Update: As of fall 2015, all of the county's first responders are on the new system.
The severe tornado and flooding in spring 2013 brought the need for St. Charles County’s new emergency radio communications system home for first responders. "Almost immediately with the existing system, communications became a real challenge." said Chief Rob Wylie of the Cottleville Fire Protection District, who served as incident commander during the night of the May 31, 2013, tornado.
The overwhelming volume of calls to dispatch and lack of cell phone service were just part of the difficulties encountered. "Everyone was on different (radio) frequencies and it was hard to coordinate activities," said Wylie. "With the new radio system, it (response) will come together faster and in a way that is more coordinated."
Retired St. Charles County Sheriff Tom Neer said his department had similar problems and adds, "The most difficult facet of public service and public safety in this county is the inability of first responders from different agencies to be able to communicate with each other."
Project Information & Status
The county’s new system is part of a larger system being implemented concurrently in both St. Louis and Jefferson counties, increasing the capability of the entire metropolitan St. Louis area in responding to major disasters. For the first time ever, first responders across different departments and municipalities will be able to communicate with each other and the system will provide better coverage, improving the level of service to residents. Today, each municipality in the county operates its own system. These systems have coverage gaps, are becoming obsolete, and cannot be modified to meet Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that went into effect at the beginning of 2013.
The county’s contracted vendor for the system, Motorola Solutions, engineered a 12-site tower design for the system. Testing of the equipment at Motorola’s headquarters from June 24-26, 2013, was successful. All 12 tower sites were completed as of March 2014.
All tower sites are on county-owned properties or were acquired from willing sellers. The county started moving users onto the system in late 2014. As of fall 2015, all of the county's first responders are on the new system.
Those interested in the project may view the tower site map and learn more about the site identification process by watching the video on the St. Charles County Emergency Radio Communications System.