Broward County

Broward's New Radio System Put to the Test in FBI Shooting

The multi-million dollar system serves all cities but two in the county.

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When FBI agents were killed and wounded this month, multiple law enforcement agencies responded. 

A radio transmission exclusively obtained by NBC 6 Investigators captured the moments emergency teams were leaving the apartment complex where five FBI agents had been shot. The race was to get them to Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale. 

The situation put Broward’s new emergency radio system to the test, which was updated after failures were revealed in the response to the Parkland shooting nearly three years ago. 

“They were some of the fastest times our agency has participated in,” said Sunrise Fire and Rescue Chief John McNamara. 

McNamara told NBC 6 his units got the agents across the county in 17 minutes—eight minutes faster than normal. He thinks the new radio system played a role.

“This is the first major incident...since the implementation of the new system and quite frankly it worked almost flawlessly,” McNamara said. 

It’s a big change from Feb.14, 2018, when the commission investigating the Parkland tragedy concluded jammed radios delayed the police response.

Broward spent $80 million on the new communications system, which launched about two months ago. 

The county says the improvements include: five new towers, additional channels and a signal that can penetrate deep into buildings. In addition, the new system can handle one third more of transmissions and only police and fire departments can use it to prevent other county workers from taking up bandwidth. 

“That’s supposed to eliminate the issues we have seen in the past,” Alex St. Preux, a Sunrise Police SWAT officer, told NBC 6.

Preux has a new radio in his patrol unit and on his hip. 

“You can certainly tell a difference from the old radio system to now,” Preux said. 

But nearly three years after the Parkland tragedy, some issues still remain. 

Broward County's emergency radio system was updated after failures were revealed in response to the Parkland shooting. NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports

“There is still one remaining problem, two cities Plantation and Coral Springs, and Parkland is served by the Coral Springs police force. They have chosen not to be on the county-wide dispatch system,” said Broward County Mayor Steve Geller. 

Geller is not the only one concerned. 

“I’m frustrated that we are not there yet,” said Coral Springs Police Chief Clyde Parry. 

Parry says his department so far has overcome any issues not being on the Broward system. But he told us he has a long-term solution for Coral Springs, Plantation and the county. 

“I am pleased to say that we have purchased a hub solution that will give us that interoperability with the county. We have installed it,” Parry said. “It is in the beta testing phase now and before long we plan on inviting the county to join that.”

The Plantation Police Chief Howard Harrison says the county shouldn’t put all its eggs in one basket,  in the case the new system fails.

“The county really does need some back-up system to this and we provide that,” Harrison said. 

Both Plantation and Coral Springs say they also like having their own dispatchers who are familiar with the area. 

The county experts running the new radios say they are telling every fire and police department that while much improved, the system does have limitations and they must monitor the number of first responders trying to transmit —especially when there’s a major event.

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