Safety commission gets update on progress of improving emergency radio communication

Broward County officials to meet with Hollywood officials over tower dispute

By Ian Margol - Reporter

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - One of the big problems during the emergency response to last year's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was law enforcement agencies' radio communication, or lack thereof.

On Tuesday, the MSD Public Safety Commission received an update on the progress of improving those systems in Broward County and preventing these tragedies in the future.

"We need all of the cities to understand that this is a public safety issue," said Max Schachter, whose son, Alex, was killed in the shooting. 

There was major concern over a lack of improvements to Broward County's radio system after the attack at the high school.

As responders from all around the area rushed to the scene that day, radio channels were overwhelmed with the number of users attempting to access them, significantly slowing down their ability to communicate.

"It's unacceptable that law enforcement radios would fail like they did at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and SWAT teams that are trying to clear the building have to use hand signals. That's unbelievable," Schachter said. 

The major issues were actually first felt during the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Since then, millions of dollars have been set aside to replace the system. But right now, MSD Public Safety Commission Chair Bob Gualtieri, who is also the sheriff of Pinellas County, said Broward County and the city of Hollywood are at a stalemate over where a new transmission tower can go.

"Hollywood won't approve the site. The county needs the site and they can't get it done," he said. 

That means the radio systems are exactly the same two years after the airport shooting and one year after the MSD attack.

"Every day that goes by that this radio system is not fixed is a day of vulnerability," Gualtieri said. 

At this point, the county has started a process to force a decision and should be meeting with the city of Hollywood sometime soon to come to a final decision.

Broward County Public Schools is also in the process of removing its radios from the public system to free up more space for law enforcement radios.

 

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