Tuesday, December 16, 2008

PSIC Report Analyzes Proposed Projects: "Nearly 90 percent — $811.6 million — of the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant money will be spent on new equipment acquisition and deployment, according to a new report. The federal government in late November released a joint report that analyzes proposed projects for the nearly $1 billion PSIC grant program, which includes money for all U.S. states and territories.

In the report, “Improving Interoperable Communications Nationwide: Overview of Initial State and Territory Investments,” the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) revealed findings from their analyses of state, territory and local communications initiatives. The agencies also established a baseline for measuring each program’s anticipated impact on interoperable communications across the nation."
Governors Tackle Interoperability: "To help states ensure their communication capabilities are adequately prepared to respond to an emergency, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices announced that Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Massachusetts, New York and Washington have been selected to participate in the Public Safety Interoperability Communications Policy Academy: Focus on Governance.

'Emergency response officials consistently cite the ability to communicate with other first responders as critical to being able to better protect the public in the face of any emergency,' said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. 'This Policy Academy will provide states the opportunity to addresses the coordination needed among key stakeholders to build efficient, effective interoperable communications.'"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

IAFF, USFA publish new communications guide: "A new guide on communications safety and technology has been released by the IAFF and the USFA. The updated manual, Voice Radio Communications Guide for the Fire Service, was first published in 1996 and provides the latest information on communications technology and discusses critical homeland security issues and concepts."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Rethinking 700 MHz for Public Safety: "Emergency communications save lives.

The unfortunate corollary to this maxim: Communication failures kill. Increasingly attention is being focused on how to increase communication, not only within an emergency response organization, but also across first responders from different agencies. To remain fully connected, key communications officers have often adopted a 'bat belt' approach with several communications devices - sometimes a half dozen or more - strapped to their waist. It's a necessity for communicating among the many different federal, state and local agencies' wireless networks during an incident."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Officials test blimp-like aerostats for hosting wireless systems: "When a natural or manmade disaster puts ground-based communications out of commission, one alternative could come from the air. Officials tested the idea in September in Sandusky, Ohio, during a demonstration of the potential role aerostats might have in restoring emergency communications.

Proponents of aerostats – essentially tethered blimp-shaped balloons – say they can provide temporary wide-area communications when disaster wipes out fixed towers. The Sept. 24 consortium of federal agencies, universities and private companies tested communication payloads on a 75-foot long Army-owned aerostat."
Wireless policies under scrutiny under Obama advisers: "While it will be months before President-elect Barack Obama gets his administration in place and begins to roll out policy priorities, the selection of individuals focusing on high-tech agencies and their issues in the transition period suggests industry giants Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility could face greater scrutiny on open access, consolidation and other issues than they have the past eight years.

"Indeed, two academics assigned to the Federal Communications Commission transition review — Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach — are vocal advocates of open networks in the wireless and broadband sectors. Both are influential bloggers on cutting-edge telecom and high-tech policy issues."

Monday, November 24, 2008

National Governors' Association to Help States with Public Safety Interoperability Governance: "Public safety communications is a critical issue facing state and local policymakers. States continue to struggle to ensure that first responders from various agencies, jurisdictions and levels of government can speak to each other during emergencies or at the scene of a disaster. In the 2007 NGA State Homeland Security Directors Survey, interoperable communications ranked first on a list of homeland security advisors' concerns. According to the survey, nearly every state has a statewide interoperable communications governance structure in place, however, many states need to draw in additional stakeholders or formalize their activities to improve interoperability."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wireless Usage Survey - RadioRescource for Netmotion - A recent vendor survey of public-safety agencies found that nearly 60 percent of the agencies intend to invest more heavily in wireless technology next year. The customer survey was conducted in October across NetMotion Wireless’ installed base of more than 1,200 organizations and government agencies.

Among the key findings:

  • In addition to the 60 percent of agencies that plan to invest in wireless technology next year; 23 percent were unsure; and 17 percent said they did not plan to do so.
  • Given the broad geographic regions they cover, about 94 percent of public-safety agencies rely on multiple wireless data networks for their deployments.
  • Nearly 20 percent use a combination of Wi-Fi and one cellular carrier; more than 70 percent use Wi-Fi networks in combination with multiple wide-area data networks provided by wireless carriers.
  • More than 97 percent of the respondents’ wireless deployments are comprised of laptops, while 35 percent also use tablet PCs, and about 55 percent use smart phones or other wireless handheld devices in their deployments.
  • For 87 percent of IT personnel that support public-safety field forces, the key factor in defining the success of their mobile deployment is whether it saves officers' time and makes officers more productive in the field.
  • During the next two years, 56 percent plan to deploy streaming video within the field and 29 percent plan to use mobile voice over IP within their agencies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Phoenix Shared Radio System - A long-awaited regional partnership allowing [Phoenix area] police, fire and municipal agencies to talk to one another on a single radio-communications frequency is starting to take shape. ... [Bill Phillips, the project manager] anticipates that by December, a board of directors will be formed to discuss the system's design, each city's needs and how costs will be shared. The design could take six to eight months to complete.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

FCC proposes easing wireless spectrum bids: "The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed halving the minimum opening bid on a piece of valuable wireless spectrum, but several commissioners expressed doubt that the plan would work, after an earlier auction failed to attract industry interest.

