuations and a fire agency is dealing with firefighting, they can now talk to each other and coordinate their activities," said Sayre.

The project is being paid for by grants given to the county from the Department of Homeland Security.

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