Bugs push county radios back to analog
JANESVILLE Most Rock County emergency and law enforcement agencies have taken a technological step backward while experts try to work out the bugs in the county's new digital radio communications system.
All the police departments in the county except Beloit this week went back to using analog radios to communicate with 911 dispatchers at the Rock County Communications Center. The change was a response to problems the agencies had with cut-off communications on new digital radios.
General Communications, the vendor that installed the county's digital system, is searching for the cause of the dropped communications, said Kathy Sukus, interim director of the Rock County Communications Center. Among other things, they are checking the software installed in portable radios, she said.
No timeline has been set to finish troubleshooting, Sukus said.
Things seemed to go well in late June when the county made the switch to digital. Then police departments including Janesville and Edgerton reported having some dropped calls, she said. On Sunday when the county's server that supports the digital system froze up, officials decided to call a countywide meeting and talk about how things were working, Sukus said.
When Janesville police on Tuesday requested to switch back to analog, other departments started speaking up about problems, Sukus said. As a group, the county's smaller police departments along with the Rock County Sheriff's Office decided to switch back, as well.
Fire and emergency medical departments will continue to use the digital radios on their main channel, but they are using analog radios on secondary channels, Sukus said. The county went digital in late June as a way to prepare for a federal mandate requiring most radio communications convert to narrow band by the first of the year. The six-month window was intended to give the county wiggle-room in case of problems.
"We knew this is a complex system and there could be problems," Sukus said.
It is possible the county could keep using analog radios, but that could shorten communication ranges for most departments once the switch is made to narrow band, she said.