AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Amarillo's first responders will soon be able to better protect our citizens with the help of a new public safety radio system.
Tuesday evening the Amarillo City Council approved the $10.6 million contract for a NEXGEN radio system to begin installation in the spring.
Currently there are a lot of dead spots in Amarillo in places, like tall buildings or big warehouses, where the city's safety radios do not work.
This makes it difficult for police and firefighters to communicate when doing their jobs.
"They hit the emergency button on the radio and it simply does not connect to the system," said Kevin Starbuck, Assistant City Manager and former Director of Emergency Management. "That's their lifeline back for support from their other first responders, fellow law enforcement and fire fighters, and they need to be able to count on that to work each and every time."
Static and interference across radios has also hindered the work city first responders.
"It's just gotten unmanageable at this point," said Amarillo Fire Chief Jeff Greenlee. "It's that old technology. There's just not a solution to fix it."
The new system will be digital instead of analog, getting rid of that white noise, and eliminating the dead spots.
"Basically you're moving from what you might hear on an AM radio transmission to what you hear on your iPod," said Starbuck. "The clarity of our communication is going to exponentially improve. You're going to have much clearer communication, much more understandable communication. We're going to remove a lot of the noise and interference we have on our current system, so all those things come in to play to improve the communication for our public safety responders."
Amarillo will be able to communicate with first responders across the panhandle, and with different city departments in the case of city emergencies.
But the proposal to fund non-emergency radios did not pass in this past election, so it may be a few years before entities like parks and recreation and facilities have access to this system.