Reliable radio service is critical for emergency services to operate effectively. When disaster strikes, police, fire, medical, and other departments must be able to communicate with each other in order to
coordinate services. However, many county and city agencies have difficulty managing their communications systems because these departments use disparate radio systems that are not interoperable. Christian
County, KY, recently deployed a multisite, multidepartment digital radio system that solved its radio interoperability issues and provided reliable communications for its emergency services providers.
Previously, the county’s various departments had been using a variety of radio equipment, none of which was interoperable. That made it difficult for different divisions to communicate with each other over the existing radios.
“Before, if we wanted to talk to someone in the fire department or police department, we’d go through the dispatcher,” says Randy Graham, emergency management director for Christian County and radio project
coordinator. “They would call the other dispatcher and relay our messages, which created a lot of wasted time and lost information.” Officials from Christian County and the city of Hopkinsville formed a
committee consisting of the city fire chief, the sheriff, emergency management, dispatchers, and other officials to investigate purchasing a new radio system. The county engaged a consultant from Georgia Tech to assist
them with their RFP process. “Most of us on the radio committee were end users, so we didn’t have a lot of radio expertise,” Graham says. “The consultant helped us develop the RFP and then evaluate the proposals
that came in.”
The county had three chief criteria for choosing the new system: interoperability across departments, network capacity, and radio coverage. After a three-month selection process, the committee deployed the
NEXEDGE digital radio solution from Kenwood. The city and county have since deployed three towers and nearly 700 radio units across 35 departments, including the entire emergency management infrastructure.
In Large Radio Deployment The scope of the radio project took both the county and Kenwood into new territory. The NEXEDGE solution debuted in 2008, and Christian County marked one of the earliest and largest deployments of
the technology. “Because this was a multisite public safety system, I don’t think we knew quite what we were getting into,” Graham says. “There were a lot of unexpected issues that stalled the
process, but Kenwood helped us to put a system in place that has really surpassed our expectations.”
Christian County deployed approximately 350 NX-300 portable (handheld) radios and an equal number of NX-800 vehicle-mounted mobile units. According to Graham, the project team initially rolled out a small test group
of portable units in each department to get some of the end users trained on the devices and to work out the kinks in the computercontrolled communications system. According to Graham, end user training was
key to the success of the implementation. “Kenwood warned us before we put the system in that if we were going to have problems, it was going to come down to training, and they were one hundred percent right,” he
says. “The biggest thing was getting people used to the difference between frequencybased
radios and trunking.”
The system is a trunked radio solution, which is a computer-controlled system that establishes talk groups on a few channels to provide greater efficiency. “We have 17 frequency pairs, but we’ve got 50 talk
groups,” Graham says. “You can only talk to one person in the group at once, but you can have 10 different talk groups talking at You.
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