Washington County announce upgrades of all public safety radio systems to digital

13 June 2024- The Washington County Board of Commissioners and Washington County Wireless Communications are proud to announce the successful upgrade of its public safety radio system to Project 25 (P25) Phase 2 technology, a state-of-the-art digital radio system that enhances communication and coordination for first responders. The upgrade project consists of two stages. The first $1.85 million stage of the radio system core was completed on November 8, 2023. The second $13.5 million stage is slated to be completed in 3rd quarter of 2025. Funds allocated to this Capital Improvement Project were earmarked primarily from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding Washington County received during the COVID-19 pandemic and through AFG (Assistance to Firefighters) grant funding procured by Washington County Division of Emergency Services (DES).

The new P25 system replaces the county’s legacy Motorola Astro P25 Phase 1 system, which was put in service about 2009. Major hardware and software components were no longer supported by the manufacturer. The upgrade ensures that public safety officials, including law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services, have reliable and efficient communication tools to respond to emergencies and protect the community. All 10 of the Washington County P25 RF transmission sites are now linked together with a state-of-the-art Ethernet Backbone network with diverse path capabilities.

In addition to the core radio system upgrade, 1,000 portable law enforcement and Fire/EMS radios will be replaced. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office will receive 165 APX NEXT portable radios. DES, all Washington County volunteer and paid staff Fire and EMS stations, and the Hagerstown Fire Department will receive 770 of the new Motorola APX NXT XN portable radio that is NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1802 compliant. These radios were purpose-built with the Fire/EMS first responders use as a priority. They passed rigorous durability and heat testing and are packed full of features that make them one of the most technological advanced first responder radios in the world. DES and HFD will also receive 65 Motorola APX NXT XE portable radios which are robust but geared toward the Fire/EMS administrators. These radios will be distributed to all stations based on apparatus and staffing needs.

The distribution of the WCSO radios is currently in progress with completion scheduled by the end of August 2024. The Fire/EMS radio distribution is scheduled to begin in July 2024 with completion by the end of Fall 2024.

Key features of the new P25 system and portable radios include:

  • Digital voice technology: Provides clear and crisp voice communications, reducing interference and noise.
  • Voice command: Capable of changing radio channels with voice commands rather than the need to access the radio from the protection of outer gear.
  • LTE capable: Allows the administrators to make radio programming updates to the radios without the time-consuming task of touching each individual radio every time a change is required.
  • Enhanced security: Features advanced encryption and authentication protocols to ensure secure communication.
  • Interoperability: Allows for seamless communication with other agencies and jurisdictions, ensuring a unified response to emergencies, including those operating with different frequency bands.
  • Priority dispatching: Enables priority dispatching of emergency calls, ensuring that critical situations are addressed promptly.
  • GPS locating: Broadcasts the location of the radio on push-to-talk so the dispatch center can quickly identify the location of a user in the event of an emergency.

The upgrade was made possible through a collaborative effort between Washington County, local public safety agencies, and Motorola Solutions. The 2nd stage project is ongoing but scheduled to be completed on time and within budget, with minimal disruption to public safety services.

Washington County is committed to continuously improving its public safety services and infrastructure. The new P25 system is just one example of the county’s ongoing efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of its citizens.