A Federal Communications Commission directive has mandated that all licensees be operating at a 12.5 KHz efficiency as of January 1. Cooper County made the switchover sooner than required earlier this month.

If readers access the Federal Communications Commission website at fcc.gov, they'll find a countdown clock with about 115 days left on its ticker. The result of an almost two-decade effort with a stated goal of ensuring a more efficient use of the radio spectrum, licensees not operating at a 12.5 KHz efficiency as of January 1 will be in violation of the FCC rules and subject potential action.

Cooper County emergency services, however, need not worry. The narrow-band changeover has already taken place this month.

"We had to change all the radio frequencies from wide to narrow. This has been in the works for about 10 years in our area," said Director Tom White of the Cooper County Emergency Operations Center.

Affecting every emergency service in the Cooper County jurisdiction, the change involved a 25 megahertz to 12.5 megahertz split.

"We put this off as long as we could – the reason being that once you switch over, it affects every radio you've got in use. We wanted to make sure we waited as long as we could so everybody's transition took place as smoothly as possible," said White.

The reason for the mandated FCC switchover is due to rapidly-changing technologies congesting airwaves with any number of new wireless communication devices. The early-month transition went "fairly smoothly" according to Director White.

"This causes everybody to reprogram every radio they've got – we're talking about around 100 radio devices for this agency alone," he said.