Digital Radios to Provide Seamless Communication for Huntsville’s First Responders

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The City of Huntsville announced Thursday it has purchased and received 1,026 new interoperability radios that will provide police and fire officers the highest level of communication in public safety services.

The APX 25, 700 MH digital radios will enable Huntsville’s first responders to cover the City’s 204 square miles without a break in communication. The devices cost $3.25 million and were funded through a Department of Homeland Security grant award through the 2011 Assistance to Firefighters program in the amount of $824,403.81, with the balance paid through the City’s recent bond transaction at an interest rate of less than one percent.

 “This is a significant investment for the City and for the future of our public safety services,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “We are moving from a 23 year old analog system to the digital world, and a City as technologically smart as Huntsville must stay on the cutting edge of innovation.”

Citing public safety as a top priority, Mayor Battle said the enhanced radio system was needed to eliminate pockets of communication “dead zones” for police and fire officers. With Huntsville’s expansions westward into Limestone County and eastward over the mountains to Hampton Cove, First Responders needed a reliable system. The new radios will eliminate dropouts and provide additional safety and security features. A panic button allows officers to instantly summon help, and the radios are shock and water resistant, something the fire department requires.

 However, it is the radios interoperability and programming capabilities that will provide the highest level of service for public safety officers.

 “The new radios will allow us to communicate with all the other emergency responders in Madison County, agencies we work with on a daily basis such as HEMSI,” said Police Chief Lewis Morris. “Having direct field contact with other agencies will allow us to share critical information with each other as we respond to incidents.”

 The City anticipates other counties will be purchasing compatible radio systems in the near future. This will allow Huntsville’s Hazardous Material Team, which serves all of North Alabama, to have direct communications with other departments.

“Huntsville’s implementation of this interoperable equipment lays the ground work for others to participate,” said Fire Chief Michael Sublett. “In the future, seamless communications with all Alabama fire departments could be a reality. If we sustain a large-scale disaster, the ability to effectively communicate would significantly improve our ability to protect life and property on a state-wide level.”

 According to the Chiefs, the critical need for a seamless communication network was never more evident than during the April 2011 tornado strikes.  

 “We are unique in North Alabama with public safety agencies that work and train together and will use this new system to its greatest advantage,” said City Administrator Rex Reynolds.  “We are fortunate to have a Mayor who recognized this need and stepped up to make it possible, and we are proud to be the first in the state of Alabama to have this system.”

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