Cedar County set to start using SARA radio system for first responders

Communication is crucial in an emergency - that's why Cedar County is getting a new radio system.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT
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CEDAR COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - For first responders, communication is critical. Whether it’s police officers, firefighters or EMS, being able to relay information over the radio is a big part of the job.

In Cedar County, their outdated radio system has shown to cause some problems.

”We’re basically an island right now,” said Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington.

For the past 12 years, Cedar County has had a stand-alone radio system for its first responders.

Sheriff Warren Wethington said that stand-alone system doesn’t let them communicate with first responders in surrounding counties, and sometimes even causes problems within Cedar County itself.

”I really didn’t think in my lifetime we’d see it. It’s needed. You know, there’s a lot of places in this county where you... you’re on your own. You don’t have any radio contact,” said Sheriff Wethington. “Despite not being able to talk with the surrounding counties and other agencies, there’s there’s dead spots in the county. You just don’t have any communications,” he said.

But now, in just a few weeks, Cedar County will switch to the SARA system. SARA or Shared Area Radio Agreement is used by Linn, Johnson and Scott counties among others throughout Iowa.

Sheriff Wethington said the $8 million system will improve how they stay in contact with each other out in the field.

”We’re a rural county. With a lot of hills, a lot of timber, two rivers. That all affects how the radios work. This system is guaranteeing 90% coverage throughout the county with just a handheld radio,” he said.

Sheriff Wethington said his deputies are looking forward to have the system up and running. And he said having the SARA system will not only benefit law enforcement but all area first responders.

”It’s not just the peace officers, it’s the ambulances, the fire departments. It’s going to greatly benefit the fire and ambulance. It’s going to be safer for everybody,” said he said.