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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – One of the many things Broward County leaders learned from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting is that when a large group of law enforcement officers and first responders converge on a scene, their emergency radio systems often got overwhelmed and jammed.
“Law enforcement could not communicate,” said Max Schacter, of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. “They had to use hand signals to communicate. You had Coral Springs SWAT and BSO SWAT trying to clear Marjory Stoneman Douglas and they had to run down the hallway and say, ‘Please, don’t shoot us’ because they couldn’t communicate. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Schacter made it his mission to end that.
“This was my number one focus,” he said. “Fixing these radio issues.”
Broward County had been working for several years to upgrade an aging emergency radio system but Schacter says the urgency to get things done was lacking.
“I was extremely upset that it had taken this long,” he said.
But now there’s some movement to a permanent solution. On Tuesday Broward County says the Tamarac City Commission approved a new emergency radio communications tower to replace an existing one near their city hall. The new one will be taller and will house state of the art technology for law enforcement and first responders as they deal with crises in the county. One day after Tamarac’s decision Broward County leaders stepped in to say they’ll pay money for overtime and to expedite permitting fees in order to get the new towers in place.
Michael Udine is the Broward County Commissioner representing the Parkland and Coral Springs areas. He’s worked with Schacter to get this process moving.
“Lives depend on this,” Udine said. “It’s a scary thing for a first responder to pick up a radio and not have it work. You’re talking about firefighters who could be in a burning building. You’re talking about the situation at the airport.
“We want to do everything possible to shave any time off this system.”
Max Schacter is pleased his persistence on this issue is paying off with urgency to get things done. For him, it’s a way to honor his son and the other Stoneman Douglas victims.
“That’s the only reason I wake up every day is to make sure that my little boy and these other 16 beautiful souls did not die in vain,” Schacter said. “If my efforts can save another child, another teacher, it’s all worth it.”
In addition to the new tower here in Tamarac, several new towers are going up across the county in addition to 10 existing towers. CBS 4 News is told they’ll provide enhanced coverage from the Everglades to the beach. The work on the $59 million dollar project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.