The five-member FCC approved a plan devised by agency Chairman Kevin Martin, cutting to $750 million a prior $1.3 billion minimum bid and easing other requirements."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Communications upgrades worked in Gustav, Ike: "As hurricanes Gustav and Ike swamped coastal communities and knocked out power to more than 1 million homes and businesses, phone and radio lines of first-responders largely held in the first true test of the communications grid developed after Hurricane Katrina. Police, search-and-rescue teams and emergency operations workers could talk to each other, radio-in damage assessments and call for help.

That's a far cry from 2005 when Katrina and Rita leveled communications systems. Portable radios and phones failed, isolating communities for days and making first-responders unaware of the scope of the devastation. The collapse prompted a $95 million upgrade in communications infrastructure.

The new system wasn't without disruptions, including failure of two radio towers for both Gustav and Ike. But backups were quickly dropped into affected areas. State officials said they never lost total communication with any parish."

Friday, September 19, 2008

FCC Plans New Auction for First-Responder Airwaves: "New details on a plan to create a national communications network for police, fire and other emergency first responders were announced yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission after an earlier effort to sell the network this year failed to produce a buyer.

Under the new proposal, the network would be auctioned as one national block of radio spectrum or, alternatively, as 58 separate regional airwaves licenses. The agency said that it prefers to sell the spectrum as a whole and that it would give priority to such a bid. But if no one meets the minimum reserve price for the national block, the commission would close the auction with a minimum of half of the 58 regional licenses sold."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Network That Builds Itself: "Building an on-the-fly wireless communications networks is a vital part of firefighting, handling hostage situations, and dealing with other emergencies. But it is difficult to build such networks quickly and reliably. Soon these emergency wireless networks could help build themselves. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently presented details of two experimental networks that tell emergency workers when to set down wireless transmitters to ensure a good signal."
New York Statewide Wireless Network Issues Letter Of Default To M/A-COM: "Albany, N.Y. (August 29, 2008) -- The New York State Chief Information Officer/Office for Technology (CIO/OFT) today announced it had issued a letter of default to M/A-COM, Inc. -- the primary vendor responsible for building the Statewide Wireless Network. Under the contract, M/A-COM has 45 days to remediate remaining problems with the system and recertify the system as ready for use"

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

FEMA Takes Steps for Common Alerting System: "The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plans to adopt an alerting protocol similar to the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) 1.1 as the standard for the Integrated Public Alert and Warnings System (IPAWS). IPAWS is a network of alert systems through which FEMA is upgrading the existing Emergency Alert System (EAS). CAP 1.1 is a format for exchanging emergency alerts allowing a consistent warning message to be disseminated simultaneously over many different warning systems. Participants in the EAS, including broadcasters and state and local emergency managers, will be required to be in compliance with CAP 1.1 standard within 180 days of its formal adoption by FEMA.

FEMA will implement it in Q1 2009"
National Emergency Communications Plan: "[On July 31st, DHS released] the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) to address gaps and determine solutions so that emergency response personnel at all levels of government and across all disciplines can communicate as needed, on demand, and as authorized. The NECP is the nation's first strategic plan to improve emergency response communications, and complements overarching homeland security and emergency communications legislation, strategies and initiatives.

'This is a comprehensive plan designed to drive measurable and sustainable improvements to operable and interoperable emergency communications nationwide over the next three years. It emphasizes the human element and cross-jurisdictional cooperation, going beyond simply buying new equipment,' said Homeland Security Under Secretary Robert Jamison. 'We have recently approved Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans for all 56 states and territories. Aligning these plans with the NECP will move emergency communications forward and further promote a coordinated nationwide strategy.'

The NECP defines three goals that establish a minimum level of interoperable communications and a deadline for federal, state, local and tribal authorities:

1. By 2010, 90 percent of all high-risk urban areas designated within the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
2. By 2011, 75 percent of non-UASI jurisdictions can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
3. By 2013, 75 percent of all jurisdictions can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within three hours of a significant event, as outlined in the department's national planning scenarios."
FCC looks for public safety to push rebanding to completion: "Already more than one month beyond the scheduled completion date for 800 MHz rebanding, public-safety licensees operating in the band are expected to drive the monumental engineering project to substantial completion during the next year, FCC representatives said ... during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference [in early August].

