Montgomery County officials discuss public safety radio system failures

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County officials call the system outages outrageous

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM)–Every second counts when dealing with emergencies, but what happens when you can’t get through to emergency responders?

That’s an issue Montgomery County’s public safety faces from time to time. In times of an emergency, these are the people who get the call, but when systems are down, police and first responders have had trouble communicating. Montgomery County Councilmember, Andrew Friedson said, “This is a drastic operational failure. What are the chances that we get that again?”

A joint meeting was held by the Montgomery County Council and public safety officials to discuss ways to prevent outages which stop first responders from doing their job. Last month, there were 1,200 occurrences of busy signals within a 14-hour period. “Residents who we were elected to represent, were at risk, that our first responders who we put their lives at risk to protect everybody else,” Friedson stated.

The county has 11 towers, but they are outdated. The plan is to add 22 towers around the county, and some Olney residents say they don’t want new towers in their backyards. Greater Olney Civic Association President, Matt Quinn, said, “We need to have the communications system working, and working well, but there has to be engagement with the community, and that engagement didn’t occur.”

Some of those residents say they were not aware of plans to put a 350-foot steel tower in their neighborhood. Md. Delegate, Kumar P. Barve (D) reported, “The goal at this point is to get the county and the state folks working on the new communications system to work directly with community members to find an appropriate location.”

All agree this is a safety issue, and the council is working on getting a new system as quickly as possible – one that would work for everyone. Officials say the earliest to get the new systems up and running would be December 2020.

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