King County voters should protect public safety by approving Proposition 1 on the April 28 special election ballot. Replace an antiquated radio network used by first responders.

Share story

IN emergency situations, people’s lives depend on first responders being able to communicate with each other.

That’s why voters should pass King County Proposition 1, which would replace the county’s aging public-safety radio network with a modern system capable of serving a rapidly growing population and covering a much larger area. The levy would raise $246 million over nine years.

The last thing anyone in a crisis wants is for a dispatcher to struggle coordinating details with a police officer or medic stuck in a location with spotty or no reception.

Yet that happens in King County, where emergency workers and government officials are reliant on a radio network designed back in 1992. Over the years, the system has begun experiencing more failures and gaps in coverage.

Two of the levy’s most powerful supporters, King County Sheriff John Urquhart and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, say their deputies and officers sometimes have problems communicating in buildings and emergency settings. First responders to the June shooting incident at Seattle Pacific University had trouble communicating with dispatch and with each other inside the building partly because it was in an area where radio signal coverage is spotty.

The county’s network currently includes 26 transmitter sites supporting 19,000 radios. Proposition 1 would replace those radios, upgrade equipment in King County’s call centers and improve communications coverage.

The need is urgent because contractor Motorola will no longer support the existing system after 2018. That might mean having to search for equipment parts on eBay, Urquhart suggested. Let’s not go there.

Replacement of the current system would cost the owner of the median-priced King County property— $378,000 — about $26.46 annually for nine years. That’s a reasonable price to pay to save lives.

Natural and human-caused disasters happen. When they do, voters will be glad they made the choice to approve Proposition 1 on the April 28 special election ballot.