Public Safety Radio Coverage

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Source: Santa Barbara County Grand Jury


Reliable radio reception for public safety agencies has been problematic in select areas of Santa Barbara County.  The 2016-17 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury spoke with many law enforcement officers who recounted situations in which their work was hampered by poor reception, or no reception.  Their safety and the public’s safety are at risk.  Santa Barbara County is in the process of putting up towers to increase coverage and eliminate dead spots in radio reception.  The Jury recommends this process be expedited.

With its investment in the future of public safety technology, Santa Maria is reaching out to other areas on the Central Coast to join their 700 MHz system.  Given the power and efficiency of this system, all Santa Barbara County public safety departments should adopt the 700 MHz system to advance public safety communications for the future.



The mandate of the Grand Jury is to shine a light on governmental operations within Santa Barbara County.  The form and timeframe of the agencies’ responses are required by California Penal Code §933 and §933.05.  All Grand Jury reports and responses are posted on the Jury’s website (  

The Santa Barbara County Grand Jury is a basic part of government within the judicial branch.  The Grand Jury acts independently, yet is under the general control of the Superior Court Presiding Judge to assure that it acts in accordance.

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Sparky_Euler Sep 08, 2017 08:45 AM
Public Safety Radio Coverage

I read the full report. I live in SB and design Public Safety communication systems for a living, including some of the largest and most complex systems in the County. I find the report to be a deeply flawed analysis of something as critical as this subject is.
The Summary states, 1) there are areas where radio coverage needs improvement, and 2) The 700 MHz system in Santa Maria is the way of the future and others should consider how to work with that system. There is no such thing as perfect coverage and spending money to improve it is likely always a good idea. The authors suggestion that 700 MHz is best, is not true. Superior coverage is a balance between many factors such as the geography you need to cover, how much money you have to spend, and to a lesser degree the frequency and mode of operation. Many new and large Public Safety communications systems being built today are in the VHF, UHF, and 800 MHz bands for very good reasons.
The suggestion that SB County join the city of Santa Maria (23 sq. mi., minor terrain) system only further demonstrates the lack of understanding that a metro Public Safety system is not the same as a County system, (3,800 sq. mi., significant terrain). Santa Maria may be a very viable location for a backup or primary SB County dispatch center. Using 700 or 800 MHz may be the right option for the metro areas in SB County. None of the reasons promoted in this report justify these recommendations.
Findings 1, 2, and 3, come with no analysis. It's impossible from this report to judge the recommendations.
Finding 4 is based on grossly flawed and incomplete assumptions and should be rejected.

laughing Sep 08, 2017 10:28 AM
Public Safety Radio Coverage

I have personally heard some really concerning incidents play out on my scanner over the years of service delays due to communications transmission problems. Only minutes away when seconds count.

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