What is PSERN?

PSERN is the Puget Sound Emergency Radio Network, which replaced the King County Emergency Communications System (KCERCS). PSERN is a simulcast 800 MHz trunked radio system utilizing P25 Phase II digital technology and managed by the PSERN Operator.

What is the difference between PSERN and KCERCS?

There are two main differences between PSERN and KCERCS – the technology and the system management. KCERCS was created in the late 1990s with analog technology and was managed by four separate radio operators: the City of Seattle (serving Seattle), Valley Communications (serving south King County), Eastside Public Safety Communications Agency/EPSCA (serving north and east King County), and King County (serving all other areas not served by the others). PSERN utilizes digital technology, and since emergency radio communications are regional, the four previous operators agreed to centralize the ownership and management of the new system under one operator, the PSERN Operator.

Why Did King County need a whole new radio system?

A new emergency radio system (including infrastructure, radios, and a centralized operator) was needed because the KCERCS infrastructure and radios were over 25 years old, with manufacturer support no longer available. Additionally, the previous four KCERCS partners agreed that centralizing network operations and management would better support regional radio communications.

How much did creating PSERN cost, how was it funded, and what was included?

The budget for developing PSERN was $293M, paid for by a levy approved by nearly two-thirds of King County voters in April 2015. The levy was assessed to property owners at a rate of $0.07/$1000 of assessed value for nine years (2016-2024). Development included 40 new radio sites, digital infrastructure, replacement of over 18,000 radios, staffing and associated administrative expenses, including start-up costs for the new operator.


Yes, PSERN uses radio technology proven to be safe and reliable. The system has been developed to meet the national safety limits for radio frequency (RF) energy adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Data has shown that there is no reason to believe that a radio site could constitute a health hazard to nearby residents. Many telecommunications applications make use of RF energy, including television broadcasting, cell phones, and other emergency radio networks throughout the United States. According to the FCC, studies have shown that environmental levels of RF energy routinely encountered by the general public are typically far below the levels that could affect health.

Why can’t first responders use their cell phones instead of radios?

Cell phones inherently lack the reliability and features that first responders need during emergencies. Most cellphone frequencies are shared with the general public and can become bogged down by the volume of calls occurring during major emergencies. PSERN radio channels are dedicated to first responder usage. Additionally, PSERN will provide coverage in areas that cell phones currently do not.

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