Harris Radio System

June 4, 2016 - Cutover
System Information

The Chester County Department of Emergency Services (DES) operates an emergency voice radio system that supports over 5,000 law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) responders as they accomplish their mission of protecting the over 500,000 residents of Chester County.

On February 14, 2013, the Board of Commissioners signed a $42.1 million contract with Harris Corporation for design, installation, testing, operational implementation, two years of warranty, and eight additional years of maintenance for an Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Project 25 Phase 2 compliant digital voice radio system.  This system will support the Board of Commissioners’ “Public Safety” strategic goal, will satisfy the emergency responders’ requirements, and will meet the National Interoperability Communications Goal.  Determined and aggressive negotiations also supported the “Smart Financial Management” strategic goal by achieving the dual benefits of additional system features and a contract price reduction of over $10 million from the initially submitted proposal.

The required operational features defined in the contract were developed by a team of subject matter experts from the emergency response organizations, municipal government, and DES under the leadership of ACD Telecom, who is the project manager/engineer.  Important operational features include:

  • Guaranteed improved on-street and in-building coverage,
  • High audio quality,
  • Consistent system availability and reliability,
  • Modern diagnostic and maintenance features,
  • A dedicated emergency communications feature,
  • Encryption for a selected subset of law enforcement radios,
  • Pre-planned expandability and modernization, and
  • Interoperability to meet operational requirement.

Project 25 Phase 2 is the most modern technology endorsed by the Federal Communications Commission that provides a set of open standards interfaces that allows interoperability across radio manufacturers and maximizes the efficient use of radio spectrum. 

The Harris system is a two cell simulcast design consisting of 25 sites.  The East-Central cell consists of 11 sites with 12 talk-paths while the West cell consists of 14 sites with 10 talk-paths.  Designed to satisfy projected growth requirements beyond 2030, and pre-planned system hardware and software upgrades will extend system useful life thus maximizing the county return on investment.  Included in the project are 1,221 mobile (vehicle-mounted) radios, 2,750 portable (hand-held) radios, and 132 control stations for emergency responder station applications.

The system supports two dispatch centers; the primary in DES at the Government Services Center and the alternate at the Public Safety Training Campus (PSTC).  Additional operational security is achieved by geographically separating the redundant Network Switching Centers and by the application of modern Information Assurance/Cyber Security strategies.\

The system lay-out depicted below provides guaranteed portable coverage throughout 97% of Chester County as measured by two separate tests:  one in nine designated urban areas and one in the remaining rural areas. 

Radio Map

The system lay-out uses many of the previous system sites and new co-locations on eight existing towers.  In addition, three new towers were constructed:

  • A 300 foot lattice tower in Upper Uwchlan Township,
  • A 100 foot monopole  tower at the PSTC in South Coatesville,
  • A 190 foot lattice tower at Bucktown in South Coventry Township.

Also, the existing 170 foot lattice tower at Embreeville was replaced with a similar 180 foot tower in the immediate area.  Sites are connected through a reversible, dual microwave loop – one in the north and one in the south.  This design ensures no single point of failure in providing critical communications services.

The system went live on 4 January 2016.  With the final system acceptance scheduled for 30 June 2016, the Harris Radio System will enhance emergency responder and citizen safety through improved coverage and modern functionality.