Consider this — A call goes out from dispatch: “Active school shooter, possibly on drugs, at the high school basketball game.” It’s dark outside, and raining. There is a local city police officer and KSP trooper already at the game. They are located on the same side of the gym, but because the place is packed, they can’t see each other. As shots ring out, their training kicks in. They each draw their weapon and begin to move toward the sound of gunfire. Obviously, communication between the two law enforcement officers on the ground is key to a quick, lifesaving resolution.
Should a dangerous event like this happen in Knox County today, fortunately, our agencies have a plan. After a recent meeting with district leaders to discuss school safety, law enforcement groups talked about it. Barbourville police Chief Winston Tye, says that even though KSP, the Sheriff department, and city police each use their own radio channel, officers also have access to “mutual aid” channels. Even firefighters, who often use older analog radios, have access to the “mutual aid” channel, in case the emergency includes a fire.
A “mutual aid” channel allows police, sheriff, fire fighters, and even ambulance personnel to listen to and communicate with each other seamlessly. Sheriff Mike Smith adds, “These channels are pre-programmed into each agency radio.” Both Sheriff Smith and Chief Tye also agree on the importance of training. “When you have a lot of people on the same channel, training is important.” The Chief said, noting, “You can’t have everyone talking at once.”
There is even a statewide “mutual aid” channel that enables local authorities to connect with Kentucky State Police. “I have never really done it, because fortunately, we’ve never had that big of an incident here,” says Chief Tye, but he adds, “The statewide system works. It has been in place for years.”
Tye also noted that Knox County Dispatch monitors more than 20 different radio frequencies: fire departments, law enforcement agencies, even the ambulance service. And the Chief pointed out that dispatch can “patch different channels together” to allow even more interagency communication if that becomes necessary.
I think it’s a great thing our agencies are planning together now so they are prepared if, God forbid, there is ever a major situation in our community. What do you think?