Pa. creating public safety net

Pennsylvania is in the process of creating a $222 million statewide public

safety radio network, connecting about 25 agencies on an intranet-based

system.

The radio network has been in the works for several years, after officials

found that the current system was not reliable. After looking at options

such as using cellular, officials determined that the most reliable system

would be one they created themselves.

The state needs a system that enables state agencies — ranging from state

police to the Department of Transportation, Attorney General and Department

of Health — to communicate with each other across government-made boundaries,

such as county lines.

"Operations don't really happen within one particular county all the time,"

said Donald Appleby, the project director of radio systems development in

the Governor's Office of Administration.

"It always happens in regions that you can't define in advance," said Appleby,

who spoke Tuesday at the GovTech conference in Washington, D.C.

The system is under construction. Towers and seven regional routers are

being built. It is expected to be finished at the end of next year.

A pilot voice and data system is working in the Harrisburg area.

The finished system will use 250 towers sites, 180 of which are to be newly

constructed and 400 cellular sites. The system will mostly use either microwave

or a fiber-optic network to relay transmissions from site to site.

In instances when police officers need to leave their car and a mobile unit

must be used, the radio will use the equipment in the car to connect it

to the tower if the radio signal cannot reach the tower itself. Thus, the

network is complete, despite being several miles from the car.

All the radios are software-based because they must hook up to the intranet.

And all transmissions are encrypted from start to finish.

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