'Sprint [Nextel, the wireless carrier paying for rebanding] wants to get this finished. I think a lot of the burden will fall on public safety to get this done,' Derek Poarch, chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau (PSHSB), said on Monday. 'Public-safety licensees need to push their consultants and vendors. If they’re having trouble, we’ll be happy to help them.'"
New York Statewide Wireless Network status unclear: "System kinks to the NY Statewide Wireless Network has the status of the full interoperability radio network unclear. [In June], a round of tests for the new emergency communications system - being evaluated in Erie and Chautauqua counties before it goes statewide - was postponed a month before state officials could decide the project's fate. The round of tests was delayed until the company running the project, M/A-COM, corrected problems in the system. The communication system has an Aug. 29 deadline for the state to decided whether the results of tests from the system are successful enough to launch statewide."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Texas agencies discuss emergency communications: "AUSTIN - 200 public safety representatives gathered with the Texas Radio Coalition at the Hilton Austin Airport to discuss recommendations to Gov. Rick Perry on the state's public safety wireless communication system. They plan to adopt and revise standard operating procedures for integrated communications throughout 24 regions of Texas. The improved communications system uses unified wireless radios that allow federal, state, local and tribal agencies to more effectively communicate during natural disasters such as hurricanes and other critical incidents, as well as day-to-day mutual aid events."
For a price, Hall County [GA] to let others use high-tech communications system: "Hall County has been so satisfied with its improved emergency communications that it soon will offer surrounding areas the opportunity join the 800 MHz radio system. One small catch: Other governments will have to provide their own equipment and help pay maintenance costs, said Marty Nix, director of Hall County’s 911 center.

'It’s a win-win for everyone,' Nix said. 'The more people you have involved in a system like this, the less it costs for everyone involved.'"

Monday, August 11, 2008

Digital radios in fireground limbo: "Amid concerns surrounding digital-radio performance, several public-safety agencies are considering alternatives, including analog radios.

Focus on digital-radio performance in fireground scenarios heightened last month after the release of an International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) report on the issue. Tests conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) indicated that analog systems provided greater audio intelligibility than digital systems in four of nine environments, including when self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) masks and personal alert safety systems (PASS) were in use.

These results and anecdotal experiences have caused firefighters in Phoenix, Orlando and Marion County, Ind., to question the wisdom of moving from analog radio to multimillion-dollar digital systems."

Monday, August 04, 2008

First responders to FCC: give up national D Block pipe dream: "They packed Brooklyn, New York's elegant Borough Hall yesterday—police and fire department officials, telco lawyers, and a former state Attorney General—lining up to tell all five members of the Federal Communications Commission how it should set up a national broadband public safety communications system. But before they spoke, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps laid out the truth: years into the process, the agency still isn't even sure what to do."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rep. Cuellar (D-TX): Improve emergency systems: "Improving emergency communications should be a top priority for the next administration, the chairman of a House subcommittee that deals with homeland security legislation said today. In a speech, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) emphasized the importance of improving emergency response communications and interoperability, much of which depends on information technology systems. Cuellar chairs the House Homeland Security Committee’s Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response Subcommittee. Cuellar also said the next homeland security secretary should appoint an assistant secretary to manage the Homeland Security Department's Office of Emergency Communications.

“We should elevate the importance of the emergency communications of DHS,” he said. “The Office of Emergency Communications is buried in DHS.”"
Congress pushes for national emergency communications plan: "Congress criticized the Homeland Security Department on Tuesday for delaying the coordination of a national emergency communications plan for first responders, emphasizing that states have little time to take action when formulating applications for grant money. The Office of Emergency Communications, established in October 2006 in accordance with recommendations of the 9/11 commission to improve communication among emergency responders and government officials during natural disasters and acts of terrorism, was supposed to have submitted a National Emergency Communications Plan to Congress in April. The plan was developed in cooperation with state, local and tribal governments, federal agencies, emergency response providers, and the private sector. It will provide recommendations for interoperable communication during disasters by using standard technologies, such as handheld radios and broadband networks."
New Maryland communication plan: "Flanked by state and local emergency workers, [Maryland] Gov. Martin O’Malley last week launched a sweeping initiative aimed at linking the statewide communications systems used by fire, police and other first responders to better handle crisis situations. The new network will not be fully online for at least four or five years, but state officials expect parts of the system to be operational sooner. It’s designed to fill gaps in communications that have long plagued emergency responses, such as the January shootout between police and an escaped inmate who overpowered guards at Laurel Regional Hospital."

Monday, July 14, 2008

2theadvocate.com | News | Linking up — Baton Rouge, LA

Progress Toward Interoperability: "Louisiana is better prepared today to cope with emergencies thanks to an improved statewide communications plan, officials said. That plan is a change in radio communications that will allow all first-responders in the state to talk to one another.

