Loudoun County, Virginia, where I’m System Fire Chief, is truly one of the best places to live in America. Since we’re located just outside Washington, DC, but still have comparatively affordable housing for the region, the county’s population is booming.
In Loudoun, we operate an emergency communications center, formally called the Emergency Communications Center or ECC, to support the county’s 400,000 residents. Every time a 9-1-1 call is made, it comes through the ECC where it’s referred to the right jurisdiction. We have our fire and rescue staff embedded in that facility, as well as the sheriff’s office staff. That’s why our communications systems are critical. We need them to always work so we get the appropriate help to the citizens that call, in both emergencies and non-emergencies.
As my colleague Patricia Turner, ECC Manager for Fire and Rescue says, “we need to bat a thousand. There is no margin for error in what we do. From the time a call is answered until the first unit appears on the scene, we have to get everything 100 percent right.”
We’ve partnered with Motorola Solutions for over 15 years to maintain our communication networks. With ASTRO® 25 radios and PremierOne™ Computer-aided Dispatch software, our personnel can instantly connect with each other and share data with responders in the field.
Motorola Solutions also manages support services for the ECC. In July of 2016, that support meant the difference between a catastrophic network failure and uninterrupted emergency support for our county. That’s when an unexpected power surge, caused by a third-party contractor, sparked a complete network failure and our first responders’ communications ground to a halt.
We worked with our communications staff to get some alternate towers up quickly, so 9-1-1 calls and dispatches went through without loss of services to Loudoun County citizens. Then, with a Motorola Solutions Managed Services resource, we were able to identify what was going on, rectify the situation, order the parts, get the parts shipped, get the resources on scene and get the system back to normal capacity in less than 24 hours.
With support like that, we don’t need to constantly think about patching, updating, or fixing radios and towers. We know it’s all taken care of and that even in unexpected emergencies like the 2016 power surge, help is ready any time support is needed. We don’t have to worry about it.
To learn more about the technology, services, and people powering this long-standing relationship, check out the full case study here.
- System Fire Chief Keith Johnson, Loudoun County, Virginia
There is always something going on in Washington D.C. We face all the same crimes as other major cities but we also have lots of events and activities, from the 22 million annual visitors who visit our various tourist sites to presidential motorcades, protests at national monuments and memorials, and special events on the National Mall. These activities rely on an organized response, requiring the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to interoperate with multiple D.C. agencies such as fire, EMS, secret service, Metro Park and also neighboring agencies from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Shared Radio Communication System
The coordination between multiple agencies happens at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) which operates the 9-1-1 center and the shared radio system for 27 agencies allowing us to easily coordinate an effective response. As a MPD officer in the field, I rely on the dispatcher to provide information on where we need to be and the background on the situation we will encounter. We also provide information back to the dispatcher about what is happening on scene, building a close partnership with the dispatcher to manage an effective response.
The radio I carry is my lifeline. It not only allows me to coordinate response, it also allows me to get additional help if I am in a tough situation. We get calls that originate in the 9-1-1 center, but we also come across situations in the field that need additional support and I know I can rely on my radio to get the help and response I need from my own agency and other agencies, too.
Multi Agency Collaboration
My job is to help protect the citizens and visitors to Washington D.C. so they can have a safe and enjoyable time while in the District. Having an effective interoperable communication system makes my job easier because I can seamlessly coordinate responses with other agencies. Take a listen as our dispatchers in the Office of Communications talk about multi agency collaboration.
Attending IACP? Learn More:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) will be hosting their annual conference October 6-9th in Orlando Florida. If you are planning to attend the conference please make sure to stop by the Motorola Solutions booth #2201 and learn how interoperable communications makes an officer’s job easier.
The Washington D.C. Office of Unified Communications handles 1.8 million calls per year making it one of the busiest 9-1-1/ 3-1-1 centers in the country. The center serves over 27 law enforcement agencies, including police, fire and EMS. On the non-emergency 3-1-1 side, support is provided to 14 agencies. Check out the Washington D.C. Unified Communications Department Overview Case Study Video.
