Radio system connects emergency responders

A radio system is one step closer to connecting state law enforcement officers and other first responders from border to border.

It's a tool that state officials say can help in emergency situations.

Imagine a statewide manhunt with law enforcement trying to keep tabs on a wanted man traveling from county to county.  That was the scene ten years ago.  The man was Charles Moses.  He shot two officers and killed a farmer during the four day chase.

Colonel Bryan Tuma with the Nebraska State Patrol says it was a situation where officials could've used a statewide radio network.  “Those types of situations are dependent on good effective communication.”

That network is one step closer to reality.  Officials in central Nebraska activated nearly 600 new radios and 12 radio towers that will give emergency agencies the ability to communicate with each other from almost anywhere in the state.

The expense of operating the new system will be split between state funds, which were approved back in 2007, as well as federal Homeland Security grants.  The Nebraska Public Power District will also be a key player in the network.

Tom Kent is the dispatch coordinator for NPPD and says, “we cover almost the entire state of Nebraska.  Our current radio system was put in during the 1960's and 1970's so upgrading to this new technology is a huge advantage for us.  We are able to cover much more territory and use much better, much clearer radio communication than we've had in past years.”

It's a tool that everyone agrees could have drastically changed the outcome in the manhunt ten years ago and could certainly keep it from happening again.

Right now the network is available to state agencies in 68 counties.  The final phase of the network is expected to be completed by December 31.