QC public safety agencies switch to digital radios

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 11:34 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Quad City first responders in Illinois and Iowa are going digital, upgrading their old analog radio system earlier this month.

The system officially launched on Nov. 9 and should be fully implemented in both Rock Island and Scott Counties by the end of the month.

The new digital system brings a few different features to the public safety department’s radio frequencies. Among the most crucial, it has the potential to reduce response times in situations where seconds matter.

”It’s fractional, but every fraction helps,” David Donavan Director of the Scott Emergency Communications Center said.

Going digital changes the way many of the volunteer fire departments are paged to a call.

“It streamlines some functions that maybe took two or three different clicks,” Donavan said. “When we were paging out a fire department, we had to page them across multiple different towers, the new system allows for one click to do that.”

The process of switching started four years ago. Agencies on either side of the river used different analog equipment, which made it harder to communicate during ongoing situations.

The new radios will help agencies coordinate more quickly in both states.

“Although the river separates Iowa from Illinois, Scott, from Rock Island County, we know that our first responders work together a lot, they provide mutual aid to each other,” Donavan said. “This will get all of those agencies onto the same system. It’ll allow for native interoperability amongst those, we’re all carrying the same types of radios.”

Encryption brought on with the system protects information about ongoing investigations or medical information. It’s not just potentially life-threatening situations, but normal day-to-day traffic stops too.

“We’re talking, [about] people’s driver’s licenses, names, dates of birth, and things like that,” Donavan said. “Encrypted channels will help us keep that information confidential.”

Digital radios will also allow agencies to create different channels for community events like the Bix 7 in Iowa or the John Deere Classic in Illinois. It will once again streamline communication for those agencies working on an event.