King County Regional Communications Board
About the King County Regional Communications Board
Central coordination for the 800Hhz regional radio communications system is provided by the King County Regional Communications Board (RCB). The RCB was created in 1993 by an Interlocal Agreement between King County, the City of Seattle, the Eastside Public Safety Communications Agency (EPSCA), and Valley Communications (Valley Com). Valley Com, a consortium consisting of the cities of Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila, serves police and fire agencies in the South King County area. EPSCA, a consortium consisting of the cities of Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Redmond, serves police and fire agencies immediately east and north of Lake Washington. King County’s participation in this Interlocal Agreement was authorized by Ordinance 10956. The Interlocal Agreement states the terms under which the RCB and its participating members will govern the system.
The board consists of one representative from each of the owner sub-regions and an at-large member who represents the interests of other non-owner system users. Each member has equal voting authority, and decisions concerning network design changes require unanimous approval by the Board.
History of the 800Mhz system
The current system was approved by King County voters in September 1992 with the passage of a three-year property tax levy for its development. The maximum rate was $.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Included in the funding package were mobile and portable radios, transmitter site equipment, an interconnecting microwave transmission network, network controllers and other equipment. Beginning in 1993, $57 million was collected over a three-year period.
King County covers approximately 2,200 square miles. About 80% of the 1.8 million population lives in the western 20% of the land area. The eastern portion of the County reaches to the Cascade Mountains, where radio coverage is more difficult to provide. This area is sparsely populated but has major transportation corridors with heavy commercial and recreational use.
There are a large number of separate local governments within King County, including 39 cities, 24 fire districts, the Port of Seattle, four hospital districts, 20 school districts, and 43 water and sewer districts. There are a total of 68 separate public safety agencies delivering police, fire and EMS services to County citizens and visitors. Over the years prior to 1992, these agencies had developed a collection of over 100 disparate VHF, UHF and 800 MHz radio systems. With the technology of those years, each frequency was dedicated to a particular set of users, whether or not they needed to use that frequency at any given time. Any given user could not travel far from his own agency’s radio towers without losing coverage. Because capacity was not efficiently used, it became increasingly difficult to keep up with growth in the number of users. Because of the difficulty in providing access to the frequencies used by different agencies, there was limited interoperability.
In approving the 1992 levy, the County recognized the need for establishing a multi-jurisdictional approach to radio communications throughout King County. Also recognized was the need to replace the many incompatible systems throughout the County and develop a way to mitigate the shortcomings of past legacy systems. The key to creating both commonality and capacity was the use of “trunked” technology. Washington. King County’s participation in this Interlocal Agreement was authorized by Ordinance 10956. The Interlocal Agreement states the terms under which the RCB and its participating members will govern the system.