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Sarpy County joining emergency radio network spanning across Metro

Posted at 10:19 PM, Dec 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-14 23:19:00-05

SARPY COUNTY, Neb. (KMTV) — Last June, a cut wire on the Sarpy County grounds knocked out 911 communications for a short time and made it difficult for callers to connect to dispatchers.

Now Sarpy County Emergency Communications is joining forces with other area agencies to make sure all calls get handled quickly.

The County will merge its current radio systems with a network connecting them to responders in Douglas, Washington and Pattawattamie counties. The network is called the Omaha Regional Interoperability Network, or ORION.

"We're no longer on an island and they're no longer on an island," said William Muldoon, Sarpy County Emergency Communication Director. "We're combining through inter-local agreements, coming up with framework for how this works."

The ORION network will provide an extra line of protection if disaster knocks out phone lines. Agencies across the Omaha-Council Bluffs area will communicate with one another through one radio system. This allows emergency calls to be handled more efficiently across the area.

"We can back each other up if something goes down with a tower or radio," Muldoon said. "We have a team that can back us up."

Back-up teams include other local emergency call centers nearby. It's help that could have been useful last summer when the county's emergency call center was at risk for eight hours.

"There was a period of time we did not have 911 service," Muldoon said. "That is eliminated with the moves that we're making right now."

It took Sarpy several years to get on the same page with other departments through ORION. Muldoon said serious talks began in 2014. The Sarpy County Board of Commissioners finalized the agreement this week.

Dodge and Fremont counties will likely be the next ones to join the ORION radio network.