All main agencies on digital radios now

Published 11:47 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All departments in Covington County – police, fire and emergency medical services, with the exception of volunteer fire departments, have gone digital.

Covington County EMA Director Kristi Stamnes confirmed this Tuesday.

“All departments except the volunteer fire departments are digital,” she said. “Right now, I am not sure when they will switch over.”

Sheriff Dennis Meeks said the transition will make it easier for the departments to communicate.

“This allows us to be able to fully communicate with everybody,” he said.

Meeks said another thing the new system does is allow for expanding coverage area.

“It gives our portables a wide coverage area,” he said. “When our guys are out of their cars, they will have a lot better coverage and reception. That will play a big role when we are responding to calls.”

The city of Andalusia made the switch more than a year ago.

The new radios can’t be picked up with analog scanners, which gives police a blanket of security when responding to calls.

“One of the plusses is that nobody can scan it,” APD Chief Paul Hudson said. “That’s going to benefit us on some calls. If they’re trying to commit a crime and they have somebody listening to the scanners for the dispatcher, they’re not going to hear anything from us.”

The project cost the city of Andalusia $185,000.

In November, the E-911 board OK’d the upgraded system.

The new system replaces a system that was installed at the end of 1999.

The purchase cost $58,000.

Jay Spurlin of S&P Communication took the lead on getting everything installed.

In December, the county commission learned it would cost more than $65,000, plus an additional $500 per month, to convert the sheriff’s department to digital.

With APD on digital, the sheriff’s department was unable to communicate with them during an emergency on their radios.

Geneva and Coffee counties had also upgraded.

In December, Opp also decided to join the county in upgrading to digital radios.

To help Florala and Opp, Spurlin put in the infrastructure for those cities, making a $65,000 personal investment through his company.

The cost for OPD was $30,911 and $16,674 for the fire department, as well as a $420 monthly system usage charge.

OFD chief Cory Spurlin said they have been swapped to the new system for over a month.

“It’s been a good change for us,” he said. “And really for the city of Opp – fire, police, utilities, etc. During a disaster we can all communicate.

During some severe weather on Monday, the used it, he said.

“We swapped over and talked to the electrical department,” he said. “And outside of our city, it’s a lot clearer. You don’t seem to have as many dead spots.”