All Emergency Services Convert To Digital Radio System

Putnam County 911 & Emergency Medical Services

700 County Services Drive

Cookeville, TN 38501

PIO: (931) 525-2110



{January 22, 2013} {4:45pm} {RLS #: 2013-1-22-A}




Emergency agency communications switch from analog system to new digital network, increasing coverage and reliability of communications


Cookeville, TN - The Putnam County 911 Board approved the purchase of $300,000 of new digital radios and transmitters to allow all of the emergency response agencies in Putnam County and its four cities to convert to a new digital network established by the board in early 2012.

Emergency medical services and the Sheriff’s department moved to the network in early 2012 to try and fix the problem of dead spots in the county, where radio communications were intermittent or not possible at all. A lot of those problems were created when the FCC required all two-way radio frequencies to be “narrow-banded,” which basically cut the range a radio would reach by about 25%.  As the other agencies narrow-banded, they ran into the same problems. Also, once ambulances and sheriff’s department units moved to the new digital network, other emergency agencies could not communicate with them as analog and digital don’t mix.

The 911 Board’s long term goal has been to supply a radio network that all the agencies communicate on so it can be maintained and updated on a regular basis. With the problems the narrow-banding was causing, it opened the door for the 911 board to implement its long term plan in an accelerated fashion by replacing all of the radios at one time, and establishing one network to serve the needs of every agency.

The board also approved the expansion of the radio network to cover some existing dead spots in the county that have not been fixed with the new digital system. “Even though the new network is much better than what we had before, there are still some small areas of the county where the small hand held type radios won’t work,” Explained Putnam 911 Director Randy Porter. “ We pretty much have 100% coverage county-wide with the new digital mobile radios in the emergency vehicles now, which is a major improvement. There was a large area in the western end of our county that we had no coverage in before.  We will now work to increase the coverage of the portables,” he continued.

Funding for projects like the digital radio purchases comes from the 911 fee collected from telephones and cell phones.  Any money spent from those fees have strict requirements in they can only be used  for 911 operations and to support communications with emergency agencies that respond to 911 calls in their respective communities.

“We are very fortunate to have such a great 911 board in Putnam County,” Porter said.  The Board’s philosophy has always been, ‘It doesn’t do us any good to have a million dollar 911 system if we cannot communicate with the emergency agencies that respond to those 911 calls.’ This just continues to prove how dedicated they are to make our 911 response system the best it can be.”

The new radios have started arriving and have been given to the emergency agencies to be programmed and installed. Once completed, each agency will be moved over to the new network one at a time. Some agencies have already completed the process and switched to the new network.

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