Volusia County’s public security radio system will likely be upgraded for $ 24.6 million

by: Gary Davidson

Activity Project Manager / Community Information, Volusia District Government

In these modern times, effective and reliable communication is essential. In an emergency it can be a matter of life and death. After years of development, a $ 24.6 million upgrade to the Volusia district public safety radio received unanimous approval from the district council on Tuesday June 22nd.

All first responders in Volusia County – law enforcement, fire and rescue services – rely on the radio system to communicate with each other on site, receive real-time updates, and stay connected to the control center while responding to emergencies. The existing 800 MHz system, which supports more than 9,000 radios, is almost 30 years old and the technology has reached the end of its life cycle. In many cases, spare parts are no longer available. In the meantime, the requirements of public safety radio have gone beyond the capabilities of the units currently in use.

Developed by public safety professionals, the P25 standards for two-way radio systems have become the industry standard because of their improved reliability and the ability of radios on different radio systems to communicate with one another regardless of manufacturer. Interoperability, or the ability to effectively connect to other radio systems, is especially important in fast-paced events involving multiple jurisdictions. In fact, it is absolutely critical to the safety and protection of both residents and emergency services.

“It is critical that the county public safety radio is now upgraded to a modern P25 system to ensure continued reliability of public safety communications,” the county stated in a 2019 document , in which bidders were searched for the new system.

The district has been planning for the new system and the associated costs for years. When approving the project on Tuesday, councilors said the cost was an absolute necessity.

Last year Vero Beach County Council hired Communications International, Inc. – the same company that implemented its original radio system – to implement the new P25 system. Due to the complexity of the project, it took months to write and negotiate the contract. On Tuesday, the culmination of years of planning resulted in the council approving $ 24,657,650.97 spending on upgrading the radio system. Most of the money, approximately $ 23.5 million, will go to the system backbone such as tower-site equipment and dispatch consoles, as well as approximately 3,300 new radios and upgrades to existing radios. The contract also includes maintenance for 17 years after completion of the plant.

“We all know that we have to maintain and update our communication infrastructure. It’s so important, ”said Councilor Heather Post.

“That is not a wish. This is an absolute necessity, ”said Alderman Ben Johnson. “This is so important to our public safety that we simply cannot overlook it.”

As part of the upgrade, the county plans to increase the number of towers from 13 to 15 to improve radio coverage. One of the new towers is in Bunnell, a location the county shares with Flagler County. The other new building is to be built on Lake Harney Road in Osteen. The spending, which the council approved on Tuesday, included $ 1 million in structural analysis, engineering and modifications to existing towers. There is an additional $ 110,000 for wetland approval and mitigation for the Osteen skyscraper and $ 35,000 for infrastructure requirements related to a replacement tower location in Barberville.

Sheriff Mike Chitwood, whose deputy is one of the largest users of the radio system, thanked the improved system to come and said it would make the public safer.

“This is a critical technology upgrade that will ensure our first responders have a state-of-the-art lifeline to get help where it’s needed,” said Chitwood. “Our men and women in uniform are better equipped as a result of this move and our residents and visitors are safer, and I thank the district administrator, the administration and every employee for their foresight in this project.”

The entire project is expected to take around two and a half years.

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