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Staying on the same frequency

Ben Godar

Burbank officials hope recently passed legislation will help

emergency responders, like firefighters and police officers,

communicate more directly with crews from other agencies.


A bill proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D--Calif.) sets aside

$109 million for communications systems to link different agencies.

In proposing the legislation, Feinstein said incompatibility between

agencies complicated response after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks


and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Burbank Fire and Police units can communicate with each other and

some outside agencies. In an emergency, Fire Capt. Ron Bell said

those capabilities save valuable time.

“We can just slip over and talk to police or the police

helicopter; it works really well,” Bell said.

With that system, however, communication is limited by the number

of frequencies a radio can hold and might not work when units venture


too far outside Burbank. When that happens, field units from one

agency must go through dispatchers to reach field units from another


To improve on those limitations, Electrical Test Supt. Jack

Wildermuth said the city plans to join a multi-city consortium

upgrading to a new network that allows participating agencies to

communicate seamlessly. Glendale expects to be the first city to go

online with the new system in July, but Wildermuth said Burbank will


not be ready until sometime in 2005.

While county officials are implementing a countywide system for

use during specific incidents, Steve Hronek, Glendale’s wireless

services administrator, said their system could be used for

day-to-day communication between agencies.

“We’re just a bunch of cities getting together and sharing

resources,” he said.

Glendale spent $16 million on its new system, Hronek said.

Wildermuth just began talks with Motorola officials about upgrading

and said he did not know what the system would cost. However, he said

officials are already working to obtain funding from the new