Posted by: GW7AAV | September 18, 2009

What price public safety?

St. Johns County Florida is in Hurricane country and good communication between county public safety officials and the various emergency services are essential. A 20-year-old VHF system has been proving inadequate for some time. At present each message must go through a dispatcher rather than direct when often the two officials are only a couple of blocks apart. The Federal Communications Commission has assigned the county 15 channels but in 2011, they will allow those channels to go other people if they have not put in a system.

The original cost of a new 800mHz system that allows multiple simultaneous communications between agencies was quoted at $15 million, but erection of new towers to provide the needed coverage and a new public safety communications building has bumped the cost to a whopping $35 million.

Lives could be lost because the current system is obsolete and would not suffice in a catastrophe, but budget cutbacks and the updated price of $35 million for the new system, mean the purchase will have to wait, officials said at a recent county Civic Roundtable meeting. Roundtable member Dan MacDonald of Ponte Vedra Beach said, “I have serious reservations about why we have not heard this $35 million number before. Why has it been kept undercover? Fifteen million is the only number we have ever heard.”

Echoes of a thousand similar stories the world over and another example of why we as radio amateurs need to be ready to assist in times of disaster, because if we wait for local officials and politics to grind at their snails pace the job will never get done and cost us all a fortune and possibly our lives in the process.

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