Technology In Place, But Is It Working?
In emergency situations such as terrorist attacks, first responders need to be able to communicate effectively. California counties have turned to a device called ACU-1000 made by Raytheon JPS Communications to link together radio channels and cell phones across cities and counties.
Audio signals from each radio or phone are essentially fed into the microphones of other radios and phones. The units are in the form of black boxes and have proven useful in tests held at Contra Costa County.
Priced at $11,000 to $40,000 each, the units cost less in comparison to a new radio system. But the systems work only when agencies are connected and their radio coverage overlaps; detailed plans for linking the radio systems also need to be drawn up prior to using the ACU-1000, according to John Powell, a Bay Area law enforcement communications employee and part of the Department of Homeland Security’s RAPIDCOM initiative, which is designed to connect incident leaders within an hour via radio.
Powell adds that linking radios together hastily “is a major disaster waiting to happen” because of the potential for muddling up the frequencies in a region.
In the Los Angeles area, administrators test their ACU-1000 network twice a week to make sure they will work during a catastrophe, and Contra Costa County recently used the audio patches to interconnect state and local radios during an anti-war protest in San Ramon.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Tri-Valley Herald (CA) (09/08/04); Hoffman, Ian .