Schools and county receive new, updated radio systems – Osceola-Sentinel Tribune

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Prior to the 2022-23 school year, Clarke Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, Murray Schools, and the Village Early Childhood Center each received a new school safety radio.

In addition to schools, local law enforcement, fire, emergency services, and other government entities also have new security radios, and the county as a whole has updated a new operating system. .

radio system

Prior to the installation of nearly 100 radio towers in the state, Clarke County operated on VHF digital scanning, which made communication difficult not only within the various county entities, but also outside the counties. . Now, the radios operate on a 700 megahertz (MGz) system, as part of the Iowa Statewide Interoperable Communications System (ISICS). Clarke County spans a variety of locations including Van Wert, Union County, Winterset, and Warren County, all of which can be used on the new radio systems.

“The good thing about the system is that it gives us interoperability not only with ourselves, but also with state entities,” Osceola Police Officer Earnest Pettit said.

There are approximately 100 radio channels that can be radio traffic.

Operation

In the case of school radios, which are part of an event chat group, they are designed so that in an emergency the caller can press a button that will switch the radio from his main channel directly to the dispatch center, sounding an alarm as it does.

A “hot mic” will automatically be activated, allowing the caller to speak for 15 seconds non-stop to the dispatcher and tell them what is going on. As long as the button on the radio is pressed, putting it in “emergency mode”, the caller can talk to the dispatcher. After the 15 seconds have elapsed, the dispatcher can begin to respond.

“[They] push the button, talk, tell us what they need, we can send them,” Pettit said. “If they press the button and say nothing, we send everything.”

Each radio has a unique identifier, so dispatch and officers know exactly which radio has declared an emergency, allowing them to respond appropriately. Once the emergency is over, the dispatcher will clear the emergency from their side and the user can reset their radio to its normal scan mode.

Although radios are heavily geared toward active threat situations, they can also be used whenever someone thinks they won’t have time to dial 9-1-1.

“Any bona fide emergency happening so quickly is the best way to reach us,” said Byron Jimmerson, Osceola’s emergency management coordinator and fire chief.

“Push the button, we’re coming,” Pettit said.

School safety radios aren’t the only radios that can be used to declare an emergency – now with updated system, conservation, EMS, fire, and more. Before, only the police had the capacity to do so. The button on anyone’s radio can be pushed, and it will appear in all chat groups.

Cost

The radio project was funded by funds received from Clarke County from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In addition to school radios, the Woodburn, Weldon, and Murray Fire Departments, and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, also received safety radios with county funds.

The amount of ARPA funds used was over $750,000, and the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC) awarded an additional $100,000 to the project earlier this year. Others in the county, like the Osceola Police Station and Fire Department, have either paid for themselves or found grants to cover the costs.

Originally, the Village School Safety Radio was not budgeted for in the project. Pettit took programming lessons through Motorola and in turn programmed all the radios, cutting much of the budget that bought the school’s fifth radio.

“We are grateful…there has been a lot of work during the service, but also outside of the service and volunteer time. The combined effort resulted in additional school radio,” Jimmerson said of Pettit’s programming work.

Crystal Hansen, executive director of The Village, said of the radio they didn’t think they would get,

“The Village is very grateful to be included in this community project for the safety of our children, our families and our employees. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in achieving this goal for our community, especially to Byron and Earnie for going above and beyond to ensure our center was included and received a safety radio .

System background

Supervisor Dean Robins said Supervisor Larry Keller and Clarke County Sheriff Rob Kovacevich worked to get local radios onto the state system for the better part of a decade. As noted earlier, most entities could only communicate internally, and not easily with other counties. Factors such as cost and waiting to see if the state would do anything prevented the project from moving forward.

Supervisor Austin Taylor added that there has been a push across the country for interoperability since 9/11, and the increase in school shootings in recent years has amplified the need to do so at the level local.

Statewide radio project and reporting app

On June 14, days after Clarke County had already completed its radio project, Governor Reynolds announced a $100 million investment in school safety.

In a press release from Reynolds’ office at the time, the initiative said it would send funds to 327 public school districts and 183 nonpublic and independent schools. The funding will provide vulnerability risk assessments for all schools and up to $50,000 per school for implementing school safety measures through the new Safe Schools Fund. Schools that already have radios can use the funds to purchase more if they wish.

In addition to radios, part of the school safety initiative is digital software for anonymous threat reporting, something emergency management is already working on.

The anonymous reporting system, available through www.saysomething.org, will be rolled out in the spring, with users able to report any type of threat through an app, website or phone.

“The good thing about the state saying ‘we’re doing anonymous radio and reporting,’ we were already doing that, so we’re on the right track,” Jimmerson said.

“You can’t always rely on someone else to do the job for you, if that’s something you need,” Taylor said.

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