Emergency network has weaknesses

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A new digital communications system for emergency services in Norway came online last autumn after numerous cost and timetable overuns. Its users are now reporting shortcomings with the new equipment.

Fire, police and ambulance services currently communicate using a number of different analogue radio networks. The new digital emergency network allows them to talk directly to each other. During the the last months of 2010, the new digital system was tried out in Norway’s eastern counties known as Østlandsområdet. Feedback from the users is generally favourable, but police in particular are critical of the system’s weaknesses.

The police claim there are now more areas within five kilometers of the station with poor coverage. Connections have been broken and the radio has to be turned off and then on again. At times of heavy traffic, it can be difficult to get through.

Arne Johannessen, head of the police union Politiets Fellesforbund, told newspaper Aftenposten that reports from users are “to a great extent positive,” noting that the new network “strengthens police security and protects the privacy of the public.” He added, however, that “we would expect a system with better coverage and which functions better. It’s disappointing to learn that certain users observe that some areas have worse coverage than the old system. This is unacceptable. Coverage is related to safety.”

Fire-fighters are worried about coverage as well, noting that the system’s signal is sometimes not strong enough indoors. Ambulance services in Østfold County also complain about insufficient coverage, and have decided not to rely on the new system, but continue to develop their existing equipment.

Attempts are not being made to fix potential problems before the system is extended to cover all of Norway.

Views and News staff