St. Mary’s County Reports Delay in Emergency Radio Transmissions

June 5, 2018

Emergency Communications personnel with the St. Mary’s County detected a delay in radio transmissions on Saturday, June 2 at 3:04 p.m. The incident was immediately reported to the on duty communications supervisor,

As a result, the Harris Radio technical support line was immediately notified. All first responders (police, fire, EMS and ALS) were then notified of the radio issues. The on duty supervisor then notified the acting Communications Manager and Emergency Services Director.

The Communications Manager and Emergency Services Director responded to the Emergency Operations Center where it was determined the point of failure was the California radio tower. A Senior Radio Technician was also notified and responded to the EOC. The Harris radio technician responded to the tower site and began to address the problem. At 9:20 p.m. the radio system was returned to normal operations and all users were notified.

The resulting investigation determined a component failure, requiring replacement. A fail-safe system is in place which allows the system to go into bypass mode when a failure occurs. This allows other tower sites to take over and maintain radio signals across the county, ensuring a loss of operation does not occur. Further investigation determined the bypass at the California radio tower site was not properly configured and did not allow other sites to take over. Since no failure to this degree had occurred prior to this event, the configuration did not reveal the problem before this incident occurred.

While simply replacing the component would provide an immediate fix, the problem would reoccur if there were another failure. As the Harris radio technician replaced the bad component, it was decided to immediately properly configure the system, which will prevent the bypass from shutting down the entire system down during future events.

Why did it take so long to restore full service?
1. Travel time – the regular radio technician, assigned to St. Mary’s County is away on vacation. The responding radio technician arrived from Annapolis, MD.

2. The nature of the correction was substantial. We had to replace a module, circuit board and then configure the system properly to avoid future failures (as much as possible).

Were any services denied or were any calls missed?
No. Our 911 center, while working on backup systems, was fully functional and our backup systems operated as designed and intended in times of radio troubles.

Were any residents, or first responders at risk during this incident, was anyone placed in danger as a result of these radio malfunctions? No.