The switchover, from the 800 MHz system to 700 MHz, began in January 2007, and should be up and running statewide by next summer, said Brant Mitchell, assistant deputy director of interoperability with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Right now, the new system is operational in all parishes south of Interstate 10 and in southeast Louisiana, Mitchell said.

“If you look at the major disasters of the last 10 years, the No. 1 problem in all of them was that police, fire and emergency agencies were not able to talk to one another,” State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said. "The push to change is both national and local."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

IAFC working group releases digital best practices: "Some digital-radio problems in fireground settings can be offset with proper procedures and training, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) said yesterday while releasing a presentation on technical best practices for using portable digital radios.

IAFC last year formed a working group to study the problems firefighters were experiencing when using digital radios in the presence of loud background noise—not only from power tools like chainsaws often found at a fireground, but also from alert mechanisms included in a firefighter’s apparatus."

Monday, May 19, 2008

FCC to overhaul D Block approach - RCR : "The Federal Communications Commission today launched a wide-ranging proceeding to revamp D-Block rules, an effort that will not only examine changes to the national public safety/commercial license left stranded in the 700 MHz auction but also consider whether the public-private partnership approach should be retained. ... Shortly after the agency’s 5-0 vote on the D Block, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to authorize $4 million to begin funding the Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp. — the 700 MHz public-safety broadband licensee — that would partner with a winning commercial D-Block bidder under the shared wireless broadband network model."
DC Public Safety Broadband Network: "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is backing a broadband public-safety network project in Washington, although officials with the District of Columbia say several unknowns put the project’s future in doubt.

The National Capital Region (NCR) awarded a contract in early 2007 to Alcatel Lucent for an EV-DO Revision A network at 700 MHz. In September, DHS rolled out the Radio over Wireless-Broadband (ROW-B) pilot in conjunction with the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) and Clarity Communications. The project integrates new broadband technologies with existing public-safety two-way radio systems, including the integration of location information.

The pilot includes about 200 users from NCR’s police, fire and unified communications departments who are using video on the network, said Vivek Kundra, chief technology officer (CTO) for the District of Columbia. The network is licensed through a special temporary authority (STA) license that must be renewed through the FCC every six months. Federal grants initially were used to roll out the network. Alcatel Lucent has agreed to waive its maintenance fees for a year, Kundra said."
MVNO links made, disputed in D-Block - RCR: "Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp. Chairman Harlin McEwen has distanced himself from a key element in a Federal Communications Commission inspector general report on the unsettled 700 MHz D Block. The report, which cleared Cyren Call Communications Corp. of any wrongdoing prior to the failed auction of the D Block, described now-defunct Frontline Wireless L.L.C.’s concerns about Cyren Call’s plan to become a mobile virtual network operator that would resell service to first responders across the country."
Serious Discussion of Multiband and Cognitive Radios - MRT: "After Years of Discussion and Debate, frequency-agile radios finally are arriving, with products scheduled to hit the commercial and public safety markets later this year. The adoption rate of these technologies will go a long way toward determining whether a much-promised new paradigm regarding spectrum access, equipment costs and, ultimately, intelligent radio becomes a reality."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

FIRE CHIEF Blog - Interoperability Impact: "A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate coordinated a demonstration of voice interoperability between six different manufacturers’ systems using a new Bridging System Interface. During the demonstration, gear from Motorola, Scitec, Valcom, Cisco Systems, Clarity Communications Systems and Twisted Pair Solutions were connected via the BSI, and communications were conducted in a scenario format involving state, county and local jurisdictions operating on separate bands.

DHS officials were careful to note that the BSI is not a standard, but a specification that leverages commercial voice-over-IP technology. Equipment that allows disparate radio systems to interoperate via an IP platform is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean that the various bridging systems easily interoperate with each other, said Dereck Orr, program manager for public safety communications standards for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“Just because it says it’s IP doesn’t mean it’s interoperable,” Orr said. “We needed to get that word out to public safety and to policymakers, as well.”"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Chief: Communication gap is 'serious liability': "[New Hampshire] police are considering working with — and paying — Hampton dispatch for a better emergency-communications system. [North Hampton] Police Chief Brian Page said Thursday he spoke with Hampton Chief Jamie Sullivan and the two plan to meet. No cost has yet been discussed, Page said. The problem is a void in communicating with cruisers on the east side of town. The issue has been ongoing, but it was raised on Monday after Page and the Board of Selectmen received a complaint from a resident regarding unacceptable emergency-response time.

'We had an emergency and police could not be reached,' Page told selectmen on Monday. 'It presents a serious liability to the town.'"
Responders test coordination skills: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies converged in southern Virginia last week to demonstrate and test the interoperability of the communications systems that will need to work together for the agency’s disaster response plans to succeed.

