Digital Communication System Unique to Arkansas

June 26, 2006 - Posted at 5:14 p.m. CST

LAKE CITY, AR -- When disaster strikes, effective communication between emergency services personnel is critical.

Arkansas is one of four states in the nation that is developing a digital communication system through an initiative by the Department of Homeland Security, and one of the new towers is being erected right here in Craighead County.

The state of Arkansas is taking communication from old analog to the new improved digital with the Arkansas Wireless Information Network.

"The state wide digital radio signal system is being implemented to bolster communication statewide for emergency personnel," said David Moore of the Office of Emergency Management for Craighead County.

The first phase of the project was upgrading the existing Arkansas State Police network to use as a backbone for AWIN.

"This should allow all those first responders to be able to talk on one radio system and better coordinate the activities and responses," said Capt. Dale Saffold, AWIN project director.

The second phase of the $70 million project was putting up new towers around the state to better enhance coverage. In addition to better coverage around the state, the AWIN with have voice quality similar to cell phones.

"Arkansas is truly a leader.  We are one of only four states that have this system," said Moore.

When this Lake City project is complete, it will tower over 300-feet and provide coverage for a Craighead, Poinsett, Greene and Mississippi counties.

"If you are on the other end of the state, you can still talk back home.  You know what's going in a moment's second," said Moore.

Much like the phone systems that use the internet, the AWIN system is run through an online server that won't become obsolete like the old system.

"It's basically just a state wide computer being used for communication and because of that, the technology just as it changes with our computer, is changing with this system," said Saffold.

Currently, only the Arkansas State Police are using the system, however the state is expecting other emergency personnel to begin integrating this technology when it is turned on sometime in the fall.