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COVINGTON, LA (WGNO) — St Tammany Parish is spending $16 million to build the best hurricane communications system in the state.  It’s part of a state-wide communications system that’s currently under construction.  But the big difference in St. Tammany is how the parish is building-out the system to include virtually all major emergency responders.

“My deputies will be able to talk on a state-of-the-art, built out system that will give them saturation in this parish that they’ve never experienced before,” St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain said of the new system.

The parish is taking its two towers that are part of the state-wide system that’s under construction and adding another six towers.  The major police and fire departments will use similar radios that will allow all agencies to talk together, anywhere in the parish or state.

St. Tammany’s Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director, Dexter Accardo, says the radio system will help with every part of weathering a severe storm.  He says one of the most important advantages will allow speedy damage assessments parish-wide.

“Give us roadway conditions.  Give us how many structures are out, the utility companies and things of that nature,” Accardo said.

But the new system will also be available for EMS, schools, and other agencies that arrive in St. Tammany to handle storms or any other crisis like chemical spills or a live shooter situation.

“Where our schools will be able to communicate seamlessly with law enforcement, fire fighters, and emergency ops through our parish president’s office,” Strain said.

The various agencies that are joining the system are pitching in to pay for the $16 million price tag.  Also, because the parish is building eight towers, any emergency responder will have a good connection, anywhere in the parish, regardless of trees or infrastructure in the area.

“There is no excuse to say that you couldn’t communicate to get help for another police officer or get an ambulance to a scene or an auto crash, or inside of a building with an active shooter to communicate what needs to be done,” Accardo said.