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County radio system upgrades reduce some scanner police channels

Posted 27 November 2017 at 12:22 pm

Changes will make Orleans County’s radio interoperable with Genesee’s

Press Release, Orleans County and Doherty Communications

ALBION – Contractors and programmers have been upgrading Orleans County’s multi-million dollar public safety/public service radio system for approximately six weeks.

One of the most noticeable results for county residents is the loss of some of the police channels to scanner listeners.

“While it was not the principal reason for the upgrades, one result is that four additional talk groups have been encrypted, which means that any radio receiving the signal will hear nothing if it doesn’t have the de-cryption key,” said Kevin Doherty, whose local company manages the Radio and the 911 systems under contract to the county. “That includes actual radio system users. If a public safety radio isn’t programmed with the key, the affected talk group is silent for that user.”

Doherty added that the main reason for the hardware, software and programming changes is to integrate the Orleans County system with Genesee County’s, which is also manufactured and installed by Harris Communications.

“The key word is inter-operability, that is, making it as easy as practical for radio users from different agencies and now different counties to talk to each other,” he said.

Federal grant guidelines are moving users like Orleans County to a common platform, one which encrypts police communications.

“After the updates, we had encryption on the system and took a few of the existing talk groups out of the scannable mode,” Doherty said. “Scanner listeners can still hear police dispatches, as well as fire and ambulance transmissions, highway and OTS.”

Grant guidelines also call for reducing the number of 911 and dispatch centers, which Orleans County did in the early 1990’s, consolidating Medina’s 911 answering point into the county’s. Orleans County was also an early adopter of inter-operability within the county when the first, EF Johnson trunking radio system was installed at about the same time.

Every radio user had the opportunity to connect with every other user through template programming. Now, the county will permanently be in a network with Genesee County to provide the same interoperable functions. Work is being performed through a grant received by Genesee County from New York State’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and is anticipated to be completed by year’s end. Sharing those resources will result in better coverage of fringe zones in each county, Doherty said.

Further plans are in process for a similar result through different technologies with Monroe County. Those changes, when adopted, are projected to improve radio system connectivity in the Village of Holley and Orleans County’s east side.

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