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New Linn Co. Emergency Response Radio System

CEDAR RAPIDS (CBS2/FOX28) -- Its a $19-Million investment, but area police and fire crews agree it will be priceless in the effort to save lives in the corridor.  By February 11th, Cedar Rapids, Marion and all of Linn County will have a new radio system that allows officers on the street to talk to each other and almost anyone else in an emergency situation.  Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner says it became painfully obvious the area needed a new communications system during the 2008 floods.  He says efforts to evacuate neighborhoods and even the police and sheriffs departments took a massive number of phone calls simply because officers couldnt talk to each other on the same radio frequency.  Gardner says the process took a while but it will make an incredible difference, It allows us to talk on our radio to each other.  I can talk to a patrol officer in Cedar Rapids, they can talk in theory to a firefighter in Walker, were all, police, fire and ems on the same radio frequency with the same radio handsets and we can talk to each other.  The really neat thing is not only can we talk amongst ourselves, we can talk to everybody in Johnson County as well because its the same system .

During the flooding in the corridor Cedar Rapids Police say Minnesota was generous enough to send officers to help.  Unfortunately it turned into a nightmare when no one could communicate with them by radio to direct their efforts.

As Public Safety Dispatch Assistant Manager Joe McCarville shows off the training version of the new radios that will go in officers cars he recalls the ping pong match thats been required in the past if an officer at a stand-off wanted to talk to a deputy heading to the scene to let them know what they were driving into.  You would radio to dispatch, we would call your dispatch, they would call their officer, their officer would relay back to their dispatcher, their dispatcher would relay back to us and we would relay back to our officer.

Now any law enforcement officer or emergency service worker  with a similar radio can talk on the same frequency.  In theory police, fire fighters, medics, deputies, life flight pilots, national guard commanders and the volunteer fire chief in Walker, Iowa could all talk to each other and coordinate their efforts in an emergency.  McCarville says thats not just an advantage to them, it will save lives.   " Everybody is on the same page .. everybody is listening to and hearing the same thing and that speeds up response .. speeds up patient care time .. it speeds up everything when multiple agencies are working together ..  everybody involved should see a benefit from being able to communicate            

Linn County, Cedar Rapids and Marion all budgeted for the new radio system.  Its first big test will likely come during a mock disaster drill at the airport in May.

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