Update to public safety radio communications system

By Holly Vezinet

The radio system serving most law enforcement and fire/Emergency Management Systems (EMS) agencies of Clackamas and Washington County was upgraded to a digital system in January 2022

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from the Broadcastify site

According to a January 10, 2022, press release by the Clackamas 800 Radio Group (Washington county has not addressed the change), the analog system that was built in 2000 using technology from the early 1990s was outdated and at risk of failure. To keep the system functioning, technicians had been forced to search for replacement parts on online auction sites and third-party vendors, as dealer support ended in 2017. Sometimes they were even forced to take parts from other systems or acquire them from neighboring public safety jurisdictions. 

The new digital radio system was built using bond funds from voter-approved ballot measure 3-476 in 2016. All law enforcement agencies have opted to encrypt their radio channels, thereby preventing scanners from intercepting their transmissions. In addition, dispatch channels will be on a 30-minute delay before being streamed publicly which allows first responders to communicate during emergencies without the risk of broadcasting information in real-time that could endanger them or the public. There will be no change for citizens who use the PulsePoint application. 

types of broadcastify feeds

A few agencies in Washington County including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Beaverton Police have chosen to rebroadcast their main dispatch channels via Broadcastify. That allows “scanners”—volunteers who listen to these channels and share information on Twitter and Facebook—to get information to share with the public. The Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA) provides a chart of all the channels available to the public here. [Currently, the WashCo Scanner says the audio feed has been down since Friday, September 30, which is frustrating for those of us who use the Twitter feed to help neighbors know what’s going on.]