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Snohomish Co. public safety leaders: Emergency 911 radio system is "obsolete and failing"

Public safety and county leaders in Snohomish County say the emergency 911 radio system is "obsolete and failing." They’re demanding "urgent action" to replace the 19-year-old system. (Photo: KOMO News)

EVERETT, Wash. -- Public safety and county leaders in Snohomish County say the emergency 911 radio system is "obsolete and failing." They’re demanding "urgent action" to replace the 19-year-old system.

“Unfortunately, we have to rob Peter to pay Paul. We're borrowing from other agencies' antiquated parts to keep our system running,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary.

That's why the Sheriff and other public safety leaders say their 911 emergency radio system must be replaced.

“Think about the cellphone we were using 20 years ago. None of us still have them in our pocket because technology has changed so dramatically,” said Trenary.

Trenary says dispatchers are already seeing trouble.

“Over the weekend, we had a complete failure of the system that didn't allow dispatchers and the first responders to talk,” said Trenary.

“Our officers and our firefighters rely on that service. If we get to a point where we have service interruptions or service failures because the technology isn't working, we can't deliver those vital public safety needs,” said Greg Elwin, Mill Creek Police Chief and President of Snohomish County Sheriff and Police Chiefs Association.

“Without that radio system there, we have no communications. We have no way to tell the firefighters and police around the county that somebody needs help,” said Chief Chris Alexander of Mulkiteo Fire, and President of Fire Chiefs Association.

A new 911 radio system would cost as much as $75 million. That's why they gathered Thursday to put out the urgent plea for help.

“We think this is a very important thing. We cannot pull it of pocket to pay for it. So, we need to go to voters and say ‘here's what's going on, here's what we need, do you support it?' ”

The next step is to find funding and then putting the issue before voters.

King County is in the process replacing their 911 radio system with funding from a voter-approved property tax.

Pierce County has replaced its system with the help of a sales tax.

About 50 local agencies use the Snohomish County emergency 911 radio system.

That includes law enforcement agencies and fire departments. About a million emergency 911 calls are dispatched to responders every year via two-way radios.

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