MEDIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — The latest issues with Delaware County’s 911 radio system have the police union saying that officers’ lives are being placed in danger.
They are calling for a new system that could cost the county millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades.
“The radio system in Delaware County is antiquated,” says Delaware County Fraternal Order of Police First Vice President Robert Carroll.
Over the weekend, officials say there were four or five instances when emergency responders were unable to reach the 911 call center using their portable radios.
“We need to do something and we need to do something sooner rather than later,” said Carroll.
Back in June of 2016, Folcroft Officer Chris Dorman was under fire by a gunman.
But while other officers could hear him calling for help on the radio, he was unable to reach dispatchers at the 911 call center causing confusion and chaos.
Call center Executive Director Timothy Boyce says the problem was a result of a major software issue causing their computers to reboot.
“Those reboots happened at the worse time possible when an officer was in a gun draw,” said Boyce.
Although Dorman was shot seven times, he survived and is back on the job.
“Chris Dorman had an angel on his shoulder that day. There’s no doubt about it,” said Carroll.
Boyce says the software issues have been fixed but he admits they continue to have issues caused by what he calls atmospheric interference or “ducting” in the 500 T-Band Frequency. He compares it to having poor cell phone service at certain times. They now use map forecasting when there could be interference and alert first responders ahead of time.
“We put out advance messages, you may not be able to hear me, you may have interference problems,” said Boyce.
Boyce says the evidence is clear– they need a new system, and he says they have hired an engineering firm to study the problem and propose changes. But he says there are a lot of challenges. Cost is one of them.
“The estimated cost for us to move to a new frequency is almost $40 million,” he said.
The 911 executive says once a new system has been decided on and the green light given by County Council, it could all be in place in 2 to 5 years.