Launch Slideshow

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Loud and Clear

Loud and Clear

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    Photo: David Buchmueller

    Last year, the Maintenance Department for Cumberland County, N.C., spent $71,000 on 59 digital two-way radios with carrying cases. Supervisors like Albert Brunson can text-message each other, or call an individual, a group of technicians, or all technicians in the field simultaneously.

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    Photo: David Buchmueller

    Maintenance systems specialist Milton Zandiotis, also known as the “Keeper of the Parts,” coordinates requests from technicians whether they're on the road or working in the basement of one of Cumberland County's 80 buildings.

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    Photo: David Buchmueller

    Administrative assistant Peggy Price no longer worries about dropping two-way radio calls to or from supervisors and maintenance technicians working throughout 661-square-mile Cumberland County.

BUILDING A SYSTEM GRADUALLY

Many of today's digital two-way radios can operate in both analog and digital modes, giving customers the flexibility to integrate new units with existing antennas, chargers, and conditioners, and allowing them to improve functionality, add new features, and increase capacity at their own pace.

When asked if his department was able to reuse existing components, Brunson laughs.

“With the old radios, you either communicated or you didn't,” he says. “The system wasn't great even in its day.”

Once the county's radio tower was enhanced from analog to digital, the department migrated to digital simultaneously. Radio users found the new system immediately solved a number of problems. And the county's proximity to the U.S. Army base Fort Bragg notwithstanding, technicians experience very little interference.

“Amerizon [the department's Motorola distributor] has done a great job of managing frequencies,” says Brunson. “There are certain areas in the county were we experience interference, but we know not to transmit in those zones.”

One example is a section of roadway that lies below a high-band VHF spectrum. Another trouble spot is the newly constructed animal control building, where certain materials, including the tin roof, limit communication capability.

To correct the problem, Amerizon created a talk-around network for direct communication among personnel within the building. To communicate with other departments, animal control employees must step outside. But because they don't regularly talk to other departments, they consider the requirement a minor inconvenience.

THE NEXT STEP

“We were able to provide the best device for our guys in the trenches,” says Brunson. “The technicians are especially happy with the unit's light weight and the ability to communicate across the county.”

While the two-way radios meet the specific needs of the county's group-oriented communications and dispatch environment, the GPS and telemetry functionality is ready and waiting.

Even though the all-in-one unit eliminates the need to carry a separate pager and mobile device, Brunson and other department heads still carry county cell phones. Their technicians carry personal cell phones.

“You have to stay connected to maintain information dominance,” says Brunson.

— Katherine Frisch is a freelance writer based in Lakewood, Ohio, and former editor of Government Procurement magazine.

Web extra: For product information on two-way radios, visit the “product features” page under “products” at www.pwmag.com.