FEMA has expanded its repertoire of scripted response plans, from 44 in 2006 to more than 240 now. It has also increased the number of agencies it coordinates with in creating scripted scenarios for such exercises, from four to 31, said Glenn Cannon, assistant administrator of FEMA's Disaster Operations Directorate."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

STLtoday - Questions remain about communications plan: "JEFFERSON CITY (MO) — The concept is simple: Highway Patrol officers, police, firefighters and others responding to an emergency need to be able to talk to one another. On that everyone agrees.

But the next step has sparked a bitter fight in the Capitol. The question: Is Gov. Matt Blunt's proposal to build a statewide wireless radio network vital to public safety or a blank check for high-tech vendors? After months of debate, the plan cleared a key hurdle Thursday. Legislative negotiators approved the first $9 million payment on the $175 million system. The deal, part of the state budget, still needs final approval from both the House and Senate.

The project has drawn criticism because the state plans to use a 'design-build approach,' which means that the winning bidder would figure out how to provide the radio coverage needed."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

YouTube - San Mateo County Sheriffs Digital Radio Problems: ABC News in the Bay Area reports on problems with the new shared radio system. The station reported further on Redwood City problems leading to their withdrawal from the system.
A $13M upgrade already? | Philadelphia Daily News: "JUST SIX YEARS after Philadelphia started using Motorola's expensive - and much-maligned - 800 megahertz digital radio system, city officials are considering a pricey upgrade. Frank Punzo, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Property, said recently that he's hoping to soon see a final proposal from Motorola on a newer system, which could come with a $13 million price tag. Punzo said that the maintenance agreement on the current system - which was hailed as being state-of-the-art just a few years ago - will expire in 2010."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Citywide Wireless IP Network Launched in New York - Government Technology: "Leave it to America's biggest city to launch an equally big high-speed data network.

The New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) was rolled out to 70 percent of the city's police precincts and firehouses on April 1, giving the city's first responders and employees a unique public safety and public service network."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Centre County (PA) emergency system upgrade may cost $28M: "Upgrading Centre County’s emergency communications system could cost upwards of $28 million. Those numbers provided by consultants from L. Robert Kimball and Associates, Ebensburg, left the county commissioners in “sticker shock” at their meeting Tuesday. The county’s current system nears the end of its operational life.

Commissioner Chairman Jon Eich noted the system upgrades will cost each county taxpayer between $40 and $50 a year for the next 10 years, which, he said, is a small price to pay to make sure emergency communications in the county remain strong for years to come. ... Eich noted the bond that paid for the current system will be paid off in 2011, the same year that a new bond may be taken out for a new system."
Lawmakers reconsider in wake of 700 MHz auction - RCR Wireless News: "Markey and other lawmakers — as well as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin — said the commission should not abandon the public-private partnership approach as federal regulators consider changes to D-Block guidelines. Suggestions include lowering the $1.3 billion reserve price for the license, modifying the penalty associated with network-sharing agreement negotiations between the D-Block winner and the public-safety broadband licensee, clarifying upfront the obligations and expectations of the private sector partner and perhaps licensing the D Block on a regional basis with an interoperability requirement."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Police radio system fails - years after it was supposed to be fixed: "The [Philadelphia] Daily News found that the radio problems in East Frankford that night were among more than a dozen other malfunctions, mix-ups and crashes that have occurred with the Motorola system since 2005 - the same year that city officials declared that they had fixed most problems with the $62 million radio system.

Critics say that the system is still more complicated than firefighters and cops need it to be, and remains a serious liability in times of crisis.

Two years ago, in one of the most serious malfunctions, the Police Department had to rely on a backup system for three days, and kept officers in two-car teams because of safety concerns.

Problems continued as recently as March 15, when screeching noises were heard on radios in North Philadelphia and cops in the Northeast couldn't communicate with police dispatchers, police officials said."

Monday, April 07, 2008

New York Wireless Network Ready for Operational Testing in April - Government Technology: "The New York State Office for Technology (OFT) announced Monday M/A-COM Inc., the prime contractor for the network, has certified the Statewide Wireless Network is ready for operational testing in Erie and Chautauqua Counties. This is a major project milestone in the State's effort to build an interoperable radio network for emergency communication among first responders as its primary purpose.

'The Statewide Wireless Network Project Office, based on M/A-COM's certification, is ready to begin testing the network,' said Dr. Michael R. Mittleman, Deputy CIO at the New York State Office for Technology and Interim Project Director. 'We will put the network through its paces in a rigorous test and will stretch the system to its limits to ensure the system can handle radio communications during any emergency our state's first responders may face.'"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Public safety now part of most commercial wireless conversations: "A profound -- but predictably understandable -- policy shift has been evolving since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and horrific hurricanes four years later.