Jacob Kishter is Commander (Retired), Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Whether it’s the day-to-day requirements of the job or the unexpected emergency, your teams need to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently. That’s why mission critical communications systems are designed to be resilient – so your organization can function seamlessly even in the midst of the most pressing disaster.
In a crisis, lives depend on effective, unbroken communications. Radios and networks must work – even when faced with high winds, flooding, power outages and more. Today’s land mobile radio (LMR) networks are designed, engineered and tested with this in mind, delivering a unique combination of power, resilience and purpose-built devices.
Powerful Transmitters Reduce Support Needs
A massive hurricane devastates a coastal area. An earthquake topples structures and injures thousands. A tornado cuts across counties, leaving broken buildings in its path.
When disaster strikes, your team needs to focus on response and rescue efforts. You don’t want to be diverting in-demand resources to perform network repairs or deliver supplies.
With powerful transmitters that provide extensive range, LMR and dedicated networks cover large areas with fewer necessary sites. Their greater range gives you more choice in site placement, allowing for strategic placement to increase coverage, provide easier access and ensure strengthened security. In addition, powerful transmitters enable coverage indoors – in buildings with thick walls or underground parking garages – where other tower signals may not be able to penetrate.
By decreasing the number of sites needed, organizations are better able to prepare for emergencies and ensure their sites have adequate back-up supplies, generators and even fuel to withstand a crisis that includes loss of the power grid most commonly associated with natural disasters. Less infrastructure is easier to support and service, allowing your network to remain up and running when you need it most.
Resilient Design Minimizes Disruptions
If the worst-case scenario is to occur, your network needs to be resilient. LMR networks have a proven history of resilience in the most dire of circumstances. Extensive back-ups and redundancies built into these mission critical systems are devised to prevent communication gaps and losses.
Multiple levels of redundancies for key elements and fallback modes are specifically built into the networks to minimize service disruptions and stoppages – even in the most extreme conditions. Geographic redundancy with multiple zones and cores enable the zone to act as its own network if the connection to the main core goes down. Fallback modes incorporate a second core in case the main core goes down. In addition, local site trunking ensures that if part of a network goes down or is disconnected, the local site continues to operate, and users are still able to communicate.
Even with infrastructure down, limited indoor coverage, or in remote, rural areas with no coverage or electricity available, radios are able to engage in device-to-device communication – Direct Mode Operation (DMO) – ensuring that public safety personnel are always connected.
Purpose-Built Devices Thrive in Challenging Environments
Much like the network they run on, your device should be constructed to suit the conditions you work in. That’s why today’s LMR devices have undergone multiple generations of development and user experience testing – ensuring they provide a number of functions integral to mission critical operations.
Dedicated push-to-talk buttons, rugged construction, advanced noise cancellation and high-capacity batteries are all features that have been incorporated into LMR devices with the customer in mind. Whether it’s environments with zero visibility, uniforms that include heavy gloves and protective equipment or situations of high stress, mission critical radios are designed to be easy to use, to let you focus on your work and the task at hand, knowing that you are connected at all times.
Control Provides Backend Security
Today’s public safety agencies want a high degree of control over their systems. LMR networks provide organizations with the authority to manage coverage, set capacity and dictate prioritization.
Control over the coverage, capacity and prioritization of the network provides organizations with the ability to determine who has access to the system, when and where. This control helps to protect your network, making it more resilient and secure.
Unmatched power, proven resilience and purpose-built devices are all fundamental to LMR networks. It is what sets them apart and has established them as the most reliable means of voice communications for public safety. Every day, organizations rely on these networks to stay in touch and to keep our communities safe and thriving.
Learn more about why land mobile radio is mission critical in this video.
Geoff Hobar is Manager, ASTRO Infrastructure Customer Solutions at Motorola Solutions.
When lives are on the line, you need reliable, secure, unbroken communications. From the most extreme moments to the day-to-day, emergency personnel depend on mission critical communications to do their jobs effectively and keep our communities safe – it is their lifeline.
