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Orange County

Emergency Radio Network Recovers From Failure

July 03, 2001|JACK LEONARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County's $80-million emergency radio system failed early Monday, forcing most fire departments and a handful of police agencies to switch to a backup system as engineers corrected the problem.

The failure struck about 3:20 a.m. and was fixed by 4:30 a.m., said Joe Robben, manager of the Orange County Sheriff's Department's communications division, which oversees the radio network.

Robben said a backup system enabled firefighters and police officers to continue communicating with dispatchers. None of the affected agencies complained about the problem, he said.

The 800-megahertz system--which has drawn criticism from some firefighters and police officers because of other transmission problems--has suffered similar failures at least two times.

But Monday's episode was the longest a portion of the network has been down, Robben said. In each instance, he added, the backup system helped keep radios working.

"I can't emphasize too much that this system is designed to handle problems like this," Robben said. "This is a nonevent."

"If it's going to go down, that's the best time in the world," said Jean Ferrell, communications manager for Metronet, a fire network that covers seven Orange County cities.

Robben said engineers from Motorola, the company that built the radio system, are investigating the cause of the failure.

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