Fremont approves $1.5 million to upgrade emergency radio system


Kevin Gichuru,

The Fremont City Council has proposed allocating $1.5 million to upgrade the city’s emergency radio systems, which would double the total amount of access to city emergency response teams as well as federal government departments like Homeland Security. This is due to be accomplished by June 2019 at the earliest and no later than June 2020, according to David Persselin, the city’s financial director.

The current system was installed in 2009 and, due to technological advances through the years, the Federal Communications Commission mandated that all emergency systems in the country be upgraded by Dec. 31, 2017. However, the FCC decided to extend the deadline in November 2017 until further notice, citing budgetary and infrastructure restraints among the reasons behind the extension.

California has seen its share of natural disasters recently. Just last year, the state dealt with raging wildfires, floods and mudslides caused by heavy rains, along with frequent earthquake activity. Both Contra Costa and Alameda counties have a combined population of more than 2.8 million people, which means it is crucial that emergency service personnel such as the police, fire or even federal agencies have the ability to communicate with one another during an emergency without any communication issues or limitations.

Tom McCarthy, executive director for the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority, the organization in charge of the emergency broadcast systems and implementing the upgrades said, “The current system radio system runs on a Frequency Division Multiple Access or FDMA which can only handle 20,000 users maximum at any given time.” The current system has almost 18,000 emergency response personnel, which is approaching the limit. “The upgrade would bring [Contra Costa County] up to the system known as Time Division Multiple Access or TDMA which would double the number of users that can be on the system to 40,000 at one time.”

Inventory on the current radio equipment has begun and the City of Fremont estimates that the total cost of upgrading the system will be between $4 to $5 million, so it would be best to put aside the money they have available now. As Persselin explained, “The more [money] we can set aside today, the less of an impact on future services we’ll have over the next two years.”