New communication system in Isle of Wight County ensures safety of officers, citizens

ISLE OF WIGHT Co., Va. - You cannot put a price tag on safety!

That's the message going out to taxpayers in Isle of Wight County as public safety personnel get ready to launch a new communications system.

The current radio system has been in place nearly 30 years and has only ever worked in 60 percent of the county.

Isle of Wight Deputy Paul Nash

"In most buildings, our radios don’t work; in the schools and rural areas, our radios don't work. With this new system, we have had zero failures. I even went into the basement of a house with 14 inches of concrete and it worked," said Deputy Paul Nash as he rode around the county, checking out all areas where the system will be used.

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For years, the county leaders have wanted to upgrade their outdated and sometimes dangerously ineffective system but had to save up. The new system cost between $7 and $8 million but works everywhere. It also has regional compatibility, so personnel in Isle of Wight can reach Suffolk and the Peninsula if there was a catastrophic event that needed the attention of neighboring counties.

Officers previously responding to calls did not have peace of mind, knowing their back-up was just a call away. Now they will.

In a medical emergency, they will be able to communicate to other departments as well to get the caller the help they need.

"We need to coordinate with each other - EMS, fire, sheriff's office, the rescue squad. With the old system it was hard; with this new one we will have good, clear communication," said Nash.

Don Robertson, the assistant administrator for the county, said city council weighed the decision heavily for years but bit the bullet for this fiscal year. The new system is expected to launch in the next few weeks after deputies test nearly 4,000 points in the county, covering every quarter mile.

Robertson said this more updated system made positive changes to the dispatch center as well. Their means of communications will now be on the same level as the rest of Hampton Roads.