Frequently Asked Questions by Public on New Radio System

posted Jul 6, 2015, 6:56 PM by System Administrator   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 7:22 PM ]
We have been receiving inquiries via social media about how the new digital radio system will impact scanning and monitoring of radio traffic.  We have also observed some well intentioned but inaccurate responses from people who claim to be aware of the proposed system's design and features.  We have developed these responses to ‘Frequency Asked Questions’ for the public’s knowledge regarding the new system to shed light as well as to clarify some innacuracies::


Is it true that the new system is all encrypted and the public will not be able to monitor traffic?
No.   This is untrue.  The new system is a VHF Digital ‘Project 25’ Phase II (TDMA) system.   So what do all of those acronyms mean to you?  Simply put—the system supports encryption.  However, the only talkgroups (channels) that will be encrypted are the law enforcement talkgroups—at the request of the law enforcement community and police chiefs for officer safety.  

Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) talkgroups will be digital but will remain unencrypted.  Paging channels (the ones that we use to alert Fire and EMS via tones) will actually remain analog (not digital).

So how will the public be able to scan the unencrypted channels on this new system?
There are scanners on the market that will scan the digital system.  They will not be able to decode the encrypted law enforcement traffic.  However, with the proper programming they will receive the fire and EMS traffic.

The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety can not recommend a specific scanner or give programming advice.   However, we would encourage scanner enthusiasts to ensure that the scanner they purchase supports VHF TDMA/Phase II operation.

Why did we need such a technologically advanced system?
This system was necessary to address significant coverage gaps in the County’s current antiquated radio system.  These coverage gaps pose a significant hazard to first responders in Lawrence County.  The first responder communities asked for a more updated system and the County Commissioners responded by authorizing this capital improvement in the public safety budget.

The system was selected based on careful years of study by local public safety officials and outside engineers and vendors who have hundreds of collective years of designing such systems across the nation—ranging from small rural counties and cities to urban, statewide and federal systems.

The system selected was agreed to be the most effective for the budget, topography and radio frequencies that Lawrence County has or has access to.  The VHF band is one that we already own the license for many frequencies.  It also allows us to cover the county more cost effectively by requiring  fewer tower sites.  The trunked and TDMA/Phase 2 design allows us to use less frequencies;  although we have many VHF frequencies  already, additional ones are very hard to get licensed.  This more efficient use of frequencies allows for more bandwidth---people who can talk on the system at once—as well as room for future expansion.

While we are very cognizant of the public’s ease of scanning the current system, our first and foremost mission is the safety of the citizens, visitors and first responders of Lawrence County and the new system will enhance that greatly.

Why was the Internet based scanner feed through Broadcastify taken offline? 
The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety was not the maintainer of this feed.  To our knowledge it was graciously provided by a local enthusiast--free of charge--who has since decided to discontinue the service.

We are currently researching providing an official feed of the unencrypted channels--at a later date after the new system is online.  Check our website or Facebook page frequently for updates regarding this project.

When will the changes take place?
We anticipate completion and testing of the system through the remainder of 2015 with a projected go live date in the 1st Quarter of 2016.


The Lawrence County Department of Public Safety will continue to make adjustments to the system that balance the public’s desire to know, with the public’s right to know through applicable open records laws, along with our important mission of citizen and first responder safety.  If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at lcema@co.lawrence.pa.us or at http://www.leoc.net/.



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