County's emergency vehicles getting multi-county connectivity

Monday, May 1, 2006
Jeff Henretty, from Smith's Two Way Radio, installed the new AWIN system into a Berryville fire truck. "These will be used for large emergencies," said Henretty. "For example, if there was a break out of disease or illness in another county, people on the scene could be in contact with agencies state-wide." Virginia Wietecha / Carroll County News

CARROLL COUNTY-- More than 25 emergency vehicles throughout Carroll County will soon have the capability to directly communicate between local agencies, as well as surrounding counties.

"Locally, we mostly have the capability to communicate on the same radio frequency," said Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey, "what this is bringing to the table is a multi-county connection."

Tom Duggar, director of the Carroll County Office of Emergency Management, said the system is in addition to the ones the police already have, and will only be used in emergencies.

"For example, if there was a missing child or elderly person down towards Madison County, and a man-hunt was called, with this equipment the fire departments, the sheriff departments, and other agencies will be able to communicate without using dispatchers," said Duggar.

The Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN) is a state-wide project "created to design and deliver a single, reliable, shared-use wireless voice and data system that provides statewide coverage and interoperability to public safety and public service entities," according to the Office of Information Technology.

"The system is a spin-off from 9/11," said Duggar. "Homeland security decided we needed to protect ourselves."

In fact, grant monies from the federal Homeland Security funded the project. "We received quite a bit more than $100,000 for the systems."

He said the same agency funded the project for the state police and for each county.

"In the case of a disaster, we would call the State Police in Springdale, who have the radio capabilities to link up and put us all on one frequency, they call them 'talk groups," he said. "This way they can talk direct.

"When the disaster is over, they will then put us back to our different frequencies."

However, the AWIN Motorola radio system will only be dispersed among the commanding officers in their departments including the three chiefs of police, the ten fire chiefs, and the supervisors at the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

In the past couple of days, 13 radios have been installed by Smith's Two Way Radio out of Fayetteville, and they plan to return and finish the job within the next two weeks.

"They have installed radios in every county within 100 mile radius," said Duggar. "They've probably sold 400 to 500 systems."

Bailey said his new radio had "a ton of features," including an alert button and a telephone.

"If something somewhere happens throughout the state, once we were out of area, our former means of communication would be through unreliable cell phones.

"Now, if something major happened two counties over, and they needed our assistance, we could be in constant communication while on our way there, and we would know the details before we even arrived on the scene."

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