The city of McPherson recently spent $120,000 to upgrade to the next generation of emergency radios, which will allow emergency personal from different agencies to talk to each other.

The city of McPherson recently spent $120,000 to upgrade to the next generation of emergency radios, which will allow emergency personal from different agencies to talk to each other.
At the Nov. 25 meeting of the McPherson City Commission, the city approved radio purchases for the city of McPherson police and fire departments.
The departments purchased both mobile and portable radios. Mobile radios are those installed in an agency vehicle, while portable radios are those carried on an officer or firefighter’s person. Both agencies will be transitioning to these new radios.
Police Chief Rob McClarty said the purchase was the third incremental step in a larger communications upgrade process.
McClarty said the upgrading process was needed.
“The current system needs some upgrading,” McClarty said, “because repair on these older units is expensive, parts are very limited, and there are elements of the infrastructure that cannot be repaired. These are necessary upgrades for an ailing system, and we had numerous units that had been in use well beyond their lifespan. The repair and replace budget had gotten outrageous.”
Public service radio communications have undergone significant changes in the last 12 years. McPherson County Director of Communications and Emergency Management Darren Frazier said 9/11 became a pivotal moment in the evolution of emergency radio communications.
“During 9/11,” Frazier said, “the different emergency agencies working the disaster often weren’t able to communicate with each other. This became an important matter, and has been worked on over the years as money and solutions came about.”
Among the capabilities of the current generation of radios is the ability for public service agencies to communicate directly with each other over channels specifically designated for that purpose.
The departments had some radios that could access these channels, but the new radios will expand the departments’’ capabilities.
“With the EDACS 800 system,” McClarty said, “agencies in the state can directly communicate with each other. We can communicate with Reno County and Harvey County, for example, all on the same channels. We can even communicate with the Lifeteam helicopter crew. I’ve been able to speak directly with my counterpart in Wichita by using this technology. It gives us operability through both state and national channels.”
Frazier said the state system was very robust.
“We used it at a recent standoff at Maxwell,” Frazier said, referring to an incident in Nov. in which no fewer than 11 emergency agencies were involved. “We switched to the state tower, which allowed better communication between the agencies.”
The expense of such radio communication technology presents hurdles to smaller, rural agencies, though, Frazier said.
“Rural districts can end up fending for themselves,” Frazier said. “We at the county have radios supplied by the state, but a lot of rural departments don’t have the budget to purchase their own.”
While rural districts may find themselves facing challenges in order to stay up to date with these radio technologies, the city of McPherson will continue to slowly implement these changes in radio communication infrastructure.
McPherson Fire Department Chief Jeff Deal said the city emergency service agencies are constantly compelled to evaluate and re-evaluate.
“I think this is the latest step in this ongoing evolution,” Deal said. “If we can’t communicate, we can’t do anything. We’re very much collaborating together in the field, and it’s important for us to be able to do so. I’m very pleased with what we’re doing. We’re headed in the right direction.”