Today, mission critical communication plays a vital role in enabling emergency personnel to stay connected and protect communities around the world. Public safety organizations and agencies – including national, local, state and regional police, fire, and emergency medical services – have long turned to narrowband, two-way radio for their mission critical communication needs. These land mobile radio (LMR) networks have long served to deliver proven, reliable voice communication in life-and-death situations.
However, public safety needs are evolving – and that evolution requires new forms of communication. The past fifteen years have seen advances in mobile broadband technology drive the growing demand for real time data. Within public safety, agencies are leveraging this advanced mobile intelligence to access video, pictures and location data to resolve incidents and make informed decisions in real time. As organizations continue to incorporate data into their workflow and mobile broadband plays a larger role in the mission critical communications mix, agencies may find themselves struggling to navigate the complex and ever-evolving mission critical public safety communications landscape.
More than 20 years ago, Motorola Solutions recognized the need for an efficient, easy-to-understand benchmark for evaluating technology choices. In response, we introduced the five Cs of critical communication – coverage, capacity, cost, control and capability. Today’s environment requires you to consider a sixth C – cybersecurity.
Together, these six Cs play an important role in effectively assessing mission critical communications. You want to make sure you make the best decisions for the people on the front lines. With a multitude of information discussing the pros and cons of both LMR and mobile broadband, making the right choice can seem like a daunting task.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be! In fact, many industry leaders argue that the right solution for public safety is to leverage both options in order to achieve mission critical communication success. Today, and in the near future, there is no one system that can successfully provide both mission critical voice and broadband data communications. As public safety agencies around the world explore different ways to address their needs for reliable communications, the solution is to leverage both LMR and mobile broadband. These serve as complementary technologies – with LMR providing essential mission critical voice communications and mobile broadband providing additional data-driven capabilities. Together, they provide a collaborative solution that is able to respond effectively and efficiently to today’s public safety communication needs.
By bridging these two technologies and connecting LMR and mobile broadband networks together, public safety agencies are creating forward-thinking, collaborative networks that address all of the six Cs of mission critical communications – coverage, capacity, cost, control, capabilities and cybersecurity.
Capacity: Are your communications systems capable of supporting everything and everyone they need to during times of crisis? Will calls be prioritized so the most important information gets through first? A successful mission critical communication system seamlessly handles mass call volumes, prioritizes important calls and ensures necessary agencies are able to access the network. It must be engineered to address peak usage and right-sized to your organization’s specific needs to ensure calls always get through – regardless of the circumstances. Current LMR networks are designed for emergencies with capacity calibrated for maximum usage. By including mobile broadband, your agency is able to extend your user base and ensure that all critical individuals are able to access the communications network.
Coverage: Does your system meet your unique geographical and performance requirements? No one can predict where the next incident will occur. You need a robust communication system with superior coverage across your entire jurisdiction and sufficient back-up and redundancies to prevent communication gaps and losses. Infrastructure should be easily supported and serviced to ensure your network stays up and running when it’s needed the most. As LMR devices transmit with more power, LMR networks often require less infrastructure to provide the same level of coverage. This streamlined infrastructure is easier to support. In addition, LMR devices also work in Direct Mode Operation (DMO) if the network does goes down, allowing them to communicate device-to-device. Running collaborative LMR and mobile broadband networks means you can have the mission critical voice and data coverage you really need. The resiliency of P25 LMR networks in Florida and Texas was proven during recent events – including Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey – where the systems continued to operate with minimal disruption of coverage.
Control: How much control do you want over system requirements, design, features and operations? Is it important for your organization that your system is configured for a specific use case? Many public safety agencies want a high degree of authority over their systems. They want control over the coverage and capacity of the network. But they also want to control who has access to the system and who has priority, monitor what changes need to be made and when, and track the status of all users. In addition, these controlled networks streamline management and provide network health visibility at all times. Bridging your LMR and mobile broadband networks, giving you unified fleet maps, access rights and prioritizations means you have the control of your network you need.
