Ozark County emergency departments to receive major upgrades

GAINESVILLE, Mo. — Commissioners in Ozark County have accepted a $265,000 bid from Radio Communications Specialists in Springfield for much-needed communication upgrades for the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office and all the county’s volunteer fire departments. 

Ozark County Emergency Management Director Curtis Ledbetter says emergency crews operate off one repeater, only allowing limited communications within the mountainous region. Repeaters increase effective communications using handheld portable radios, base station radios and mobile radios to retransmit received radio signals. Buildings and hills can act as obstructions, causing a radio shadow and weakening signals. 

Ledbetter says if deputies go too far south or southeast, they can’t radio dispatch when they are in need.

“We had an instance where one of our deputies was in Bakersfield and some guy went hands on with him,” Ledbetter told The Heartlander. “There is a video an 11-year-old girl filmed where you can see him sitting there trying to radio for dispatch and trying to fight this guy off. You couldn’t hear anything; there were no transmissions at all.”

Ozark County volunteer fire departments use a single tower, located at the sheriff’s office. The tower covers the entire county but is not efficient enough to handle all communications. The fire departments will switch to the digital side of things, while other upgrades will add four repeaters, covering the entire county and its outer edges. 

“We’ve got a bunch of handhelds we are going to hand out. A couple of the in-car mobile radios will be in command vehicles or whatever the main vehicle is to try to get everyone started on switching from analog to digital and raise the coverage area by quite a bit.”

The Ozark County Sheriff’s Office will switch to the Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network (MOSWIN), a homeland security program consisting of over 80 radio tower sites throughout the state providing mobile coverage in each county. Once the system is implemented, the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office will have stronger communications with sheriff offices in neighboring Howell, Wright and Douglas counties. 

Road and bridge crews will use new channels to stay in touch with Ozark County Emergency Management during emergencies such as icy conditions and storm damage. Road workers will communicate with appropriate officials through lower frequencies on a sub-channel. 

Ledbetter says he hopes to adopt the RAVE emergency alert system for Ozark County in the near future. The system alerts state employees with real-time communications when emergencies occur that may impact their departments’ operations.

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