Local Police, Fire, Sheriff Communcations Ahead of Curve Post-9/11
Seven years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many law enforcement agencies around the country are struggling to communicate with each other in the field. But Sacramento-area public safety officials say they’re in great shape.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
In December of 2007, Sacramento County Sheriffs Detective Vu Nguyen was shot and killed in South Sacramento. Both the Sheriff’s Department and the Sacramento Police Department responded right away. Now, one of the big problems on 9/11 was the inability of New York City’s police and fire departments to talk with each other. But on this day, says Sheriffs spokesman Tim Curran, the two law enforcement agencies worked together.
Curran: “We were immediately able to form what’s called a Commlink, where the dispatchers talk to each other; they agree to link the two radio systems; and it happens very quickly, it’s almost seamless. And once it happens, both departments are able to talk to each other on the same frequency.”
They could do that because Sacramento County has a centralized communications system that’s been in place since 1995. While other communities around the country only responded after 9/11, Sacramento already had a head start. Every law enforcement agency and fire department in the county participates, except the cities of Galt and Isleton – and Galt’s working on joining, too. Sacramento Police spokesman Matt Young says the system makes a huge difference.
Young: “On a number of occasions, that has proven to be extremely beneficial, in terms of getting information out as quickly as we possibly can; communicating with one another during critical incidents where that information is essential to have as quickly as possible.”
But in 2006, Sac Metro Fire Chief Don Mette was worried. The region was growing and technology was getting old. The county upgraded its equipment, but the new radio system had some big dead spots. So Mette wrote the county a letter demanding that it fix the problem. If not, Mette said, he’d hold the county itself liable if his fire fighters got hurt. Since then, though, Mette says he’s seen progress.
Mette: “The county’s working towards making some resolutions. Although they’ve been slow to come around, they are moving that way. The issue that we had a year and a half ago, we couldn’t talk on the radio, was fixed. We don’t have that situation now.”
The county is working on building five different radio towers to cover the dead spots. Meanwhile, the Sheriffs Department says Orange and San Diego Counties have visited Sacramento recently to learn about its communications system – one the department calls “a model for the entire nation.”