Public safety, organically ingrained in and the higher calling component of the Communications Act, already had sacred cow status before 9/11. Now, public safety is overlaid -- explicitly and otherwise -- on telecom policy across the board. Perhaps no other sector has felt it more than the wireless industry. The once bright line separating public safety and commercial wireless communications has become forever blurred. Indeed, it is getting increasingly difficult to tell where public safety policy begins and cellphone policy ends. Jurisdictions are overlapping. A fundamental morphing is underway."
Responders test coordination skills: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies converged in southern Virginia last week to demonstrate and test the interoperability of the communications systems that will need to work together for the agency’s disaster response plans to succeed. FEMA has expanded its repertoire of scripted response plans, from 44 in 2006 to more than 240 now. It has also increased the number of agencies it coordinates with in creating scripted scenarios for such exercises, from four to 31, said Glenn Cannon, assistant administrator of FEMA's Disaster Operations Directorate.

The exercise, hosted by the Northern Command’s Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) at Fort Monroe, Va., is an example of one of several ways that FEMA and its coordinating agencies have sought to improve their performance. Other measures include a national communications plan and the National Response Framework. “We don’t want to wait until we are in the middle of an event to call our friends at DOD and say, ‘You know, now we need some help,’ ” Cannon said."
Lockheed Martin Team Awarded $766M AMF JTRS Contract: "Lockheed Martin announced [March 28th] that it has been selected by the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Joint Program Executive Office to provide the tactical communications and networking solutions for the Air Force, Army, Navy and other users. The Lockheed Martin Airborne and Maritime/Fixed Stations (AMF) JTRS team will design, develop, integrate, test and deliver advanced, reliable, tactical networked communications solutions providing joint interoperability with secure information flow. AMF JTRS is an essential element in the Tactical Global Information Grid strategy to provide secure data, voice, and video to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. The initial System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract value is $766 million."
Canadian Voice Interoperability Workshop: "The more than 180 participants that attended The Canadian Voice Interoperability Workshop: A CITIG National Forum helped identify priorities and set the future direction of a collaborative effort to help improve public safety provider interoperability in Canada. The first workshop of its kind in Canada, the event was hosted by the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) in cooperation with representatives from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada (EMSCC), and took place in Ottawa Ontario on March 27 and 28, 2008."
Exercise tests communication in event of domestic crisis: "March 17, 2008 --- This week at Fort Monroe [VA], 150 participants from 32 federal, state and local agencies are practicing for the next big domestic crisis. The DICE, short for Department of Defense Interoperability Communications Exercise, is designed to test new software and other communications systems in a realistic tactical setting. Basically, it will see if first responders and various layers of government can talk to each other in a time crunch."
Firefighters' distrust of digital radio system grows: "On April 16, 2007, firefighter Kyle Wilson was part of a crew dispatched to fight a residential fire in Woodbridge, Va. He died in the line of duty.

A detailed report on the incident recently released by Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue concluded that problems associated with the use of the county’s Motorola digital trunked radio system contributed to the tragedy. Issues reported by other firefighters during that incident, which was further complicated by strong winds, ranged from signal distortion and transmission failure to radios displaying “out of range” signals.

Fire safety advocates now are encouraging fire departments across the country to study the incident in hopes that future tragedies could be avoided. Prince William County’s fire department, through further tests, concluded that digital portable radios are “extremely vulnerable to poor environmental conditions and interference of digital noise from ambient sources, which negatively impact the ability of emergency personnel to effectively communicate.”"
Public safety needs a plan B - RCR Wireless News: "The government — not just the Federal Communications Commission — failed in its plan to deploy a mixed-use network that could be used by regular Joes and the public-safety community (in times of emergency, or whenever else they need it). The D-Block plan did not work. That much we know.

Among members of Congress, self-proclaimed public-interest groups and public-safety agencies themselves, there are a lot of words flying around mixed in with a little finger-pointing. Depending on what you read, and what you believe, either FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, public safety itself or Cyren Call founder Morgan O’Brien caused the downfall of the D Block.

It makes me nervous that people are going to spend too much time and effort looking back when their collective energy should be spent trying to find a solution. I understand that we as a nation have an obligation to make sure nothing illegal was done by any party involved in the D-Block debacle, but that work should not overshadow the government’s first mission: fixing public-safety communications."
House: Why No Serious Public Safety Spectrum Bids?: "A top House Democrat [on March 18th] promised a full review of the recently concluded 700 MHz spectrum auction, and called on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to review its policies regarding the public safety d-block. The FCC's spectrum auction, which sold off valuable spectrum in the 700-MHz band, concluded Tuesday after nearly eight weeks with $19.6 billion in bids.

Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House subcommittee on telecom and the Internet, said in a statement Tuesday that he is 'eager to ascertain the extent to which new entrants have succeeded in obtaining licenses through this auction.'"
Fresh strategy needed for public safety network: "March 19, 2008 --- The Federal Communications Commission is weighing its options to improve public safety communications after it failed to attract an appropriate bid for creation of a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. A spectrum auction that began in January was closed March 18 after receiving $19.6 billion worth of bids. The 700 MHz D Block, which was to be dedicated to a public safety partnership, did not receive a bid that met the $1.3 billion reserve price, said Kevin Martin, chairman of the commission, in a press release.

“I believe the commission remains committed to ensuring that we work to solve public safety’s interoperability challenges,” he said. “Because the reserve price for the D Block was not met in the 700 MHz auction, the FCC is now evaluating its options for this spectrum.”"
Interoperability Developments in Newark: "The City of Newark will start deploying the Mutualink system in March 2008. While Mutualink will continue to add additional locations throughout the year, the initial phase of the system is scheduled to complete in Q2 2008. Several city agencies and private corporations will also participate in the upcoming deployment."
FCC chief Martin asked to produce extensive documents in probe - RCR Wireless News: "March 13, 2008 -- The House Commerce Committee’s probe of the Federal Communications Commission moved to a new level, with key lawmakers asking FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to produce extensive documentation on a wide array of agency activities that appear to impact some wireless policy-making. The document request was made in a bipartisan letter signed by House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking member Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), oversight and investigations subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and ranking subcommittee member Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). The letter was a follow-up to one sent Jan. 28 to Martin in connection with allegations made by former and present FCC employees and others regarding the operation of the telecom regulatory agency."
When Disaster Strikes, Wi-Fi Responds: "Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005, a group of Burning Man participants calling themselves Burners Without Borders headed to Pearlington, Mississippi and began helping out in any way they could.

And a simple Wi-Fi router was key to their efforts.

Participant Tom Price says the group used a Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router and an EVDO card to get online in Mississippi.

“We’re sitting in a swamp running gas generators perched in the debris of what used to be the post office, with this router inside a plastic bin nail-gunned to a pole we’d stuck in the ground—and that was our lifeline to the world,” he recalls.

Burners Without Borders continues to operate aid projects in remote areas—they’re currently helping Pisco, Peru recover from last fall’s 8.0 earthquake—and Price says Internet connectivity is always key, for both communications and fundraising.

“We’re a diverse community of people located internationally, and so whenever we work on a project, being able to connect wirelessly puts us in touch with that entire global network of money, resources, and expertise,” he says."
State to fund more effective police communications - News: "Gov. Bobby Jindal is prompting legislators to fund communication updates for local, state and federal emergency first responders. Failed government reactions to emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks triggered the focus on interoperable communication. The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, state police and the Statewide Interoperable Communication System Executive Committee met [in early March] to issue a communications status report and funding plan for the next year."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

DHS Office of Inspector General - Annual Review of the Coast Guard The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) states in its annual review of the Coast Guard that Rescue 21, the agency's new system for command, control, and communications (C3), "has been plagued by delays, technical problems, cost escalation, and a delay in full implementation, which has slipped by five years."

According to the Coast Guard project page, Rescue 21 "will provide an updated, leading-edge ...(VHF-FM) communications system, replacing the National Distress Response System installed and deployed during the 1970s. Rescue 21 will cover more than 95,000 miles of coastline, navigable rivers and waterways in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. ...

"Rescue 21 will replace a wide range of aging, obsolete radio communications equipment to include:

* Consoles at Coast Guard Sectors and Stations.
* All remote transceiver sites (antenna towers), as well as the network connecting them to the facilities above."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

FCC Asked to Probe Auction - washingtonpost.com: "The failure of a Federal Communications Commission auction to draw sufficient bids to build a wireless network for emergency responders provoked sharp criticism by members of Congress, consumer groups and leaders of the 9/11 Commission yesterday. It also prompted a call to investigate whether auction rules were broken.

Nine organizations, including the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, wrote to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, saying the FCC should 'investigate carefully the allegations' that representatives of the nation's police, fire and emergency officials undermined the auction. They cited reports that public-safety representatives demanded that any winner of the auction make additional payments to them."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

First-responder survey generates a few surprises: "“From the perspective of public administrators, they really need to get closer to the first responders before making any decisions on public-safety equipment. … This is potentially a big wake-up call because it could lead to a lot of rollouts of new equipment and new technology that are inappropriate,” Quirke said. “[First responders] told us, quite honestly, that if equipment gets in the way, they’re not going to use it.”"
Harris unveils multiband portable radio for first responders: "[On February 15th, Harris Corp.] introduced a multiband portable radio for the first-responder sector that operates in both VHF (low- and high-band) and UHF (low- and high-band) modes. The company is targeting the federal level first, but said it expects to eventually introduce models for state and local agencies."

