Over the past several years, I have written about the hope for a national public safety broadband wireless network to provide affordable broadband capabilities for all public safety organizations across the nation at the tribal, local, state and national levels. The hope for such a network remains...
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Additionally, the development of new applications will dramatically expand the ways that data can be used similarly to what is being demonstrated by the proliferation of smart phones. The good news is that the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) are working on a list of functional needs that can guide the development of such applications. The significance of data to interoperability is documented as one of the key elements in the SAFECOM Interoperability Continuum.
Other progress on this front includes the very good work being done by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) labs in Boulder, CO. The same teams that have been working diligently on the digital noise issue are working to validate the broadband requirements by developing a 700-MHz broadband system in the lab; stay tuned.
While all of this is being contemplated, there is every reason for public safety to explore (and many are) the existing commercial broadband services and learn how they can enhance your operations today. My experience is letting me use Sprint broadband services in the form of air cards or MiFi devices to access a variety of information while operating in the field or while in a moving vehicle (not driving) such as a vehicle or train. I presently use these broadband resources to communicate over our locality's Motorola 800-MHz mission-critical trunked radio system in a Radio-over-IP (RoIP) mode through a Catalyst Communications client or through the Sytech RIOS device. This capability lets me communicate by voice and data from anywhere that I can achieve a wireless connection.
In summary, LMR and broadband are necessary for public safety to do its very best. Looking forward, we must "begin with the end in mind" and push broadband development with the hope that there will be a convergence of voice and data and that mission-critical voice and data can reside on the same network and satisfactorily meet the needs of public safety. To effectively coordinate this, the Office of Emergency Communications and SAFECOM are including this dual-path strategy into the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP).
CHARLES L. WERNER, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 34-year veteran of the fire service and chief of the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department. He serves on the Virginia Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee, Virginia Secure Commonwealth Panel, National Public Safety Telecommunications Council Governing Board and IAFC Communications Committee. Werner is chair of the IAFC Technology Council, first vice president of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association and chair of the DHS SAFECOM Executive Committee.