Native businesses are switching to the AWIN radio system
WESTSIDE – Local police and fire departments made the move to new digital radios on Jan. 17 when Benton County Central Communications switched to the Arkansas Wireless Information Network known as AWIN.
Vester Cripps, Gentry’s chief fire officer, said the switch to the new digital radios will finally go live on January 17th after numerous delays in the past.
AWIN is the system used by the Arkansas State Police, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and many other law enforcement and fire departments across the state. It is a digital radio system that operates on a different frequency band than the analog system used throughout the county, and allows users to communicate with other users of the system across the state.
The system uses encryption, which means that the public cannot eavesdrop on police and fire calls like in the analog system, which provides an increased level of security for police officers and other emergency services who respond to calls.
The system was scheduled to go online last September, but has been postponed until this month to allow time for technical issues to be resolved and for any departments making the switch to have their radios ready.
The new system would cost the county $ 3.75 million. The county used $ 1.75 million from the reserve and borrowed $ 2 million to fund the project.
It improves security for local MPs or officials, said Kenneth Paul, chief executive of the sheriff’s office. The radios can be found by GPS tracking and show the officer’s location. This is helpful in search and rescue situations so that the agencies can keep track of where their officers are. The tracking function is also useful if something should happen to an officer and he was unable to respond to dispatchers.
“It will allow for better reporting,” said Robert McGowan, Benton County’s director of public safety. “One of the main issues is that there are areas where the current system prevents them from being broadcast on the radio. This system addresses that.”
Paul said the new radio system with portable radios will have coverage up to 90%, while the units in vehicles will have 99.99% coverage.
“We’ve had places in the county, especially in eastern Benton County, where we had no coverage at all,” Paul said of the old system. “When you left town and went to these areas, you called the dispatch department and let them know you would be out of the air.”
According to a previous article in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the Sheriff’s Office bought 601 portable radios and 356 mobile radios for vehicles. The county also bought 175 digital pagers for the volunteer fire departments, which cost $ 121,625, Paul said.
Motorola installed the system and it would connect to seven towers in the county: one each in Bella Vista, Garfield, Highfill, Gravette, and Siloam Springs and two in Rogers.
The police stations dispatched by the county’s central communications bought their own radios, Paul said.
Last April, Gentry City Council passed a resolution authorizing the city to purchase new emergency radios for police and fire departments from Smith Two-Way Radio at a cost of no more than $ 70,000. Other municipalities had to pay similar expenses for the new radios in order to continue shipping through Benton County Central Communications.
Police in Rogers, Fayetteville and Springdale have already used the wireless network, Paul said. Washington County is installing the system, he said. Police departments in Bentonville and Rogers use different digital communication systems, but Paul said they can still communicate with the departments.
Paul said the sheriff’s office has been using the old radio system for over 20 years.
McGowan said the console, which is the computer that runs the radio system for shipping, will be updated. The console will work in tandem with the radio system, he said.
Washington County voters approved a temporary 0.25% sales tax for one year in March last year to pay for a new emergency communications system.
Tracy Neal contributed to this article.