If the Columbus City Council appropriates the money, the city’s fire department will spend as much as $185,000 on 38 new radios that will operate on a digital system similar to the best technology the state suggests.
Columbus Fire Chief David Allmon says he knew when much of the city was underwater in June of 2008 that the radios were necessary.
“We were behind the eight ball,” Allmon says. “To give you an example, during the flood of 2008 there were so many people trying to talk at the same time our system couldn’t handle that, so when a radio transmission tried to go through, it wouldn’t go through. It was dead space.”
But David Vice, the Executive Director of Indiana’s Integrated Public Safety Commission, says making the upgrade will not necessarily solve that problem.
The real solution, he says, may come from better training first responders to deal with disasters.
“Knowing the protocols to use during that time and to have an emergency plan in place that allows you to not busy out the system. You know, in emergencies you can never have what we call enough channels at a site.”
In 2011, an analysis done for the state by a consulting firm found that just 7 percent of public safety agencies were using the more modern 800 megahertz system.
While Columbus and many other municipalities have been slow to catch up to the state’s technology, Allmon says the new Motorola radios he is buying will be compatible with a change to a different bandwidth Vice says is on the horizon for the state.