By Mana Rabiee
Maryland's Prince George's County is the first in the country to use frequencies once occupied by analog television for its emergency response system.
The $80 million overhaul switches the county's EMS communications to a new network that's built on airwaves vacated during the conversion to digital television. Vernon Herron, the homeland security director for Prince George's, says the county's communications system had been the weakest in the region, with first responders often struggling in radio "dead spots."
Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer helped make the announcement on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. He says the new system will ensure emergency response crews can communicate in the event of another attack like the one on 9-11.
"We don't know the next date. But we know on the next date, when crisis occurs and chaos is possible, that our personnel as a result of this effort will be able to respond," says Hoyer.
The new system allows the county's 27 municipalities to communicate directly rather than relaying signals through dispatch centers.
For the first time, county first responders can also directly communicate with other jurisdictions such as D.C. Virginia's Loudoun County will launch its new system on Tuesday.