(09/03/2008)
By Bob Weaver

West Virginia is moving ahead with a high-tech, digital Interoperable Radio System that will allow emergency service and police agencies to communicate.

Although some have raised questions about reliability, the state Office of Emergency Services is standing by its ongoing plan to implement the system in the state.

Calhoun's 911 center is part of the initial plan, according to 911 Director Gary Buchanan, saying "We already have one digital transmitter which is being installed at the center."

OES Director Kathy Wood said "Eventually every agency head - police department, fire department, ambulance service - will have a radio to communicate around the state.

Buchanan said 911 has signed an agreement to participate in the digital system, with a clause to revert back to the analog system if problems occur.

Joe Thornton of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety said a lot has been learned from 9-11 and Katrina about communication problems.

Several West Virginia counties have already gone to the digital communications with some glitches being detected.

Thornton says that's to be expected, but they continue to stand by the system. "No system is perfect," said Thornton, "But we are convinced this is a top-notch system."

As counties convert to the digital system, Thornton says they are being encouraged to leave their existing communications systems -"legacy systems" as they are called - in place.

Thornton says the old systems will become a redundant backup system in the event of failure of the digital system.


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