Patterson marks full implementation of OakWIN countywide radio system

What do the Ford Wixom Plant shooting and the West Bloomfield Tapper's robbery have in common? First responders from several agencies who arrived at each scene were unable to coordinate their efforts because they lacked a common radio communication system. That issue has now been solved.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was joined by Novi Public Safety Director and CLEMIS Chair David Molloy, Oakland County Commissioner William Dwyer and Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications President Stephen Marschilok on Wednesday to mark the completion of the countywide interoperable radio system known as OakWIN (Oakland County Wireless Integrated Network). They also celebrated the radio system's 10,000,000th call since it began to be implemented in 2003.

The OakWIN radio system will allow local Oakland County police and fire agencies to communicate among each other and with agencies in bordering counties including Michigan State Police using one common radio system. First responders from all Oakland County agencies can now communicate with each other on runs ranging from routine calls to major events such as a severe weather disaster, multiple-alarm fire or a manhunt.

"Oakland County prides itself on its use of technology to better serve the public while promoting cost savings and efficiencies," said Patterson. "The leading edge technology in OakWIN provides our first responders with features, functionality, and communication capabilities never before available to them."

For many years, a stand alone radio system serving a single public safety agency was considered sufficient. The public safety radio systems in southeast Michigan evolved over the years into a myriad of separate and incompatible frequencies and technologies serving only individual cities, villages and townships. These stand-alone systems were incapable of communicating with neighboring jurisdictions. Additionally, the development and maintenance of so many systems was not cost effective for the Oakland County taxpayers.

Interoperability was determined to be critical in order to best serve the residents of Oakland County. So the leadership group at CLEMIS (Court and Law Enforcement Management Information System--a consortium of more than 100 public safety agencies serving five counties in southeast Michigan), the police and fire chiefs of Oakland County, in conjunction with Patterson and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, led the way in securing funding and frequencies and developing specifications for a countywide interoperable public safety radio system.

"There are many people, including the Radio Oversight Committee, who should be recognized for their efforts over the years to lead the way for Oakland County to have the best interoperable radio system for public safety in the nation," Dwyer said. "This project has been on-going for several years and is one of the largest ever in Oakland County"

The vendor Harris PSPC, formerly known as M/A COM, was recommended unanimously by the CLEMIS Advisory Committee as the radio system vendor that would best meet the needs of Oakland County for a state of the art digital public safety radio system.

"Now more than ever, interoperability among first responders is a necessity," said Marschilok. "Allowing the 40 local agencies on the system to reliably communicate with one another, but also with surrounding county, state and federal agencies, the OakWIN system is the dependable voice and data communications system that the area's first responders deserve. Harris has been proud to work with Oakland County to make the OakWIN project a success."

The system--designed to provide an extremely high level of radio coverage for our public safety responders--consists of 47 tower sites, with additional sites still being added. That infrastructure supports 26 emergency dispatch centers operating consoles on the system, as well as more than 5,000 police, fire and EMS radios out in the field.

An example of how OakWIN is improving public safety in Oakland County is when the interoperable radio system enabled Novi and Farmington Hills police officers to bring a quick and peaceful outcome to the capture of an alleged armed robber last year. The suspect approached an elderly man in his garage near 9 Mile and Haggerty in Farmington Hills. He demanded then grabbed the victim's keys, ran to a nearby vehicle and fled. An eyewitness obtained the suspect's license plate.

That information led officers to the 20000 block of Woodland Glen in Novi where they spotted the suspect vehicle. Farmington Hills and Novi police set-up a perimeter using OakWIN and arrested the suspect without incident when he returned to his car.

Previously, to communicate with each other, Farmington Hills police officers would radio their dispatch center operators, who contacted Novi police dispatchers, who then relayed the information to their officers.

"The ability of first responders to communicate with other responding agencies during an emergency is the key to an effective response," Molloy said. "The launch of this state-of-the-art technology, providing interoperable radio communications enhances the protection of Oakland County citizens by ensuring both timely and efficient response."

Farmington Public Safety was the first agency on OakWIN in 2003; Auburn Hills Police and Fire are the final agencies in Oakland County to come online. Southfield Police and Fire and Orion Township Fire departments opted not to be on the OakWIN system. But because of OakWIN's advanced software, those agencies are able to communicate with all agencies on the OakWIN system and other agencies outside the county.

OakWIN cost $47.7 million to implement. The system was paid for through grants and a monthly phone surcharge on all wireless and landline phones in Oakland County.

Published: Fri, May 6, 2011


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