Dane County’s emergency communications network will see yet another upgrade following the county’s acceptance of an award worth a quarter of a million dollars, which will be used to create a seamless radio communication network.

According to a statement from the office of County Executive Joe Parisi, the $278,335 grant from the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance will link public safety agencies and emergency responders together, enabling quicker communication than before.

“Statewide, this is a massive project,” John McLellan, spokesperson for Dane County Emergency Management, said. “The radio is a critical and core component to making an incident response work.”

The upgrades, which focus solely on the improvement of radio communications, will make it so that emergency responders are on a standard platform primarily through software upgrades that will enable capabilities on current radios, McLellan said.

The newly improved radios will be able to access the WISCOM network, which connects the entire state, as well as the DaneCom network, which is being developed for use by the county’s 60 cities and towns, the statement said.

“Much like DaneCom, WISCOM offers the opportunity for our first responders to be on one interoperable system in and around the entire state of Wisconsin,” Parisi said in the statement. “That seamless communication is critical in helping our first responders quickly address an emergency situation and save lives.”

The increase in software capabilities will allow police officers, firefighters and paramedics to communicate on the same interoperable network, McLellan said.

Participating agencies will be able to upgrade existing software and reprogram radios that are in use now, as well as purchase new radios to utilize the WISCOM system, the statement said.

“This goes back to what was learned from Sept. 11 for dealing with such broad-ranging incidents,” McLellan said. “This will enable everyone to use their equipment and not have to waste time to find a workaround. When you’re dealing with life-saving measures time is the most critical thing you’ve got.”

McLellan pointed out how useful the system would have been in several past crises including the flood that had a major impact on Lake Delton and surrounding areas, large interstate backups during the winter, several devastating tornadoes and the tire fire in Watertown.

McLellan said those kind of past experiences are what has taught the county’s emergency systems what is needed to respond.

The benefits from these communication improvements will also be seen on campus, as the University of Wisconsin Police Department will be one of several groups to receive radio upgrades, according to the statement.

McLellan said that the improved radio network would probably be especially helpful at times when there is a larger than normal presence on campus that may require increased connectivity, such as Halloween and Badger football games.

“If there was some mass casualty incident, [the community] would be relying on agencies coming from a very long distance,” McLellan said. “Giving [emergency responders] the power to flip the channel and start communications [is crucial].”

The WISCOM ready radios will be able to access the DaneCom system when it is available, the statement said. Emergency responses in the Dane County area will see more effective results from the upgraded radios when the system goes online.