Washington County radio system in need of upgrade


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA) — A recent deadly plane crash proved communication between Washington County emergency responders could be better.

Washington County officials are considering asking for help funding a multi-million dollar radio system, to be part of the Arkansas Wireless Information Network, or AWIN.

The current emergency radio system has been used for the past 15 years.

Several cities, like Rogers and Fayetteville, are already apart of AWIN.

“It actually is worrisome that we could have a catastrophic failure on our system,” says John Luther, Washington County Emergency Manager. “I mean, it is critical.”

The project would include more than 1,700 radios, four towers, dispatch consoles, and additional equipment.

“We’re looking at an investment that’s probably going to last 15 to 20 years,” Luther said.

Capt. Josh McConnell with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office points to interoperability.

“I think it’s definitely clearer on communications because you have to say it one time instead of three or four times,” McConnell said.

The new radio system would also help officers with search patterns when out on emergencies, like search-and-rescue missions.

McConnell adds, “these radios will have the capability of having GPS tracking on them. For instance, like up there at the plane crash, if we had that system in place we could sit inside the command post and see we have 20 officers — where are they at?”

The estimated cost of the upgraded service would total around $8.5 million.

Luther and McConnell presented the information Monday night, leading the committee made up of Central EMS, rural police and fire departments.

The Washington County Services Committee discussed a possible sales tax increase to fund it.

Luther says one thing is for sure; the current radio system has reached the end of it’s life.

He adds, “every emergency that happens in this county, this radio system will be used.”

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