New Puget Sound Emergency Services tower installed near Myrtle Reservoir
If you have driven up 35th Ave SW in West Seattle you've come to the highest point in the City of Seattle, Highpoint, some 510 feet above sea level. It's the logical place to install a communications tower and more than 20 years ago a tower was installed there. On Wednesday, Nov. 6, following some weeks of preparation a new, much larger tower was installed as part of an upgrade to the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network or PSERN.
PSERN has established one radio system that will drastically improve its coverage, capacity, capability, and connectivity to provide King County with reliable emergency radio functionality. The new system will provide several new and improved features such as better reliability, improved interoperability, increased capacity to keep up with King County’s growing population, additional radio sites to provide improved coverage to help make sure responders maintain communication during emergencies. In addition, the aging 20-year old analog system will be replaced with state-of-the-art digital technology. The new network will have a life of at least 20 years after project completion.
The antennas you see on the tower are not for cellular phone communication but instead for line of sight microwave transmission and the Fire Department paging system. There are some repeaters for the West Seattle Amateur Radio Club on site as well. An 800 Mhz radio system and a receiver for the Tolt Dam Warning System near Carnation.
The tower is some 20 feet lower than the nearby water towers in compliance with FAA regulations.
The existing tower will remain up for another 30 days or so to permit the new tower to be properly outfitted with new coax and potentially new microwave dishes (though some might remain).
A new building to house additional gear is also in place, some of which are Lightning Arrestor Blocks. There will be likely less than half an hour disruption in service when the new system goes online in a few weeks.
The improvements in the new network are because it's P25 digital. Not only will the signal be clearer but P25 radios are a direct replacement for analog UHF (example FM) radios and add the ability to transfer data as well as voice, allowing for a more natural implementation of encryption or messaging.
To install the new tower the sections were lifted by the crane and then dropped in an interlocking sleeve fashion.
The project began its work on the West Seattle tower location in late summer 2019 and has followed local jurisdiction permitting requirements, including a land use sign on site. Additionally, the project chose to pay an additional cost to paint the tower a color allowing it to better blend in with its surroundings.
Construction and materials costs for the PSERN West Seattle tower equipment are approximately $800,000, paid for out of the PSERN Project.
- PSERN was approved by King County voters in April 2015.
- PSERN is an 800 MHz digital network.
- The system will cover all populated portions of King County, along with the three major highways in the eastern part of the county.
- It is a large, complex program comprised of more than 80 subprojects. That includes the 61 radio sites based around the county in a wide variety of terrain, 19 dispatch centers, deployment of up to 19,000 radios, and other system components.
- PSERN Project Partners/Owners:
- Eastside Public Safety Communications Agency (EPSCA)
- King County – lead agency
- City of Seattle
- Valley Communications Center
- The system vendor is Motorola.
- When the project is complete, the system and all project assets will be operated by a new municipal nonprofit corporation, the PSERN Operator.