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Ref: Wyoming builds statewide interops communications system

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WyoLink enhances public safety and emergency response

Posted: Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2008
BY: Jerry Abbott

Soon emergency responders from different specialties throughout Wyoming will be able to communicate with one another through an integrated communication system.

The new system, called WyoLink, allows emergency responders such as police, ambulance and fire departments from areas throughout the state to talk to each other. According to police chief Billy Janes, WyoLink has been in the planning stages for 15 years.

“We knew the federal government was going to require narrowed band width for communications,” Janes said. “Almost every emergency provider is going to have to change their communication system. 9/11 hit home the need for interoperable communications. We need the capability to talk to firemen in Casper or police officers in other towns. Several studies were conducted and the decision was made to go with a statewide system using VHF frequency.”

According to the WyoLink Web site, the system is a statewide, digital trunked VHF P-25 compliant public safety communications system designed to coordinate and integrate communications between state, local and federal public safety agencies. When complete, WyoLink will enable reliable and interoperable communications for more than 150 public safety and public service agencies in the state. All new communication systems purchased within the state must be P-25 compatible, which would make them WyoLink compatible.

Gov. Dave Freudenthal said he saw the need for interoperable communications during his eight years as U.S. attorney for Wyoming.

“In circumstances where both civilians’ and officers’ lives were in jeopardy, we did not have the ability to communicate back and forth, and in one instance we were reliant solely on cell phone coverage, which in Wyoming is a bit spotty,” Freudenthal said in a WyoLink press release. “So it became clear to me long before Katrina or 9/11 that interoperability of communications in a rural state is incredibly important, because no department, no unit, no individual operation has sufficient resources to respond to a natural or man-made circumstance by themselves.”

The WyoLink contract with Motorola calls for 58 WyoLink radio sites with the master site in Cheyenne. The system will cost over $50 million statewide. According to Janes, the Torrington Police Department has replaced all of their radios at a cost of over $1 million.

“We are awaiting a new communication console,” Janes said. “Our old 1980s console is non-supportable. Our new system cost $630,000 and should last for the next 20 years. The console is being built now. Our goal is to have a room for dispatch in our new location (old Lincoln Elementary School) with the new console up and running by July 1.”

Martin McCoy, the WyoLink Support Manager for Wyoming, said the project is nearing completion, particularly in the southeastern part of the state.

“All of the tower sites in the Phase I area that includes the southeast portion of the state are up and in service,” McCoy said. “Three additional sites have been built but are only available on an experimental basis. One of these experimental sites, the Virgin Hill site 40 miles west of Torrington, will provide key transmission for the Torrington area. On Jan. 10 there was a demonstration for the Joint Appropriations Committee. There was perfect coverage between Torrington City Hall, Casper fire station, Laramie City Hall and Rogers Canyon northeast of Laramie and Cheyenne. Thirteen sites across southern Wyoming, including the temporary sites, provide border to border coverage.”

McCoy said statewide WyoLink coverage should be 80 to 85 percent complete by March of this year.

“The main hold up (in statewide coverage) is the frequency licensing by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC),” McCoy said. “They want to make sure WyoLink does not interfere with other communication systems. There are some delays in the west and north ends of the state related to land acquisition with the U.S. Forest Service – in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Bighorn National Forest. Many studies are being conducted but the buildings, equipment and towers are there. Now it is a matter of configuring and aligning.”

Janes said interoperable communications would incorporate numerous specialties, including city departments, hospitals, the Road and Bridge Department and others, including school buses. One of the major goals of WyoLink is to include as many people as possible.

“If I go anywhere in the state, I should be able to talk to anyone else in the state,” Janes said.

McCoy said WyoLink would eventually be tied to radio communication systems in adjoining states. A communication line would be required crossing the border between Wyoming and Nebraska, Colorado, Montana and Utah. According to McCoy, Wyoming is one of the frontrunners in obtaining and operating a statewide communication system.
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