A move to eliminate interference on public safety frequencies has prompted area law enforcement to look at their equipment status.

A move to eliminate interference on public safety frequencies has prompted area law enforcement to look at their equipment status.

The Federal Communications Commission has set Jan. 1, 2013 as the date when all public safety entities must have their broadcasting equipment — pagers, radios and consoles — narrowbanded to create the ability to have more communication capacity and to reduce the amount of interference officials find on their communication channels.

Now, most public services agencies operate on wide band and some of the problems with the lower bands is that there is some level of interference.

To eliminate that interference, the FCC came up with the concept which will allow more users on a frequency and less interference.

“It creates more efficiency and less interference,” said Robert Kenny, with the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau in Washington. “It is very important for public safety.”

Area law enforcement officials said that they have already held meetings to discuss the switch and what it will take to convert current equipment over to the new narrowbanding.

“We will have to apply for new licensing for frequencies,” said Crawford County Sheriff Sandy Horton. “We’re going to determine a final date in 2012 when all agencies that dispatch through the Sheriff’s office will have to narrow band to our frequency.”

He said that Crawford County has not established a timeline on conversion. Currently, the county dispatches for Girard and Arma police and fire departments as well as for rural fire departments, in addition to the Sheriff’s department.

The big issue in the switch over will be determining what equipment will have to be purchased and what current equipment can be reprogrammed to the new narrowbanding.

Horton said that Crawford County’s radios all have the capability for reprogramming.

“We will have to do some modifications with the consoles in the dispatch and purchase 6-7 mobile radios,” Horton said.

He added that the new switch will cost the county approximately $30,000 for new radios and console modification. That allocation, he said, will be spread out in the Sheriff’s department budget over the next two years.

Other, smaller departments may be faced with spending more money because current equipment cannot be reprogrammed.

“One of the primary issues is that is there enough funding?” Kenny said. “In most cases, there will be some level of upgrading and purchasing of new equipment.”

George Washington, owner of Pittsburg-based Washington Electronics, a main supplier of radio equipment to public safety agencies, said that new radios can range in price from $300 to over $1,000. He said that the equipment that local counties will need can range from $350 to $700 per radio. However, if a public safety entity has purchased a radio in the last five years, it is programmable for the new switch.

“Everything that uses a radio frequency will have to be narrow-banded,” Washington said. “It can be difficult, but they have time now to start to get things done.”

Horton said that the biggest thing will be for the county to lock down its timetable for all entities to switch over to the new, narrowband frequency.

“The biggest headache will be establishing the deadline,” Horton said. “We are simply going to have to shut off the frequency we are using now and, if someone is still using it, we won’t be able to hear it.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140