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      Radios help responders save lives, Willacy County first in South Texas to go digital

      Willacy County will be the first county in South Texas and the second in the state to have all of its first responders on the new digital radio regional communications system.

      Fire officials in Willacy County said digital radios are a vital means of communication among first responders.

      Being able to intercommunicate with other local agencies on the new regional communication platform not only cuts down on response times, but also saves lives.

      When responding to an emergency situation time is of the essence.

      "Back when 9/11 happened one of the main problems they were having in New York over there--it was widespread through the country, is that the EMS Law enforcement departments and fire department could not communicate with each other, said Willacy County Judge John Gonzales. "It TMs something the federal government wanted to prevent from happening again, and it's been providing local city governments with the opportunity to upgrade their radio systems."

      Willacy County dispatchers are going from an analog platform to an all new digital 800 radio system.

      "Communication might not have been recognized before, but it is really critical-it saves lives and property" said Raymondville Fire Chief Oscar Gutierrez.

      He told Action 4 News that before the new radios, his men could be inside a burning building with limited means of communication. He said the radios, worth an estimated 4,500 dollars apiece, can be a real lifesaver.

      "Getting information ahead of time prior to heading to the scene, what TMs going on with the patient," explains Chief Gutierrez are just a few things that will help them better manage an emergency situation.

      Judge Gonzales couldn TMt agree more. He said not only will the upgrade help their county, it will also benefit the entire Rio Grande Valley.

      "It ties into Hidalgo County and Cameron County so all counties can be interactive in case they need to respond to something outside the county too," said Gonzales.

      Willacy County is expected to be fully operational on the regional communication system within the next 30-45 days.

      Almost every agency in Cameron County and the majority in Hidalgo County have already begun utilizing these digital radios.

      Eighty percent of the cost for the communications update is being covered by the federal government through grants.

      Willacy County paid just under $30,000 for the upgrade.Click here to follow Ashly Custer on FacebookClick here to follow Ashly Custer on Twitter