Northwest NEWS

March 6, 2000

Local News

County erects emergency radio tower

radio tower

The last link in the County's emergency system is being finished.
Photo by Becky Nixon.

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--King County is finishing work on the last link in its county-wide emergency services, "800 MHz Trunked Radio System," between Woodinville and Duvall. The system was approved by voters in a special levy in Sept. 1992. For the first time, it links all County police, fire, and medical service (911) agencies by a single communication system of 12,500 two-way radios.

   "Before, every emergency services district had its own communication system, with various levels of technology," said Kevin Kearns, King County Emergency Management Services Manager. "Several of them could be responding to the same emergency, but unable to communicate with each other."

   Before, they were operating off of a temporary relay tower that did not have backup power for extreme emergencies. Crews are finishing work on the building that will house the essential mechanisms, including generators and backups.

   The County decided to build the system piece by piece, rather than save up the money and do it all at once, said Kearns. "Some agencies told us they were holding off on replacing their aging communication systems, so we started in those areas. We built portions of the system and moved agencies off their old communication methods as each tower was completed."

   Kearns said the radio waves pose virtually no threat to people on the ground, although he knows some people will disagree. "These waves compare very favorably with FCC standards," said Kearns. "A two-way radio system is not that powerful, with virtually no ground level power transmittal. We designed it very conservatively, with just enough power to transmit waves from one tower to the next. Our output is only 1/4000 of the acceptable FCC standard safety level."