Going Digital: Bolivar Implements New Communication System for First Responders


SPRINGFIELD, Mo — Dropped calls are frustrating, but it’s an even bigger deal for 1st responders. EMS crews in Bolivar say there are many “dead spots” within Polk County, but that they are quickly dwindling thanks to the use of a new communications system.

Bolivar city crews are now using digital radios, tablets, and laptops. It’s not only more reliable, but it’s quicker in delivering essential information when life is on the line. 

“When you have other crews coming in, ambulances coming in, and police officers coming in behind you, trying to communicate within those first few minutes is critical,” said Bolivar City Fire Department Deputy Chief Brent Watkins.

BCFD has responded to over 25 major accidents within the last 2 years at Highway 13 and U. Up until January, it’s been one of many dead zones in Polk county for a radio system nearly 20 years old.

Communications from this location to dispatch were unreliable.

“Years ago, the FCC made a change in radio systems,” explained Watkins. “We saw a massive reduction in coverage for our analog system.”

The installation of a new digital telecommunications system solved that problem, but cost the city nearly $135,000. Their budget for the project was $150,000.

The new system includes fire, police, dispatch, public works, and city administrators.

“Technology is still going to have limitations, but we have much fewer of them now,” said Lt. Roger Barron, Bolivar City Police Department.

Officers will now have access to critical information on scene from portable laptops: It’s a luxury bigger markets have had for years, but is now available in every squad car in Bolivar.

“We now have the ability to keep our officers out visible in the community instead of inside the police department writing reports.”

The system also includes a revamped control center for dispatch; This allows for better tracking of where crews are located, and a better birds eye view of the emergency.

Bolivar schools are expected to adopt the new technology in March. 

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