The Heath Police Department is working with Newark police to dispatch Heath calls this week while Heath's new radio system is being installed.

The Heath Police Department is working with Newark police to dispatch Heath calls this week while Heath's new radio system is being installed.

"Starting on Tuesday, we will be dispatched from the Newark Police Department," Heath police Chief Tony Shepherd said. "The phone numbers will stay the same."

Shepherd said the calls will be transferred to Newark police through the Licking County Emergency Management Agency and 911 emergency-operations center. Dispatchers from Heath will work at the Newark Police Department in downtown Newark.

"We have three terminals we're capable of dispatching from, but we only use one," Newark police Chief Steven Sarver said.

Shepherd said the public will not notice a difference in the response to calls for emergency service.

"They will see no lapse in the response time," he said. "They would never know the difference."

Heath is installing a new digital system to replace the city's 15-year-old system. EF Johnson of Irving, Texas, put the new system together at a projected cost of $340,000.

Shepherd said the new system already has been tested in Texas. It will be transported to Ohio on Monday and installed starting Tuesday.

"It should be just plug and play," Shepherd said, adding that the old radios will be removed from the Heath Police Department and the new equipment will be put in place.

The new system uses a fiber-optics line, which offers another benefit for the city. Shepherd said the police and City Hall will have a higher-speed Internet connection as a result of the line that was installed.

"We've had talks with the schools and the base (Central Ohio Aerospace and Technical Campus COATC)," Shepherd said.

Heath Mayor Richard Waugh said the city is investigating other possible uses of the fiber-optics network, possibly involving schools and businesses.

"What can we do to enhance the safety forces, using wireless connections?" Waugh asked.

Shepherd said the city already is tied into the COATC security cameras.

"In an emergency, we could take over and control those manually from here," Shepherd said.

He said the city is working with Heath City Schools to tie into the school district's security system, as well. But the school system could require some upgrades before that is possible.

"It's virtually our own private network," Shepherd said of the fiber-optics system.

"We're looking at the possibilities of safety, schools, businesses and citizens, related to information gathering," Waugh said.

Waugh's task force currently is studying how wireless technology could help the city.

"We're seeing what the possibilities are and whether it's practical," Waugh said. "The city administration will benefit from it. We're trying to justify some expenditures for use in other areas."

Heath's new radio system and the fiber-optics network were installed after a site controller in the old system failed in June 2007. The system failure forced Heath police officers and firefighters to share two radio channels with the city's utilities, parks and recreation, and street departments. Shepherd's fear at the time was that a firefighter or an officer would try to call for help and wouldn't be able to get through. Since then, the city has placed the utilities department on a separate system.

The Heath Fire Department is dispatched through the Heath Police Department.

While the new system is being installed, the Heath Fire Department will receive dispatches from the Licking County 911 call center.

Shepherd said the old system was installed in 1992 and, at the time, used advanced technology. It is an 800-MHz system.

He said the new system will be built to Project 25 interoperability standards, which is part of the national Homeland Security push to have all different types of systems able to communicate during an emergency.

"Hopefully, we will be operating on the new system by Friday," Shepherd said.

Heath serves as the backup for the county 911 center.

lwince@thisweeknews.com