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New Two-Way Radio System Installation Complete

New Two-Way Radio System Installation Complete

A new two-way radio system has been implemented at Sam Houston Electric Cooperative. The system allows for improved communications between employees, better coverage across the system, and increased safety.

“This system gives our line technicians something more reliable and more robust,” Sam Houston Electric Cooperative engineer Joel Colston said. “They have had to rely on their cell phones, and now they have something that the Cooperative has installed.”

The system features a combination of handheld radios and truck-mounted mobile units. DFW Communications started installing the mobile units in trucks on July 7, and handheld radios were distributed to employees July 8-10.

“This system is a leap forward,” said line technician Yancy Williams. “It’s something that has been needed for a long time. If you get out there and something happens, you will need it. ”

Employees will be able to talk within work groups or by office location. They will also be able to contact dispatch and have a specific button to press in an emergency situation that will notify dispatch and all radio users. Employees will also be able to send short text messages and call one another directly.

“Dispatch can also look at each radio ID number and get its exact coordinates, or you can look up the coordinates on the device,” Colston said. “If an employee were to hit their emergency button, but could not tell dispatch where they are at, dispatch could look it up. Or, if a radio is misplaced, we can find it.”

In the past, employees would use cell phones to communicate in certain areas with limited radio coverage. During a coverage test conducted by the Cooperative and DFW Communications, they determined that 96 percent of the service area is covered by this new system. The coverage test included reviewing 375 points across the area, and recording the signal strength from the field to dispatch.

“Once we start using the system, we may find some areas that need improvement, and we will look at making those improvements as we go along,” Colston said.

The Motorola radios have a battery life of 10-12 hours, and are submersible to a depth of 3 meters for up to 30 minutes, so they will not be damaged by exposure to the elements. Some units came with handheld speakers to allow for easier access. Any Bluetooth-enabled accessory is also compatible with these radios.

“I think this is going to be a huge improvement for the guys in the field,” said Mike Dominy, vehicle maintenance supervisor. “It’ll be a big help to them. We have places in this system where cell phones don’t even work.”

Additionally, if the Cooperative sent employees to an emergency situation out of the service area, such as disaster recovery at another cooperative, the team will be able to communicate with each other within a 1-1.5 mile radius, and up to 10 miles between trucks.