In York County, Pa.'s approximately 900 square miles, 150 public safety and government agencies now all can talk on the same radio system. The new network, which was built out over five years, covers most of the county, both outdoors and inside buildings.

York County's radio infrastructure developed over the years as a patchwork of disparate systems that each agency built to coordinate operations with its own staff and with little concern about communicating with other agencies. Radios and dispatch equipment spanned from 25 to 35 years old, and dead spots were common.

In 2004, county communications officials began designing a new network that would provide interoperable communications, clearer transmissions and better coverage across the county and in buildings. They decided that APCO Project 25 (P25) standards offered them the best vehicle to meet their communications needs. "We wanted our subscribers to get the benefits of a standard technology that anyone across the county could use, and P25 standards gave us the flexibility we wanted, along with the coverage we needed, to communicate across the state," says Eric Bistline, executive director of the York County Department of Emergency Services

In March 2006, the county contracted with Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications to build a P25IP system that would connect all agencies on one common Internet Protocol-based network. The digital system supports hundreds of talkgroups, so all subscribers could use the network at any time and can be linked together for mutual aid communications.

To build the network, the county had to acquire FCC licensing and install base station equipment, a microwave backbone, radio towers, dispatch consoles, paging transmitters and terminals. It purchased all new radio equipment, but it kept some legacy equipment for interoperability with other counties. The county issued municipal bonds to pay for the project.

After a few final software adjustments and testing, the system went live earlier this year. Now, nearly 99 percent of the county is covered by the network, and the system has better audio quality and functions the county never had before, including interoperability with the eight surrounding counties and the state police, and tactical operations channels.

Project: Countywide radio network
Jurisdiction: York County, Pa.
Agency: Department of Emergency Services
Vendor: Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications
Date completed: August 2009
Cost: $62 million