Highland Hospital's trauma center has always been what Oakland police and firefighters call a "dead zone," a place where, without fail, their radio communication went dark.
But not anymore. On Sunday, Oakland switched from its ancient analogue radio system to a new digital frequency. It is a move that eliminates dangerous radio silences that have left first responders stranded at times without a way to talk to dispatchers or each other.
"We know that this will make all of our emergency workers safer," Mayor Jean Quan said.
City leaders concede there will still be dead zones in the new system, but far fewer than before.
"That's specifically why we are on this system, to put ourselves on a solid platform so that we will not have blackouts," Oakland Police Lt. Carlos Gonzalez said.
The busy intersection of Seminary and MacArthur was one of the dead spots where police could not even communicate with each other in the high-crime area using their radios .
In an area with a history of natural disasters, the new nearly $8 million radio system paid for by federal grants will also allow first responders in Oakland to directly communicate with outside agencies.
"This gets us one step closer to being able to talk between police and fire and other jurisdictions," Oakland Emergency Services Director Renee Domingo said.
Most of the rest of the Bay Area is not expected to adopt the same radio system until 2013.