In response to “Interoperability Still Eludes” from the May issue of MissionCritical Communications, Page 8:
I read your editorial in the May issue and sort of agree with what you wrote. However, there has to be blame placed on both the responding agencies and the command structure used for the fires mentioned.
Having been in the fire service for more than 35 years and attaining the rank of captain, I know firsthand the issues that come up with mutual-aid radio communications. My work over the years has been mostly rubbing shoulders with public-safety communications, having run my own radio service shop for a number of years. I have also worked for several cellular system operators doing site engineering on the towers, shelters, emergency power systems, grounding and microwave links. Then also working for two different communications consulting companies that focused on public-safety radio systems.
The company I work for is in the interoperability radio communications business. As a result, I travel around the country frequently to the different agencies to do training on the gateways that are being used. It never ceases to amaze me that this far down the road since the country started the so-called “radio interoperability” move, that there are still agencies that either have not heard of frequencies being set aside just for that purpose or refuse to install those channels into their radios.
What it comes down to is politics. Many of these agencies take the stand that if mutual aid comes in to help their agency, those radios will operate on the local channels. These agencies that take this position are just asking for disaster. There is no way that all the units responding to a mutual aid call will have the local operating channels in their radios. If it is a trunked system, the chance of that happening is very remote.
There are a few solutions to this stand and the politics that come with it. Replace the management with new blood who understands the facts of life and how the rest of the country functions. Change their stand and bend a little to install the national radio interoperability channels into their radios. Have the federal government stop funding agencies that refuse to install these channels into their radios. Maybe some combination of the possible solutions is best.
The national interoperability channels can provide additional resources in any major incidents. They provide free channels that can be used to offload the activity on the normal dispatch channels. The channels provide a commonality between responding agency units where there is no barrier of radio channels that are not available in their radios. In those cases where the responding units are operating on different bands, then a mobile command vehicle can be used to patch the different bands and channels together to make common channels for all to operate on.
Some states have started to install gateways at 9-1-1 dispatch centers. These gateways can then be used to interconnect between the agencies to create a common operating network for the incident at hand. Virginia has done this and has some 130 gateways installed around the state between the dispatch centers and mobile command vehicles. They link radio systems such as a low-band simplex to an 800 MHz trunked system. The system has been used to interconnect an 800 MHz trunked system to the state police VHF trunked system on several occasions. The system then allows the units in the field to talk directly to each other as if they were on the same radio channel.
We have the equipment, radios and radio systems. We don’t have a solution to the politics preventing easy communications. Mutual aid responding units will continue to have radio communications problems until this big problem is solved. Going to a wideband system like Long Term Evolution (LTE) is not going to solve the politics. Having LTE radio equipment is only part of the solution. Getting a countrywide LTE system built is like solving the country’s national debt problem. I don’t think we will see it in our lifetime. There are just too many politics in the way. If we can’t use the national radio interoperability radio channels the FCC set aside for us now, how do you expect a nationwide broadband LTE radio system to ever fly? It would surprise me to see it start to get off the ground even in the next three to five years.
Radio Systems Engineer
If a public-safety answering point (PSAP) is served by seven-digit numbers ported from a local exchange carrier (LEC) into a county-owned IP telephone system and used as incoming emergency numbers, would the law still apply to those numbers? In short, would a private IP system be covered by this law if the numbers were used as emergency lines at a PSAP?
Russell V Whittaker Jr.
Communications Systems Specialist
Dutchess County Emergency Response
Oh come on! The Do Not Call list already exists, and the numbers we have listed get numerous violations daily. There is no enforcement, and the law is generally considered a joke. Why pass another nearly identical law? Either enforce the law we have or go home. Don’t further waste taxpayer dollars.
Please tell me why the FCC can’t enforce the Do Not Call list for the public. Put some teeth into the public rules and enforce them. I hope that they can better enforce the public-safety answering point (PSAP) rules.
I have three questions: How will this work from an aircraft, especially when the aircraft’s operating environment encompasses altitudes from 200 feet to 40,000 feet above ground level? How will this work for a vessel operating along the entire coastal waters up to 50 miles off shore? How will this work in the hinterland where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operates to patrol the border?
I don’t see Long Term Evolution (LTE) meeting any of these mission-critical areas.
Dennis Del Grosso
Supervisory Air Interdiction Agent – Retired
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
According to Itemaps.org, the following U.S. organizations are currently supporting Long Term Evolution (LTE) commercial networks at 700 MHz: AT&T Mobility, Cellcom, Leap Wireless, Metro PCS, Mosaic Telecom, Panhandle, Pioneer Cellular, Peoples & Etex Telephone Co-op, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless.
If this is the case, then it looks like in order for DHS to function on this network, 700 MHz will be the preferred choice for future information structure. After some brief research, it appears that this will become the world standard for wireless communications with different countries using different bands for operation.
For government on a national level this system makes some sense, but for local governments, maintaining a local two-way data and radio system makes even more sense. The problem with cell-based technology is, you have no control over its maintenance and upkeep. If a storm or natural disaster comes in to play, you better have a satellite connectivity strategy or you’re sunk.
Toledo (Ohio) Area Regional Transit Authority
Radio Technician/Phone Admin
My question is: How secure will this be? It is commercial, and there is no guarantee that it will be secure. Reliability is also in question. Unless the state has a big influence and hand in it, the commercial guy can switch it off, and where is your communications? Just a big wondering from my side.
Leon van der Linde
I believe if Verizon is pushing and making the service available to their customers to have the ability to text their emergency calls to public-safety answering points (PSAPs), then it should provide monetary assistance to agencies that can’t afford to update their equipment to accept these text messages.
Unless we upgrade our recorder/logger, we will not have the ability to store and retrieve the messages. We need to have that information for court cases and quality assurance purposes. I believe Verizon should offer grants to those agencies that can’t afford to upgrade on their own.
Emergency Operations Center (EOC)