Mountain Home Departments Switching To Digital Radio

Saturday, Jul 23, 2016

A new digital communication system presently going online will give Mountain Home police, firefighters and city workers better reception with fewer interruptions, police and fire officials said Tuesday.

Mountain Home Fire Chief Ken Williams and Police Chief Carry Manuel alternated discussing the new radio system with members of the Mountain Home Public Safety Committee on Tuesday at the group’s July meeting. The police department switched over to the new system July 13, and the fire department followed suit Tuesday afternoon.

“So far, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about it,” Police Chief Manuel told the committee. “I’ve received a lot of good comments on it.”

The digital communication system, purchased from and installed by Smith Two-Way Radio, Inc.,of Fayetteville, broadcasts in the 800 megahertz range and offers better building penetration, Chief Manuel said. The previous analog system operated in the 400 mHz range and reception inside large metal buildings was spotty, he said.

"With the old system, you would have bad connectivity or no connectivity in larger buildings," Chief Manuel said. "The new system is supposed to provide 20 percent better connectivity."

Manuel said his department has been carrying the new radios into big box stores and were happy with the signal they received inside. The city even tested the radios outside of the city limits, and was able to pick up a signal from 22 miles away, he said.

Chief Williams said that there was still some equipment yet to be installed on the city’s Crystal Mountain radio tower site. The fire department’s pagers had yet to be converted to the new system, he said, and were still on the 400 MHz system.

“Once they get everything set up at the tower, then we can move our pagers over,” he said. “They’ve got to work out a few things yet.”

The Mountain Home City Council approved the purchase of the new digital communication system in December of 2016 from Smith Two-Ray at a price of $359,822.19. That amount covers the cost of 217 radios, licensing, installation, and broadcast equipment for both the radio tower and the Baxter County 911 center.

The city split the cost of the radio system into three separate payments to Smith Two-Way, who won’t receive the third and final payment until everything is installed and the city is satisfied with the setup.

The city’s street, water and parks departments will all eventually use the new system. The water department was still on the analog system Wednesday afternoon but was in the process of changing to the digital signal, employees there said. The street department will hopefully have their radios installed next week, Manuel said.

Also at the Mountain Home Public Safety Committee’s July meeting, Chief Manuel said that the police department may purchase one or two additional Taser units soon using a combination of grant money and donations. The department currently has 14 Tasers and hopes to eventually increase that number to 17, allowing every officer to be equipped with the device.

Chief Williams said that the fire department had collected $5,851.75 in donations from area businesses to sponsor Fire Prevention Week. The money will be used to purchase fire prevention booklets that will be handed out at area elementary schools in October. Area daycare and pre-kindergarten facilities will also receive booklets this year, Williams said.

Fire department personnel have completed yearly maintenance on the city’s fire hydrants, Chief Williams said. The department still has hose tests, ladder tests and pump tests to perform this year, and the fire department hopes to have those completed by October.


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