How Region 5 Domestic Security Task Force Achieves Communications and Interoperability: At NPSTC’s January meeting in Orlando, FL, Greg Holcomb, Lake County Communications Manager, discussed the region’s interoperability initiatives, which coordinate with state and federal initiatives. Region 5 comprises 9 counties in central Florida, covering a 200 mile area, with a cross section of potential critical infrastructure such as Kennedy Space Center, the National Veterans’ Hospital, University of Central Florida, Disney World, Daytona Speedway, Deep water ports, the beaches, much rural and farmland areas as well as swamps, rivers, Ocala National Forest, Pinecastle Naval Bombing Range, international airport, and a nuclear power plant. How do they manage all this?
The region has seven core Motorola P25 700/800 trunked solutions in several counties and municipal areas. Three County areas use EDACS [Enhanced Digital Access Communication System] and they tie the systems via a Harris and Motorola Inter-Sub-System-Interface (ISSI) solutions. Using a dedicated talk group, they can switch directly to a neighboring channel, enhancing interagency communications. They have interoperability zones from county to county. The statewide network runs through MotoBridge, connecting the PSAPS in each county, and allowing them to patch disparate systems during on the fly emergencies. Under Mr. Sorley, through a COPS grant, they put in The National Mutual Aid 800 MHz mutual aid repeaters 8Call90 thru 8TAC94 across the region, which was so successful the state adopted their process. They also put in a statewide 800 MHz Florida Mutual Aid channel and have a statewide UHF medical channel.
Through the Public Safety Interoperability Communications Grant (PSIC), the region opted to develop a 700 MHz regional mobile only P25 Trunking overlay. The overlay system allows communications to travel tip-to-tip in a high-speed pursuit, so there is no need to change channels. There is an ISSI solution between the overlay of Harris and Motorola systems. Phase I ISSI is complete, and they have moved into Phase 2, allowing automatic roaming into another system and use of that system’s RF footprint. First responders can travel almost 300 miles between Orange and Lake Counties and never change talk groups. This was created in a mobile environment to cover the Florida Turnpike, I-4, and I-95. In the region, they house several state provided IO systems (EDICS and MARC) in trailers that can be used on site, with a total of nine in the state. There are three mobile trunking communication system towers within the region. They have added a mobile communications center to house inventory, repairs, and generator storage. There are portable radio caches to support the trailers and ACU-1000s for field patching on the fly.
They participate heavily in the Communications Unit Leader (COML) and Communications Technician (COMT) program. Their governance model was identified before the SAFECOM continuum was created, but they have refined it using the SAFECOM program and Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP) process. For standard operating procedures (SOPS), the area uses their SCIP and National Incident Management System (NIMS) training. They rank about 75 percent complete in the technology lane of the continuum. Data interoperability has proceeded at a slower pace. The region participates in a statewide exercise every third year with an emphasis on communications. Regarding usage, interoperability is a daily use term and a reality.
Grant funding has enabled much of the work, including systems, training, and testing of equipment, but funds are drying up, forcing a shift in priorities. The FCC mandate to narrowband 700 MHz to 6.25 kHz by 2016 would have had a large detrimental effect on the area. The region has been a big advocate of OEC’s Communications Assets and Mapping (CASM) tool to facilitate their databases. The long-term, continuing need for LMR as the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) develops, discussion is also occurring in Florida, with the need to educate legislators that a Radio Access Network does not mean radios under the new FirstNet NPSBN.