VIDEO REPORT: New Emergency Radio System

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POSTED: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 --- 5:20 p.m.

After a back and forth over funding for more than 10 years a new emergency radio system is about to be a reality for Dane County.

First responders say tragic recent events prove it's necessary. They say their radios are their lifelines and this new technology could be the difference between life and death.

Fitchburg Fire Chief Randy Pickering says, "The one tool that every firefighter, law enforcement officer, paramedic, uses on every call is their radio."

For years first responders have struggled during large scale events.

The only way one police or fire department can talk to another is through dispatch.

It's slow and sometimes valuable information doesn't get passed along

Pickering says, "Communications makes all of that response efficient and as fast as they can."

That response is about keeping you safe.

The Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek is a tragic example of several different agencies rushing to a scene who all need to be able to talk to each other as quickly and easily as possible.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi says, "Having one seamless system can shave seconds off an emergency response and those seconds can save people's lives."

"DaneCom" is that one seamless system and it's about to be a reality in Dane County.

New construction will cost 18-million and it'll run more than 800-thousand dollars a year to keep the new network operating.

The cost will be split between towns, villages, cities and the county.

County Board Chair Scott McDonell says, "This was the hardest negotiation I've been through as county board chair."

For more than ten years there has been disagreement about who should have to pay for what.

Eventually the price came down and an agreement was reached.

McDonell says, "Everyone had to compromise to make this happen."

President of the Dane County Cities' and Villages' Association Mike Harried says, "It has been through a team effort and commitment."

First responders say the new system will help them, help you when you need it most.

Pickering says, "We were the ones helping our politicians understand how important this was."

The goal is to have the new system up and running by July of next year.


Dane County Release:

Surrounded by public safety officials from across Dane County, County Executive Joe Parisi led a ground-breaking this morning for the county’s new, $18 million emergency communications network known as ‘DaneCom.’

The groundbreaking was held near Verona, at the site of several radio tower sites that will comprise the new DaneCom system. Thanks to an unprecedented partnership between Dane County and dozens of its cities, villages, and towns, the new state-of-the-art system will substantially increase public safety, Parisi said.

“Whether it’s a car crash or fire, tornado, flood, or blizzard, responders from across our county work together everyday to keep us safe and this new radio system will help ensure a seamless, well-coordinated response,” Parisi said. “By partnering with communities throughout the county, we are able to make a significant investment in public safety despite historically difficult economic times. Despite the boundaries that divide our cities, villages, and towns DaneCom will make it easier for public safety responders to work together and save lives.”

DaneCom can seamlessly link emergency responders and public works officials – from sheriff’s deputies to snow plow drivers – on one ultra-modern radio network. This will be particularly helpful in improving communication for emergencies that involve a regional effort – for example, the Stoughton tornado, or the county’s historic Groundhog’s Day blizzard of 2011.

The new DaneCom system includes a variety of state of the art features including expanded coverage to rural areas and reliability. It also includes a tactical system designed to make it easier for firefighters to communicate from on the scenes of building fires.

Harris Corporation, the company selected by representatives from DaneCom’s project partners to build the network has guaranteed a high level of coverage throughout the entire county. After the system is complete, the company will conduct hundreds of manual quality safety checks throughout Dane County to ensure coverage and operability.

The system also includes enhanced technology to create communication bridges, allowing responders using different networks to talk with one another. The bridges will connect to a statewide radio system, as well as smaller systems operated by local cities.

On Thursday the Dane County Board will vote on the resolution authorizing the County Executive to sign the dozens of intergovernmental agreements from cities, villages, and towns that will create DaneCom’s funding and governing structure.

Under the terms of agreements signed by the municipalities, Dane County will pay the capital costs of constructing the new system – about $18 million. The county, cities, villages, and towns will share the ongoing cost to operate and maintain the network, estimated at $825,000 annually.

Cost-sharing agreements for DaneCom will be determined in the years ahead by the "DaneCom Governing Board " comprised of representatives of Dane County, the Dane County Cities and Villages and Dane County Towns Associations, the Dane County Chiefs of Police, Dane County EMS Association, and Dane County Fire Chiefs Associations.

Construction of DaneCom is anticipated to be complete in 2013.