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  • PCWIN, county's emergency radio system, marks one-year anniversary

    Mar 16, 2015 | Read More News
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    antenna pcwinOne year ago today, the Pima County Wireless Integrated Network went live, making it easier for more than 50 Pima County and Southern Arizona public service and public safety agencies to communicate with each other.
    Pima County voters and taxpayers in the 2004 bond election approved investing more than $85 million in the state-of-the-art wireless system that provides crystal clear communications over more than 90 percent of Pima County, which is bigger in area than the state of New Jersey. The only area not covered by PCWIN is a small, sparsely populated section of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

    PCWIN is overseen by a 21-member cooperative. Its daily users include eight police departments, 22 fire departments and seven hospitals. There were 29 participating agencies in March 2014. There are now 55 agencies or organizations using the system. Some have joined as full members while others participate as either part-time users or occasional users of the system. Members and daily users of the system pay a per-radio fee. Pima County is the largest user of the system with 2,900 radios (Sheriff’s Department, Flood Control and Transportation, primarily). There are 7,500 radios currently on the system.

    PCWIN Executive Director John Voorhees said the system is expanding and has ample capacity to add more agencies, with negotiations underway with several local, state and federal agencies. Despite all of those agencies using the system, routine daily usage averages about 30 percent of capacity. This leaves ample capacity for the system to absorb increased radio traffic during multijurisdictional incidents, such as the response to the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He said the cooperative has tried to tax the system during training exercises with thousands of radios using the system as part of a simulated emergency and he said it barely made a dent in total capacity.

    Integrated communications systems were an outgrowth of the lessons learned during the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York City in which multiple responding agencies not only had difficulty communicating between agencies, but within their own agency because of the noise. PCWIN allows all participants to communicate between agencies, but also features some of the industry’s most sophisticated noise cancelling software.
    When PCWIN went live with Tucson Fire District last year, the first test of the new radios came five minutes later when TFD responded to a house fire. Voorhees said even though a TFD crew was using a large saw to cut a hole in the roof, the radio communication from the firefighter came through completely clear.

    The Oro Valley Police Department also realized an immediate benefit from the system when it responded to a hostage situation just a few hours after flipping the switch on PCWIN. The new system allowed OVPD to communicate clearly within its agency, including its SWAT, but also with other PCWIN participants responding to assist the department during the standoff. (Contact OVPD Chief Daniel Sharp, 520-229-4900, for more information on OVPD’s use of PCWIN during the standoff).

    The cooperative governing board is making sure the system stays state-of-the-art by using the annual fees from members and participants to invest in the system.

    To learn more about PCWIN visit its webpage.
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    Agencies using PCWIN (different levels of participation.

    (*) denotes cooperative board member):
    At startup, March 2014:
    * Pima County (Sheriff’s Department and Public Works)
    * City of Tucson (Fire and police departments)
    * Northwest Fire
    * Golder Ranch Fire
    * Avra Valley Fire
    * Oro Valley Police Department
    * Sahuarita Police Department
    * Corona De Tucson Fire
    * Drexel Heights Fire
    * Green Valley Fire
    * Mountain Vista Fire
    * Pascua Yaqui Tribe (Fire and police departments)
    * Picture Rocks Fire
    * Pima Community College Police Department
    * Rincon Valley Fire
    * Sabino Vista Fire
    * City of South Tucson (Fire and police departments)
    * Tanque Verde Valley Fire
    * Three Points Fire
    * Tucson Country Club Estates Fire
    * University of Arizona Police Department
    Ajo/Gibson Fire
    Arivaca Fire
    Elephant Head Fire
    Helmet Peak Fire
    Mount Lemmon Fire
    Why Fire
    Rural Metro Fire
    Ajo Ambulance Company

    Added since March 2014:
    Northwest Medical Center
    Oro Valley Hospital
    Carondolet Health (Saint Joseph’s and Saint Mary’s Hospitals)
    Tucson Medical Center
    University Medical Center
    UMC South Campus
    Raytheon Fire (under TFD)
    Southern Arizona Rescue Association (under PCSD)
    162 Fighter Wing Fire Department
    Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives
    Cochise County Sheriff’s Department
    Pasedera Behavioral Health Mobile Acute Crisis Team
    Sunnyside Unified School District
    United States Forest Service
    United States Marshal Service
    Union Pacific Railroad Police Department
    * University of Arizona Department of Risk Management
    National Park Service
    Arizona Attorney General’s Office