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DEFOREST, Wis. -  DeForest
Police chief Robert Henze has spent the last month testing the new technology
that's set to be fully implemented by the end of the summer.

 "We
knew up front, right off the bat, that penetration coverage in buildings was
either not going to be there or very poor," Henze said.

Henze
went through his own police station and learned the walls are too thick for
DaneCom signals to penetrate much of the building.

In
addition, Henze and his officers have tried the radios out in the district's
schools.  He said in three of the four schools, coverage and penetration
was "extremely poor" with the portable radios.  Henze added
there's no sign that anything will be improved as the county continues with
implementing DaneCom.

"Bottom
line, its public safety for the entire community, and what needs to be done
needs to be," Henze said.

The
new system was put in place to provide Dane County with interoperable
communications.  In other words, the DaneCom system allows fire, EMS,
police, and all other first responders to talk on the same channels and
communicate in emergencies.

"Communication
is crucial," Henze said.  "You look at any major dynamic event,
the first thing that's scrutinized is communication, and you'd think by now we
would have that down."

The
$18 million DaneCom network broke ground in 2012.  At the time, Dane
County executive Joe Parisi said rural areas should expect expanded coverage.

Henze
pointed out the strength of his radio signals was cut in half with the change.

Sharon
Carrigan, now the chair of the county board of supervisors, chaired the
original DaneCom governing board.  She said communities knew what they
were buying into when the system was chosen, including any potential
problematic areas with coverage.

"I
think everybody knew what it meant when we were signing up for it,"
Carrigan said, "but also it's looking at the specifics in the community of
what that means for certain buildings in the community."

Going
with a more affordable option for a communications system was a decision
approved by 55 of the 59 municipalities.

"Every
community can make the decision if they want to add pieces to the system and if
they want to add some repeaters or towers that will make the system stronger
for their community," Carrigan said.

Henze
said he was made aware of what the changes would do to coverage, but he said
there was no way to properly plan until he could actually test the system's
penetration around DeForest.

Henze
is looking into other options, including use of a tower in Sun Prairie and
in-car repeaters, which would act as mobile "hot spots" for coverage
and help the radio signal push through troublesome walls.































With
the DaneCom system set to go online in August, Henze doesn't think other
options will be ready and paid for in time.

DeForest Police says new radio system doesn’t cover station, schools

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