First responders upgrade to digital radios

By Cecilia Fox -

MIAMI COUNTY — Miami County’s first responders have made the switch from analog to digital in transition to the statewide Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS).

In making the switch to the new system, Communication Center Director Jeff Busch said that county residents will benefit from improved communication between agencies.

“We regularly have departments from other counties respond to assist our departments and vice versa,” Busch said. “In the past they either had to carry two radios, have a patch between systems or have dispatch relay traffic between dispatch centers, they will now be able to go to a common radio talkgroup and communicate directly.”

The new system will increase safety for residents and first responders alike, he added. It also means that law enforcement officers will not lose contact with dispatch if they travel outside the county.

While not every county in Ohio is participating yet, several of Miami County’s neighbors have or are in the process of making the switch.

“Three of the five contiguous counties utilize MARCS. Darke County is moving to MARCS in the near future and the city of Sidney in Shelby County is or has changed,” Busch said.

The county has been working to upgrade its emergency response systems for some time.

Last fall, after more than a year of preparing the county’s communication system, the county commissioners approved an agreement with the state of Ohio for participation in MARCS.

Prior to joining the new system, the center made several purchases of equipment needed to communicate with other participating agencies in the state. In 2015, the county purchased more than $1 million in radios and other equipment for county agencies.

Those who listen to law enforcement channels will have noticed they can no longer hear radio traffic, Busch said. This is because of the transition from analog to digital and new equipment will be required to listen in.

Some of the law enforcement talkgroups, including the one where LEADS information, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information is transmitted are encrypted and cannot be monitored.

The primary law enforcement talkgroup and all fire talkgroups are unencrypted, so those may be monitored with the proper device.

By Cecilia Fox

Reach Cecilia Fox at

Reach Cecilia Fox at