DANVILLE (CBS SF) — Emergency responders in Danville can now communicate nearly instantaneously with more than 40 other public agencies throughout the Bay Area during emergencies.

The Town of Danville on Tuesday officially launched the East Bay Regional Communications System, an interoperable, digital radio system connecting Danville police and other local first responders to the 42 other Bay Area agencies including police and fire departments, according to Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich.

The communication system, which covers more than 1,500 square miles and a combined population of more than 2.5 million people, originated in Contra Costa County in 2007 and has since spread to Alameda County, the mayor said.

The system allows East Bay first responders to call for assistance from one another during a natural disaster, manhunt, oil refinery incident or other major catastrophe with the push of a button, he told a small gathering of town leaders, police officers and residents.

“Today we’re celebrating for something we hope we don’t have to use but we know it’s there when we need it,” the mayor said.

The system’s Danville launch comes after about a decade of local mayors lobbying the federal government to help cover the $70 million in installation and building costs, according to Arnerich.

He said the lobbying eventually paid off, with about $50 million for the system provided by grants via the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Before the communication system’s unofficial implementation in Danville earlier this year, officers had to call a cellphone, landline or send an email in order to communicate something.

During crises, the Police Department and other local agencies relied on a communications truck using radio signals to broadcast messages to multiple public agencies, according to Arnerich.

That method made for a slower communications process, and is even less effective in other types of situations such as searches for a suspect or a missing person.

Danville police Chief Steve Simpkins said that in one incident last month, police and CHP officers used the new communications system to quickly apprehend a burglary suspect who fled the scene onto Interstate 680 and wound up crashing into vehicles in the Caldecott Tunnel.

“It’s very helpful to have that communication ability between agencies,” he said.

Oakland is the largest East Bay city and one of the few local public agencies to forgo the communications system, according to the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority.

Arnerich said he hopes Oakland will sign on as a subscriber to the system in the coming years.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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