Arkansas County will soon be compliant with new Federal Communications Commission requirements for narrow banding, which must be done before Jan. 1, 2013. All public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems will then be required to stop using 25 Khz efficiency technology and begin using at least 12.5 Khz efficiency technology.
Shanda Harris, the county's office of emergency management coordinator, said the county has used the present round of Homeland Security grants to help with the transition.
"The county sheriff's department received updates to its northern and southern repeaters, upgrading them from 45-watt to 100-watt repeaters," she said in an update to the quorum court. "These repeaters will be benefited by all law enforcement and first responder agencies throughout the county."
There are three repeaters, the third already 100-watt, in the county overall. Harris said upgrading to a 100-watt repeater helped the county regain some of the coverage they will lose with the narrow banding. While some coverage will be lost, Harris said it will not have an affect on any Arkansas County resident other than those who actively participate on the county's radio system.
The grants are also funding new digital dispatch radios at the Stuttgart and DeWitt police departments and in both sheriff's offices as well as to replace current outdated radios in the offices of the county judge, OEM and 9-1-1. New mobile radios will be installed in equipment and trucks. Harris said the funds will also be used to reprogram any existing radios in the county's fire departments that were previously purchased with past Homeland Security grants.
Harris said the county is now waiting for installation. The county is helping the smaller cities become compliant — DeWitt and Stuttgart fire and police departments have become compliant on their own. All four departments have said they are ready, or at the final stages, of being ready for narrow banding. The next step is switching to digital radios, which the departments plan to do in unison once everyone is ready.
Harris said, so far, their work to become compliant with federal law has been an easy process since they were able to identify upfront what equipment would be reusable or need replaced. There's been minimal cost to reprogram the radios that were purchased with county funds.