County to update EOC radio systems

The Callaway County Commission continues to improve radio communications at the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

In the latest update, the commission will meet today with representatives of two firms to discuss their competing bids on a new Zentron radio system for consoles used by four Callaway County emergency dispatchers.

Meeting separately with the commission will be Lloyd Wood of L & B Electronics of Eldon and Scott Pasley of A & W Communications of Jefferson City.

The new Zentron radio system to be purchased by the county will replace an Orbacom radio system installed at the Callaway County EOC in 1997.

“Orbacom went out of business and parts are no longer manufactured to repair the old system,” said Gabe Craighead, eastern district commissioner.

“This is a second phase of a general upgrade of the EOC radio system,” Craighead said. “Two years ago we bought new backroom radio equipment. This new purchase is radio software and equipment to drive radio consoles used by dispatchers.”

The 32-channel equipment will include four individual radio consoles for dispatchers along with four computers and computer monitors.

The EOC dispatchers perform all emergency radio communications involving Callaway County ambulance, fire and law enforcement agencies. That includes city police and fire departments, county agencies as well as ambulance and fire protection districts.

Craighead said equipment has been upgraded gradually in recent years and it is now possible to pinpoint the location of people with cell phones making 911 calls to the EOC. A few years ago, the location of telephone calls could be traced only to land lines.

“We now can trace the longitude and latitude location of a cell phone to within a few feet. We had been trying to locate people by triangulation from cell phone towers but that was not very accurate,” Craighead said.

“We will have top-of-the-line technology at the Callaway County EOC,” Craighead said.

“We are still working on the 911 address mapping system. In this system, we will be able to determine the exact address of the caller on an electronic map. The system also will show the current location of all emergency vehicles as well. That way the closest emergency vehicle can be dispatched to the address of the caller,” Craighead said.

That system is part of the $35,000 grant the county received to perform mapping and addressing of emergency calls through Geocomm. “This is the county’s share of the total plan that will cost about $100,000. The Ambulance District and the County Sheriff’’s Department each paid their share, which was about $30,000 each,” Craighead said.

Craighead said the Callaway County Ambulance District and Callaway County Sheriff’s Department will be tied to the system. The computer system can keep track of the exact location of all ambulances and Sheriff Department patrol cars.

Sheriff officers with laptop computers will be able to log onto the system anywhere and will be able to keep track of the location of all patrol cars at all times. This will be especially helpful while trying to coordinate responses to accidents and natural disasters. “This system is being installed now and will be in use soon,” Craighead said.

Craighead said the commission also is considering adding the Callaway County Road and Bridge Department to the system.

“That would have been especially important during the recent snowstorm we had. If we mounted the radio tracking equipment on our 10 road graders and our 10 snow plow trucks, we could keep track of them, We could dispatch them to the nearest need. If one unit became stuck, the closest other unit could go help. But this is something that we will discuss later to determine if we want to do this. We also need to explore the cost. There are other systems that are cheaper. But since we already have this system, it would seem to make sense to add the Road and Bridge Department to the system we already have if we decide to do so in the future.”

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