Monday, February 18, 2008

FCC May Examine ‘D’ Block Auction Fiasco: "FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Sunday that he and the agency will “definitely look into the allegations” of rumored shadowy deals that may have led to the collapse of Frontline Wireless and the apparent failure of the “D” Block segment to attract a minimum reserve bid in the ongoing 700 MHz spectrum auction.

First reported by Harold WFeld on the WetMachine blog, the rumor that machinations by Morgan O’Brien of Cyren Call fame may have helped to scuttle the plans of Frontline Wireless — perhaps the most likely bidder on the mixed-use D Block bandwidth — is something Adelstein is taking seriously, following what he called the “great disappointment” of the apparent failure of any winning bid for the D Block spectrum."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NY State’s Wireless Net Broken?: "Carol Ellison in MuniWireless says New York’s proposed state-wide public safety network has become the focus of controversy after first responders in Erie County found that a pilot operating in the county and the city of Buffalo did not meet their needs. This weekend a state legislator has called for a third-party investigation.

The $2 billion NY State emergency radio network failed its first major test, prompting concerns from some state officials and causing the state’s second largest city, Buffalo, to opt out of the system, reported the NY Times. But problems should be fixed by M/A-COM this April say state officials, when they will decide whether to proceed with the $2 billion project. The state-wide public service radio network would tie virtually all public safety workers together and is scheduled to be completed in 2010."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Meet the FCC's Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau Chief: "Chief Derek Poarch is a man that is highly motivated, dedicated, knowledgeable, and persuasive. His enthusiasm and sense of purpose is inspiring and contagious."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Frontline Wireless Bid Failed Amid Investor Concern, Bid Rules: "When Frontline Wireless abruptly closed its doors two weeks ago, most people assumed the group was an early victim of credit market stinginess. The company had been trying to raise significant amounts of money from institutional and private investors to fund a bid in a Federal Communications Commission auction of lucrative communications spectrum that begins Thursday. But according to several people familiar with the events that led to Frontline's demise, potential investors grew nervous that vague FCC bidding rules left Frontline exposed in its partnership with public safety agencies."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

As spectrum auction nears, management and interoperability fears rise: "With the Federal Communications Commission’s Jan. 24 public auction of radio spectrum approaching, industry representatives are voicing concerns about the planned development of a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network. Interested parties are questioning the viability and oversight of the network and how it will connect with state and local agencies and sellers of similar services. Although many of the issues have been raised before, there is greater urgency as the auction approaches."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Poll Finds Americans Skeptical That Washington Will Fix Emergency Communications - Reuters: "More than eight out of ten Americans say that a fix to the 9/11 interoperability problem should already be in place, and a majority said they now trust local authorities more than the federal government to overcome the nagging emergency communications obstacle any time soon. According to a national In Motion Technology/RT Strategies poll released today, 83 percent of those surveyed said the federal government should already have deployed an interoperability solution for first responders. Fully 65 percent of respondents said the federal government should have resolved the issue within a year of the 9/11 attacks - more than 6 years ago."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Interoperable Communications Investments Drive $1.2B in 2008 State & Local Public Safety Investments: "The Los Angeles County Regional Interoperable Communications System (RICS) leads a diverse list of major Justice/Public Safety and Homeland Security IT contracts planned by states and localities in 2008, according to a new report released by INPUT, the authority on government business. The ten opportunities examined represent nearly $1.2 billion in total spending -- an amount that is buoyed by the significant federal grant money available to state and local law enforcement agencies. Los Angeles County's RICS program represents half of the total. Four of INPUT's top ten opportunities are related to countywide or statewide interoperable communications.

"Interoperability is one of the rare national initiatives where the federal government is backing up its directives to the states and localities with real money," said Jeff Webster, analyst, justice/public safety and homeland security at INPUT. "It's no surprise that a recent report by the Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council found that developing interoperable communications is the top homeland security priority in the states. Major metropolitan areas, like Los Angeles, are the best places for vendors to prove they can deliver inter-jurisdictional voice and data interoperability among all types of first responders. INPUT expects to see a steady stream of opportunities like these over the next three to five years." "

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Kansas Cities Understand True Interoperability: "Shawnee and Lenexa (KS) approached the annual joint city council meeting differently this year. The Dec. 12 meeting, hosted by Shawnee at Hereford House, 17244 Midland Drive, focused on public safety. Police and fire chiefs offered a presentation about the cities’ partnership. The format change showed how the departments cooperate as opposed to “the dog and pony show” of previous meetings, Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm said, “where we try to one up each other.”
“Communications and interoperability have always been good. We share the same bank of frequencies,” [Lenexa Fire Chief Dan] Rhodus said. “But this is a much bigger project."

"We work together, plan together, train together and respond to calls together ... to help our residents,” Hudson said. “It’s a great relationship we look forward to continuing for a long time to come.”"