By RACHAEL LONG
Emergency personnel in Brentwood recently saw an upgrade in their communications efficiency.
A $24 million regional public safety radio system — which cost the City of Brentwood alone more than $4 million — launched in Brentwood at the end of February, providing police officers and firefighters with new radios on a 700 MHz system.
After about a month of use, reviews from city staff look good.
“The response from our officers and firefighters has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of the quality of the radio communications, clarity of it, [and] coverage of it,” City Manager Kirk Bednar said at Monday’s City Commission meeting. “Long time coming … and not cheap. A little over $4.5 million from the city’s side of things, but we all think money well spent.”
The radio system is a county-wide project that the City of Brentwood worked with Williamson County and the City of Franklin to establish.
The project’s development began in 2013, when officials from Brentwood, Franklin and Williamson County met to discuss ways to improve safety efforts across the county. The resulting effort is called the Williamson County Joint Communications Network Authority (WCJCNA).
The group was tasked with creating, designing and implementing the new system.
The City of Franklin activated its radios first in February. Williamson County has yet to launch the new system, but plans to join the other agencies in the coming months.
The radios make communication easier, clearer and faster. But the difference they have made for Brentwood law enforcement to communicate across jurisdictions increases safety for residents and police officers alike.
Assistant Police Chief Tommy Walsh said the city has become increasingly aware over the last several years of the importance of working with other law enforcement agencies. Now, Walsh said, Brentwood officers have, for the first time, the ability to communicate directly with Metro Nashville, Franklin and soon, Williamson County.
The new system gives officers a much larger coverage area, with the addition of multiple towers in other jurisdictions near Brentwood. In the old system, officers would not have had the ability to communicate clearly through radio outside city limits.
“If our officers are involved in a vehicle pursuit which travels into Davidson County today we will have the ability to communicate on our radio equipment with our dispatch center,” Walsh said.
Walsh said there were a number of areas in and around the city which were “dead spots” with the old system. Now, he says officers have 100 percent coverage with the in-car radios and nearly the same level of coverage with portable radios.
“This is a huge officer safety issue and we are in a much better situation today than we were just a few short weeks ago,” Walsh said. “We also have the ability to update radios over the air, without personnel needing to touch each radio when programming updates are required.”
In other words, Walsh said the City of Brentwood was on a “communications island” without the technology it has now.