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What You Should Know About Creating Seamless Regional Public Safety Communications Networks

Author: Karen Fink, Airbus DS Communications

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,

Date: 2014-09-12
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Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S. with over 19 million residents, and is projected to continue growing - and aging - at a steady rate over the next decade providing public safety officials the mandatory task of not only managing growth, but being concerned about functionality and efficiency of their emergency communication networks. Events such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, Sandy Hook school shooting and Boston Marathon bombing have highlighted the need for interoperable mission critical public safety communication across agencies, jurisdictions, and borders.

At a recent symposium on public safety communication hosted by Airbus DS Communications in Tampa, public safety and emergency management officials gathered to learn more about new technologies available to enable them to create interoperable communications networks.  New technologies such as Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), Project 25 (P25), and Long Term Evolution (LTE) can connect municipalities, enable interoperable communications between agencies, and improve operations while reducing overall costs to the community. Among the symposium’s key takeaways and what you need to know about implementing improved communication systems:

  • Component interoperability is both a key to lowering total cost of ownership and enabling inter-agency/inter-jurisdiction public safety communications. Chances are good that different municipalities and even public safety agencies (like police, fire, EMS) within the same municipality use different equipment that may or may not talk to one another, making inter-agency communication difficult if not impossible.  That’s why it is critical to find vendors committed to providing open, non-proprietary systems that will work with other vendors’ components, as long as they are compliant with the same standard.
  • One of the four requirements of NG9-1-1 is to integrate and interoperate with public safety entities beyond the PSAP.  Other PSAPs, EOCs, DHS, and emergency management entities will be able to interconnect to the NG9-1-1 network and system, as well as acquire and pass data between all entities.
  • Across the U.S. more and more public safety agencies are beginning to regionalize by uniting across their geographical boundaries to share resources and become more efficient. Regionalization, including 9-1-1 call taking and P25 land mobile radio services, also helps them keep pace with the latest technologies needed to protect and serve.

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Today, we are seeing more systems evolving from a standalone silo to a regional one. A recent regionalization success story that would be a perfect model for Florida’s exploding communities looking to build a regional public safety network is the Northern Tier Regional Communications Project — a group of ten counties in Pennsylvania including Clearfield, Jefferson, Elk, Cameron, McKean, Clarion, Warren, Crawford, Forest and Erie. The Northern Tier counties set out to replace their aging 9-1-1 systems in 2011 with the state’s first regional public safety network, which went live in 2013. By forming the regional network, the counties saved $2.3 million upfront and more than $250,000 in annual maintenance costs. 

What are the first steps to look at for counties that may want to regionalize? First, create a bond with the people with whom you work every day. Building trust is crucial in creating a regionalized system where you share control with others.

Step two is having political buy-in. Meet with each 9-1-1 director and county commissioner and explain in detail how the system will work.  Once you get political buy-in, you have a project that can move forward.

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Finally, it is very important to keep everyone, including elected officials and the media, apprised of what you are doing. Emergency responders and of course, residents, want to know there is still going to be someone there to personally answer the phone.

“Many counties all over Florida and the country are realizing there is a finite amount of money for emergency 9-1-1 centers,” explained Bob Freinberg, CEO of Airbus DS Communications. “Through regionalization, counties can fund what they need with a significant cost saving. Plus, they find that by working together they not only increase the services they can provide their citizens but the survivability of their centers as well.”

 

Karen Fink is a Regional Sales Manager with Airbus DS Communications.  Karen oversees the southeast region of the US.  She has been with Airbus DS Communications (formerly Cassidian Communications) for five years and has worked in the public safety industry – including 911 communications – for 15 years.  

 

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