In the 1990s, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) created their Project 25 (P25) program for two-way radios.The purpose of these new standards was to improve interoperability between departments and agencies during emergency situations. Apart from not providing the necessary interoperability, the use of non-P25 radios actually can cause problems for interoperability.
The previous APCO standard for public safety communication was analog trunked radio systems called Project 16. However, these standards were too broad and allowed for the manufacturers to develop their own separate public safety trunked radio systems. The result of this was that the different radio systems within a city or county were unable to communicate with one another causing interoperability issues.
This is especially problematic in smaller towns or counties where they may depend on departments from other cities or counties to help during an emergency. If they can’t communicate, they won’t be able to solve the emergency or help as many people as they could if they had the seamless communication offered by the P25 standard.
Some cities or counties still use non-P25 radios because they still work well within that department, help resolve certain frequency congestion, and are typically sold for much less than P25 radios. But the use of these radios are actually setting interoperability back several years. Apart from causing communication problems during emergency situations as they don’t work with the P25 radios that most other areas use, they’ve also been shown to cause interference with existing analog radio users over 100 miles away.
ACPO’s P25 standard has changed the way public safety officials are able to communicate during emergencies. In the past it was difficult to get important information across all channels because the different departments didn’t work together. But now, because of two-way radio manufacturers like RELM Wireless developing P25 radios, interoperability is at a new high. For the betterment of public safety personnel and those they protect, it needs to continue that way.