Costs: How would your return on investment improve if your system supported both voice and data? Your agency doesn’t want to have to compromise mission critical features because of budgetary concerns. Analyzing the cost of both LMR and mobile broadband networks highlights two very unique, divergent financial structures. Traditionally, implementing an LMR network requires a larger one-time initial financial output to develop infrastructure, followed by ongoing, set monthly fees for upkeep and services. Conversely, subscribing to a commercial mobile broadband network is less expensive at the outset, but recurring airtime fees and other data charges can be unpredictable. Determining if the expense scales appropriately with the size of you fleet will be something you need to consider. In addition, mobile broadband requires more bandwidth than narrowband LMR systems, meaning additional sites may be needed to provide the same level of coverage. Building a plan based on collaboration between LMR and mobile broadband networks can provide your organization access to the most up-to-date communications technology for both voice and data and give you access to the capabilities you need while reducing your implementation and operational costs.
Capability: Voice is critical, but does your organization also need data capabilities? Through multiple generations of development and user experiences, LMR systems provide a number of functions essential to mission critical operations. Push-to-talk, intuitive design, rugged construction, unique ergonomics, advanced noise cancellation and high-capacity batteries are all features that have been incorporated into LMR devices with the customer’s environment in mind. Robust priority and pre-emption, dynamic grouping, even low-latency call setup are all inherent to LMR technology, ensuring that a critical call gets through. In addition, LMR technology is decentralized and built for resilience – if part of a network goes down or is disconnected from the rest, LMR continues to operate. Multiple levels of redundancy and fallback modes are built into the networks to minimize service disruptions under even the harshest of conditions. With a design philosophy born in delivering mission critical audio, LMR is unable to support the wide diversity of data-driven applications provided by mobile broadband. Today, 70 percent of agencies believe access to real-time date in the field is ‘critical.’ Mobile broadband continues to open up the world of video streaming and data applications, providing emergency personnel with access to real-time surveillance video, high-resolution photos, bi-directional vehicular video, and dynamic mapping and routing. This, in turn, is improving operational efficiency and promoting intelligent decision making. With LMR and mobile broadband providing their own set of unique capabilities, choosing between the two can be a challenge. By bridging both technologies, your organization is able to take advantage of the robust offerings provided by LMR and mobile broadband - mission critical voice and mission critical data. This synergy between voice and data is the future of mission critical communications.
Cybersecurity: Are your mission critical communications secure? Globally, the number of cybersecurity breaches has increased by nearly 30 percent annually. It is clear that security is a real concern for public safety agencies. As communication evolves to include voice, data and video capabilities, the risk of cyber attacks for both LMR and mobile broadband networks is expanding. Mobile broadbands’ variety of applications and internet connectivity introduces new opportunities for breaches. With LMR voice communications, the movement away from self-contained, proprietary technology toward IP-based infrastructure and broadband interconnectivity is increasing network “attack surfaces.”So whether you are utilising LMR, mobile broadband or both you need to be aware of cyber security threats. Fortunately, both LMR and mobile broadband networks continue to adapt to emerging cyber threats, including additional security measures, continued updates and innovative encryption services. Looking ahead, those networks that utilize security best practices and open standards will be better positioned to protect against cyber attacks.
When it comes to mission critical communications, having the right technology for the right operations is key. As data continues to proliferate and networks become increasingly complex, bridging LMR and mobile broadband enables your organization to combine their unique strengths into a blended network that best meets the complex demands of public safety. Leveraging the best of both LMR and mobile broadband ensures your organization has all of the six Cs of mission critical communications – coverage, capacity, cost, control, capabilities and cybersecurity.
John Kedzierski is Corporate Vice President of Systems and Infrastructure Solutions at Motorola Solutions.
(1) “5 Trends Transforming Public Safety Communications,” Motorola Solutions, 2015.
(2) “Cost of Cyber Crime Study,” Ponemon Institute and Accenture, 2017.
