Tools & Technologies: “First Responder Friendly” Communications

Tactical interoperable communications is defined as the rapid provision of on-scene incident-based, mission-critical voice communications among all first-responder agencies ( i.e., fire, EMS and law enforcement), as appropriate for the incident. But, does...


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For under $25,000 smaller, man-portable systems are available that feature one-button sequential activation of the compact PBX server capable of handling up to 25 in-network telephone calls; WiFi network for laptop, smartphone and remote wireless camera connectivity; BGAN satellite antenna; and three years of VoIP and satellite subscription services. These types of systems can be transported in the trunk of a vehicle or the overhead bin of a commercial aircraft.

Many first-responder agencies may already own what they have classified as a mobile command and communications vehicle, but lack the full interoperable communications capability. The good news is that you don’t have to start all over. System refreshes can be a great value and easy to accomplish using existing vehicles and, many times, some of the existing components.

Large command and communications vehicles are not necessary unless the first-responder agency desires to provide a climate-controlled environment from which to conduct operations or to accommodate private meeting facilities. Space and power requirements for today’s communication technologies have become very small and require very little in the way of power consumption. A fully blown tactical interoperable communications system, such as the VSAT system described above, can easily fit into the back of a SUV, consuming less than 10RU of space (approximately 30 inches). The entire system can run off less than 500 watts of power, which means a simple inverter is all that is required.

Bottom line – there is good news if your agency still lacks full tactical interoperable communications capabilities. More advanced, lighter, more compact and far less expensive technologies are available today. That means you don’t have to be a large regional response team to take advantage of today’s technologies. Nor do you have to restrict operations to major disasters. Why wouldn’t you want to deploy interoperable communications even in the case of search operations for a single lost child? And, deployment should not necessitate a requirement for certified IT personnel.

Systems such as those introduced by VisionComms meet the mandate from DHS to provide communications systems that are “first responder friendly.” That’s how it should be – simple and quick to deploy. When the adrenaline is flowing and time is of essence, a system that is fully operational in five to 10 minutes should be the norm, not the exception.