In 1989, hurricane Hugo pummeled the East Coast with 135 mph winds and a 5-to-10 foot tidal surge.
The storm cut through the center of South Carolina and devastated the state causing $7 billion in damage, 27 deaths, and leaving 60,000 people homeless.
In the midst of the most severe storm in South Carolina’s history, communication problems only made things worse.
Communication centers were destroyed, state offices were flooded, and 1989′s radios didn’t allow state troopers to talk to state agents or provide clear communication between state and local police.
The chaos from lack of communication caused evacuation order delays, slower emergency response times, and delayed restoration efforts compounding problems in an already-devastated community.
After Hugo, emergency managers, police and fire departments, utilities, and the government took a hard look at their radio systems. They found conflicts and incompatibility all over the state.
The ability to communicate and collaborate between agencies became an immediate priority.
In 1990, then-governor Carroll Campbell established Partners in Preparedness, which was an advisory board to lead the state’s quest for interoperable communications.
And thus, the Palmetto 800 radio communication service was born.
What is Palmetto 800?
Partners in Preparedness included members from Motorola, Bell South, Scana, and other technology companies to focus on developing a multi-agency interoperability system throughout the state.
The goal was to develop a comprehensive network support solution that would ensure the highest levels of communication for emergency and public safety users.
They wanted to create a state-wide system that would include 24/7 monitoring, local technician dispatch, technical help desk support, and repair and restoration with multi-level response procedures.
In 1992, the original system was born with Scana Communications at the helm.
In 2001, Motorola took over management, responsibility, and ownership of the network to complete governor Campbell’s vision to serve and protect people and property throughout South Carolina.
Today, this state-wide emergency network is known as Palmetto 800. It is named for the 800 megahertz radio frequency it uses and adopted the nickname of South Carolina “The Palmetto State.”
Palmetto 800 allows a state agency to communicate instantly with local fire departments, emergency personnel or utilities.
Benefits of Radio Communications with Palmetto 800
Palmetto 800 covers the entire state of South Carolina and portions of Georgia. It is known as the largest shared public safety radio system in the country.
The benefits of this type of universal communication are clear.
- Nearly 22,000 local, state and federal users on the network.
- Provides instant access to 350 different agencies including state government, federal government, local government, law enforcement agencies, fire services, EMS services and power utilities.
- Provides sheriff’s departments access to the statewide system to bring in help when they need it.
- Increases the reliability of emergency personnel and evacuation orders.
- Increases the effectiveness of personnel, agencies and government offices.
- Reduces the response time of emergency services.
“With so many of us concerned about homeland security, it’s critical that public safety personnel from one agency are able to communicate via radio with personnel from other agencies,” says Robert E. Lee, Jr., former program manager for Public Safety Wireless network, an organization that assesses interoperability. “This type of interoperable communication can mean the difference between life and death.”
This same type of radio communication in smaller networks can also be used in private businesses, schools, hospitals, and event planning to ensure things run smoothly.
Who Uses the Palmetto 800?
Palmetto 800 is the largest public safety network in the country to offer multi-agency interoperability, linking local, state and federal agencies with major utilities and health care providers.
All 22,000 users can link into the network to communicate with the offices, agencies, services, or utilities they are trying to reach.
Ron Osborne is part of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. Osborne says, “Hugo was kind of a defining storm for response to hurricanes.”
Today, South Carolina is the shining example and continues to receive accolades and awards for its interoperable communications system, Palmetto 800.
Cost of Palmetto 800
Palmetto 800 is staffed by a dedicated Motorola team of support professionals at 69 sites with full interoperability throughout the state.
The emergency response procedures Motorola put in place parallel the state’s own emergency Management division and provide a model for other states to do the same.
Motorola Managed Services solution ensures that the State of South Carolina incurs no infrastructure equipment or maintenance costs.
Motorola is responsible for all network support, scheduling upgrades, planning for technology evolution, and ensuring that the network will be on the air and available to users wherever they are in the state.
When Communication is Critical
This evolution of essential communication allows South Carolina to better manage and deploy first responder assets anywhere in the state during disaster situations to meet their most critical needs.
“Palmetto 800 has become a role model for statewide interoperability with agencies from around the world coming to see the network,” says George Crouch, Wireless Technology Manager for South Carolina.
While other states are mimicking the Palmetto 800 radio communication system, it also shows the effectiveness of radio communication on a smaller scale.
To utilize these types of radio communications for your school, business, hospital, or property give VEI Communications a call. We supply radio systems that support all types of public entities and private companies to ensure your communication is reliable and consistent.