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S.D. Region Communicates Well in Emergencies, But Could Do Better

A new Homeland Security report card says first responders in San Diego County do a good job communicating in emergencies -- much better than during the Cedar Fire three years ago. Even so, KPBS Radio

S.D. Region Communicates Well in Emergencies, But Could Do Better

A new Homeland Security report card says first responders in San Diego County do a good job communicating in emergencies -- much better than during the Cedar Fire three years ago.  Even so, KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps reports public-safety agencies want to make major upgrades to communications equipment.

If a police officer in San Diego needs to call a Sheriff's deputy in Lemon Grove, the officer has to go through two dispatchers before reaching the deputy. There are plans to simplify that process. Sue Levine is leading a 150-million-dollar effort to put everyone on the same, digital frequency.

Levine: That would provide direct communication in the field unit to unit.

It could save critical minutes in emergencies that touch many communities -- like deadly wildfires. For the new system to work, every regional agency would have to upgrade to digital radios. Levine says it's a long-term goal for now because of the high cost. The city of San Diego is sinking millions into less expensive analog radios. For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.