When you have an emergency you want help right now, but in rural areas a lack of good communication can slow down first responders.
The Marion County Sheriff’s office is making changes to improve that. New squad cars are coming equipped with upgraded radio systems, meaning deputies can be reached in almost all of the county. Before, radios only had about 65% coverage.
"We need a way to communicate that’s our lifeline," said Marion County Deputy Jesse Chapman, according to Chapman until recently communication in the field has been spotty and has impacted response, "any number of situations domestic calls, stuff like that, if we’re not able to be reached we can’t go out and help."
Elements like distance and geological features prevented radio calls from reaching officers on duty. Because of hills you off Highway 168, the sheriff’s office had trouble calling dispatch to the area. Areas west of Philadelphia, Missouri and around Monroe City, Missouri also couldn’t be reached by the old analog-only radios. The new radios in all new vehicles moving forward will support both digital and analog signals.
"We all have repeaters in our vehicles, the towers are a lot better, we can use our portable radio and get out a lot better," said Chapman, "we can usually use the portable radio to get out in Philadelphia without having to use the repeater."
For Roy Wood, owner of Bayview Campers Park off Highway 168 in the previous dead zone, he’s glad to hear they’ll be able to respond faster to emergencies.
"I am so happy they got the new radios because anything that will speed up their response to anywhere will be tremendous," said Wood.
Officials said they’re glad that the county commissioners understand the need for good equipment for law enforcement.
The new radio system also comes with new vehicles for the sheriff’s office.
The county got three new Ford Explorers, replacing vehicles that sheriff’s office officials said had become unreliable. Marion county officials said the total cost of the new cars and radio system comes to around $90,000.