911 Emergency Radio System Failing In Everett And Snohomish County

January 18, 2018

Everett, Police Blotter

Outdated emergency radio systems are beginning to fail with spare parts nearly impossible to find.

While emergency communications systems have undergone computer upgrades and computer aided dispatch systems allow both police and firefighters to share information almost instantly one pillar of emergency communications in our area hasn’t been upgraded in almost 20 years. The basic police and fire radios. Now the Motorola Radio System used by emergency responders is failing and at the end of its life expectancy and Snohomish County officials need to come up with a plan to ask voters to approve 75 million dollars in new taxes to pay for a modern digital radio system. Here’s a press release issued today outlining the issue:

Local public safety leaders from throughout Snohomish County – including police and fire chiefs as well as locally elected officials, have sent a direct request to members of Snohomish County Council and County Executive Somers asking they take “urgent action” to help replace Snohomish County’s obsolete and potentially-failing, 20-year old emergency 911 radio system.

The direct and “urgent” request was made for a “countywide funding mechanism” to purchase a new radio system in a letter to county officials from Board members of SERS, the Snohomish County Emergency Radio System, a non-profit, public agency serving 50 police and fire agencies throughout the County.

In the letter to County officials, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring. SERS Board president, wrote: “Funding is needed to replace Snohomish County’s outdated, analog emergency radio system. Soon our two-way radios will no longer be supported by the manufacturer and already are at increased risk of failing. A new, digital, P25 radio system is much needed, Mayor Nehring stated. P25 is a national standard designed to enhance interoperability between radio manufactures and radio systems.

“In 2020, SERS countywide 20-year old, obsolete emergency radio system reaches its projected end-of-life. Radios now used by responders from 50 police and fire agencies will no longer be serviceable. No longer supported by its manufacturer, radio replacement parts are increasingly unavailable. Resulting increased risk of emergency radio system breakdowns and failure is unacceptable and must be avoided. A funding mechanism is urgently needed to finance a replacement for Snohomish County’s current 911 emergency radio system,” Mayor Nehring said.

Three years ago SERS engaged the international consulting firm, Stantec, to do a two-part, technical study analyzing the County’s future radio system needs. The consultants found the existing radio system had deteriorated with age and was in need of replacement. Stantec preliminarily estimated capital costs to replace the radio system in the $70-75 million range.

Last year Snohomish County’s Purchasing Division issued a request for competitive bid proposals (RFP) to procure a new countywide radio system. Four potential bidders have expressed interest in bidding on the project and a contract will be awarded this year to a successful bidder.

Counties throughout the state have already obtained voter approval of special countywide ballot propositions of funding measures to finance upgrading their similarly, obsolete emergency radio systems. Counties already taking action include: Pierce, King, Spokane, Cowlitz, Pacific, Thurston and Benton counties. Voters in each county authorized tax measures to fund multi-year projects to design, equip and install a new countywide emergency radio systems.

“Snohomish County is the only local government empowered by state law to authorize countywide financial resources needed to fund a new radio system. This proposal represents the broadest possible consensus of local public safety and elected local government leaders of what needs to be done to replace our obsolete, analog system,” said SERS Board Vice Chair, Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith.

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary, stated he supports replacing the SERS radio system as soon as possible. The Sheriff cited a December 8, 2017 letter sent to the County Council from the Snohomish County Sheriff and Police Chiefs Association. “Leaders of local law enforcement agencies from throughout Snohomish County know that our first responders must have reliable and dependable radios to communicate with each other and with the County’s 911 call dispatch center. Our responders cannot effectively and safely respond to police, fire and emergency medical emergencies without reliable and dependable two-way radios,” Sheriff Trenary said.

A letter from the Snohomish County Fire Chief’s Association stated: “As Fire Chiefs we will support the County taking necessary actions to authorize a dedicated,countywide, equitable funding source for Snohomish County’s emergency radio system…We unanimously decided to respectfully request that our elected Snohomish County leaders take necessary actions as soon as possible to replace our county’s outdated emergency radio system. Accordingly, we respectfully urge that you approve the necessary financial resources to fund a new P25 emergency radio system.” The letter was signed by Fire District 22 Chief, Travis Hots, the group’s president.


About myeverettnews

My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring breaking news and events in Everett, WA. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live and work in Everett. It's written by Leland Dart a former Snohomish County based radio reporter born and raised in Everett.

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