New digital communications system to allow better response times for first responders

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The Amarillo Police Department and Amarillo Fire Department are two of the first emergency services in Amarillo to transfer to a new digital communications system.

With the original analog system, important messages would sometimes be interrupted.

"Key up a mic, or noise comes on to the system, not being able to hear communication, having to repeat communication," said Assistant City Manager Kevin Starbuck.

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The city says the new system will allows first responders to improve their response times.

"The system seeks to resolve a lot of those issues providing that clear communication," said Starbuck. "Some of the feedback that I was getting from some of the responders was it was almost eerie how clear it was. Like someone was sitting in the car next to me as the radio traffic came through."

Starbuck says the move is similar to upgrading a smart phone.

"We are effectively moving from an old AM radio-quality type communications," said Starbuck. "Now, [it is] what you would have on your iPhone or iPad, crystal clear communication."

Sgt. Carla Burr says every Amarillo police officer now has a personal radio. The new radios have left them in awe about the clarity of the speaker.

"Every police officer in Amarillo City has a walkie-talkie and or car radio that is digital," said Sgt. Burr. "Like the one [I hold], this is my walkie-talkie."

The new system also includes GPS and shows the name of the officer and their location whenever they use the radio.

Overall, the new equipment will help all emergency responses

"It's going to protect officers and therefore it's going to protect the public better," said Sgt. Burr. "If we are better able to communicate with each other and communicate with other agencies, if there's something major that happens, we can communicate that better between us. Randall County, Potter County, we don't exactly know how far this is going to reach. It could be better than we even imagined."

The overall cost for the whole project is estimated at $10 million.

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