MCP Helps Iowa Public-Safety Agencies Navigate Radio System Replacement 
Monday, December 12, 2022 | Comments

Mission Critical Partners (MCP) announced the completion of a project to implement a new public safety-grade land mobile radio (LMR) system for emergency-response agencies in Story County, Iowa. The system replaces one that was implemented in 1989 and was experiencing significant performance and maintenance issues.  

  

The legacy system no longer was public-safety grade because of numerous coverage, capacity, and reliability deficiencies. Also, much of its equipment had reached end of life, making it difficult to procure replacement parts, which in turn made maintenance extremely difficult.  

  

An intergovernmental consortium was formed, dubbed StoryComm, to address these challenges. The consortium, which consists of representatives from Story County, the city of Ames, and Iowa State University — decided that it was time to move forward with a full system overhaul and hired MCP in 2017 to support its efforts to procure the new radio system.  

  

According to Todd Johnson, a senior technology specialist who led MCP’s support, the legacy system not only was not public-safety grade, but some essential features also no longer were functioning. In addition, the legacy system lacked sufficient channels to support the number of users, and it did not offer the modern technologies that public-safety agencies seek in radio systems today. 

  

MCP started by gathering information to help StoryComm better understand the needs of the agencies and their emergency responders who would use the new system. 

  

“It was our job to help the consortium evaluate the options and identify the best solution to not only improve countywide communications, but also to align with user budgets moving forward,” Johnson said. 

  

“Once we knew what our users wanted, the MCP team helped us to distill the pros and cons of each system being presented,” said Nick Lennie, chief deputy, Story County Sheriff’s Office. “They also helped us to ask the tough questions about things like customer service, system management, and vendor support.” 

  

The selected vendor, RACOM, offered an interim solution built in part on the existing regional radio network. This interim solution, endorsed by MCP, would immediately improve coverage, capacity, and reliability for users until the larger, full-featured permanent solution could be built out. The result was a temporary bridge system that would help county, city, and university users to transition off the legacy system faster. 

  

The permanent system, which required construction of four new towers, has improved coverage, capacity, and reliability, and supports nearly 5,000 mobile and portable radios. The project was completed on budget and ahead of schedule. Primary user agencies include: 

  • Ames Police Department 

  • Ames Fire Department 

  • Story County Sheriff’s Office 

  • ISU Police Department 

  • ISU Department of Public Safety 

  • All Story County volunteer fire and emergency medical services (EMS) departments 

“MCP’s knowledge and experience — not just on the technology side, but also on the management and administration side — was invaluable to us throughout this project,” said Tom Hackett, deputy chief of the Ames Fire Department. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the MCP team.”  




 
 
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