This blog is the third in the “Walk in Your Shoes” series. lt highlights the importance of field testing our products with first responders before launch to ensure quality. Read the first two blogs Walk in Your Shoes – The Foundation of Customer-Focused Software Applications and Walking Alongside Law Enforcement - I’ve Learned So Much.
Engaging Fire and Law Enforcement officers from product inception through launch is important to creating the right products for the Public Safety Market. This is also the most enjoyable part of my role. Pre-release testing is a vital step that ensures quality and usability of our product offerings when launched. Receiving direct feedback and end-user interactions in the station, in the vehicle and in the field during the pre-release cycles allows us to better meet first responder needs and expectations when we go to market. It also provides valuable insights about how the product performs in the customer’s environment.
In preparation for the PremierOne Handheld iOS launch, I recently completed three on-site customer field trials observing hands-on use, seeking expert input and performing integrated testing. During these field trials, System Administrators, Firefighters, Medics, Police Officers and Sergeants engaged with me and our Engineering Team for interactive road testing of PremierOne Handheld on iPhones, iPads, and Android Smartphones. Walking responders through features like Responder and Unit Location Tracking, Emergency Activations, Real-time Incident and Unit Status Monitors and Dynamic Incident Updates was the focus of these trials. Watching as responders navigate through and use our application in the field helps us understand if the application is as intuitive as we designed it to be. Side-by-side testing to ensure that all the features deliver the intended benefits without technical glitches is a vital step to ensuring product quality.
Observing customer reactions during the field trials helps us gauge how features will be received when launched. For instance, during our field trials for PremierOne Handheld, the application’s ability to scan a driver’s license to auto-populate incidents with personal details was received with great enthusiasm. The application’s ability to automatically query Records, State and NCIC databases, and return all prior incident details based on this scan was also a key highlight. Our customers’ reaction to PremierOne Handheld, our smartphone and tablet application, proves the value of time in the field and the benefit of walking step-by-step beside our first responders from product inception through launch.
Receiving inputs from first responders never gets old. If you are going to be at at IACP, 2017 please stop by the Motorola Solutions Booth #3037 and try out our newest applications. My colleagues and I would love to hear your opinion about our products so we can continue to meet and exceed your expectations.
Julie Folden is Mobility Product Manager at Motorola Solutions. Her job is to understand the daily activities and needs of police, fire, and EMS personnel to help software development teams to create the best mobile and handheld applications for both today and tomorrow. She takes her job seriously having completed over 500 public safety experiential visits over the past 15 years.
When I began my career in law enforcement, back in 1973, we didn't even have portable radios. I had a little Motorola two-way radio in a 1972 Dodge with bench seats. If we needed help, we had to run back to the car, ask for help, and then go back to the scene.
As a young deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County, then lieutenant, captain, and division commander, I watched society change and law enforcement evolve. I was a platoon commander during all five nights of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
There were very few frequencies back then, and communications were restricted. I never thought I'd see the day when there would be computers inside a police car. Now, we can get not only voice but also data inside the car and on portable devices.
I retired in 2009, but came out of retirement at the request of the city of Santa Maria. The job was to restructure the Police Department. I was excited about the opportunity to build a department from the ground up. And that included a communication system, a new fleet, and an entire new building.
We're a self-contained police department, and we do our own dispatching for 130 officers, as well as the Fire Department, handling close to 300 calls for service every day.
The communication system is the most important tool we have, yet, the City of Santa Maria's system was 20 years old. Our upgrade to Motorola Solutions WAVE, computer aided dispatch and next generation call-talking will enable the entire city to communicate—not only the police and fire departments, but also public works, transit and the schools.
Because when something goes south, whether it's an earthquake, whether it's inclement weather, a missing child or an auto accident, everyone dials 9-1-1. And we want to be there for them.
My job as Police Chief was no longer to drive around and arrest people; it's to make sure that public safety personnel have everything they need to do their job. I want the new generation that's coming into the police department to know that we did everything we could to make the job easier, not just this week, or next month, or a year from now, but 10 years from now.
Learn more about Santa Maria’s vision by watching this video:
Ralph Martin is Police Chief for Santa Maria, California.