Police Radio System Has a “Breakdown” – Fix Could Work Between $1 and… – Palo Alto Daily Post
BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily mail correspondent
An organization that operates a countywide law enforcement radio system is working to fill a ‘dead spot’ in the Palo Alto foothills that could hamper officers’ ability to call for help when they are in the area.
The stalled remained after the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Authority, or SVRIA, completed its digital radio system in 2020.
The authority plans to fill the deadlock with a digital radio site called the Montebello site, according to SVRIA executive director Eric Nickel, a former Palo Alto fire chief.
The cost of the site could be as high as $3.5 million if it interconnects with sites in the radio system’s “west cell,” Nickel said. If the Montebello site is not interconnected, the cost would drop to approximately $1 million.
The site’s benefits will extend beyond Palo Alto to other foothill communities, Nickel said, so its cost could be spread out.
Nickel stated that he was not aware of any dangerous situation resulting from the presence of the neutral.
SVRIA is a joint authority established in 2010 to provide communications services to public safety agencies in Santa Clara County. SVRIA members include the county’s 15 towns as well as the county itself.
SVRIA’s digital radio system is known as the Silicon Valley Regional Communications System, or SVRCS. Public safety departments in member cities can use the SVRCS for daily radio communications.
SVRIA contracted with Motorola for the digital radio system, and the company guaranteed 97% coverage. The company kept that promise and is unable to pay for the Montebello site, Nickel said.
SVRIA will also have another option for areas that need additional radio coverage: a mobile radio site that is primarily funded by the California Office of Emergency Services.
The mobile site can be transported anywhere in Santa Clara County, serving as a temporary radio site during a large event or replacing an existing site that is out of service or not functioning due to a power outage.
Planned analog backup
In the longer term, SVRIA plans to build an analog radio system to act as a backup for its digital system. Nickel said the backup system could be used if the digital system was taken out of service by a natural disaster such as an earthquake or by a cyberattack.
The idea for the backup system came about because the Santa Clara County Sheriff‘s Office is installing an analog system to provide radio coverage in some rural areas in the south and east of the county, according to Nickel.
SVRIA could potentially work with the sheriff’s office to expand the analog system to create an alternate countywide radio system. The digital system would remain the primary system.
“I see analog as a good backup system,” Nickel said.
While SVRIA staff have discussed the potential backup system, the topic has yet to be brought to the authority’s board, Nickel said. Those talks could start in the next six to 12 months, he added.
A detailed plan has not yet been developed for the backup system, Nickel said, and there are no cost estimates.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Communications Unit did not respond to requests for comment on the radio system.
Digital radio systems have gradually replaced analog radio, which has been around for decades.
In analog radio, a person’s real voice is transmitted on a particular frequency. In contrast, digital systems convert sounds into digital patterns that a computer can easily read.
One of the advantages of digital systems is that they can reduce background noise and static electricity. Digital radio also allows more than one conversation per channel.
Digital radio can be encrypted in a way that conforms to a modern standard called AES 256, which SVRIA uses, according to Nickel.
The disadvantages of digital
But digital systems can present challenges. In particular, Nickel said, the popularity of frequencies used for digital radio means that boosting power to reach remote areas may not be an option, as signals will then be picked up by other users in areas. neighbours.
Radio signals can also be blocked by concrete and steel in large buildings. To compensate, building owners are required to install antennas to amplify radio signals.
Nickel said analog systems could also have coverage issues, depending on frequencies, locations and infrastructure.