MCP Insights

MCP Helps Story County Replace Obsolete Public-Safety Radio System

Posted on June 28, 2021 by Carly Burgmeier

Steady, reliable communications are a necessity for public-safety agencies. From having reliable coverage in an area to always being able to relay important messages and information to emergency responders and/or the citizens they protect, agencies need up-to-date, functional communications systems.

That was not the case in Story County, Iowa, which is home to more than 98,000 residents plus the Iowa State University (ISU) student and faculty population of 33,000 in Ames, which is located about 30 miles north of Des Moines, the state capital. Multiple county, city, and university entities had been using an outdated radio system that was implemented in 1989. On top of the plethora of problems associated with technology that had reached end of life, the legacy system also was vendor-owned, which meant that maintenance was slow and ineffectual, largely because replacement parts were difficult to secure. The result was a poorly functioning, unreliable radio system.

According to Todd Johnson, a senior technology specialist who led MCP’s procurement team for this project, the legacy system not only was not public-safety grade, it also didn’t offer any of the modern technology that public safety agencies seek in radio systems today.

“Features were no longer functioning, and sufficient channels didn’t exist,” Johnson said.

The county’s myriad public-safety entities eventually decided that enough was enough, and that replacing the radio system was necessary. So, they formed StoryComm, an intergovernmental consortium consisting of county, city, and university representatives. StoryComm then tapped Mission Critical Partners (MCP) to guide the transition.

MCP helped StoryComm each step of the way—from the procurement process, to information gathering, to development of technical specifications, to implementation and testing. MCP’s vendor-neutral approach enabled StoryComm members to delineate the pros and cons of all available options and select a best-of-breed solution based solely on its performance, reliability, and cost-effectiveness. solution. (For more information about this project, click here.)

The Ames Police Department and ISU’s police department and department of public safety have operated on a temporary bridge solution since February 2020. The Ames Fire Department and Story County Sheriff’s Office joined the temporary system during summer 2020. The transition of the remaining users to the new system should be completed this summer.

The temporary system already has improved coverage, capacity, and reliability for users, and StoryComm leaders are looking forward to continuing to work with MCP throughout the implementation.

“MCP’s knowledge and experience—not just on the technology side, but also on the management and administration side—has been invaluable to us throughout this project,” said Tom Hackett, Ames’ deputy fire chief.

Carly Burgmeier is MCP’s marketing communications specialist. She can be emailed at CarlyBurgmeier@MissionCriticalPartners.com

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