After delays, upgrade to Broward County 911 radio tower moving forward

Communication breakdown during Parkland shooting highlights problems of older system

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A project to upgrade Broward County’s 911 radio tower communications system has hit a lot of bumps in the road. The renderings have been in the works for years. Deadlines have come and gone, but it appears now that the improved system will be online in a matter of months.

Tracy Jackson, director of Regional Emergency Services and Communications for Broward County, said that the last tower was being completed, which is the 15th site.

The site is on the west side of Hollywood and, by the end of March, it is expected to be complete. The final major piece to get the system up and running despite community contention and countless delays in the past.

It is a huge system (with) a lot of moving parts," said Jackson. “Even to get the approvals and agreements in place to build it. Unfortunately, last year we were not able to convince the city of Hollywood to allow us to complete the process at the already accepted 16th site.”

West Lake Park in East Hollywood, owned by Broward County, was supposed to be the 16th site for a new 32-story radio tower until residents voiced their opposition.

The city compromised on adding just an antenna on top of the existing Circ Residences building, located at Young Circle.

But neither the city nor the county could come to terms on a final agreement. Last fall, the decision was made to move move forward with only 15 sites. Operators say the system will still be effective and fail proof with 15 towers, even without the 16th piece of equipment coverage.

The inability of First Responders to communicate over radios during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland two years ago highlighted the problems of the older system.

“The system is new, it is improved, it has redundancies built into it, dual controllers and a lot of other things to help make sure it stays up,” said Jackson.

After the final tower is built by the end of March, there will be a 30- to 60-day testing phase of the new equipment.

First Responders will also get training, but all signs point to the system being online this summer.

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