On the path to turning around the American economy and putting more people back to work, President Obama has proposed wide-ranging legislation that includes allocating the 700 MHz D Block to public safety, creating a non-profit corporation to administer the band, and provides $50 million in funding to get the project going. The President introduced the bill last week amid growing calls from politicians and voters calling for his administration to focus more on jobs as a way to solve the economic crisis. The purpose of the American JobsAct is simple, the President said—”Put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans.” He explained that the proposed projects will not add “a dime” to the deficit. Besides extending unemployment benefits, small business tax cuts and cutting the payroll tax, the bill proposes certain work projects to provide employment. Download (pdf) the entire 199-page proposed bill here, or download just the public safety-related sections here.
A consulting firm headed by an admittedly sympathetic D Block promoter performed a real-world test of public safety broadband wireless, and concluded that 20 MHz of contiguous spectrum is needed, and recommended those frequencies come from the 700 MHz band of D Block. The San Francisco Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative UASI hired Andrew Seybold Inc. earlier this year to perform the testing from several locations and under several different conditions. Andrew Seybold has been a vocal supporter of legislation that would allocate the D Block to public safety, which in turn would provide more spectrum for wireless broadband. That additional spectrum would, again in turn, provide more advanced capabilities for field units to handle complex, multi-site or multi-agency incidents. During the Seybold tests, the company took Panasonic laptops connected via USB to LTE wireless modems, which had exterior-mounted vehicle antennas. The test involved three scenarios: a bank robbery with potential hostage, a multi-story fire and a multi-vehicle accident. All the scenarios included multiple units from several public safety and allied agencies and private companies, all needing high-bandwidth data carrying video and data streams. The consultants analyzed how the LTE network could handle the needed data streams, and graphed the results. On a 10 MHz network, the system would only handle the data load if units were located close to a cell antenna. Read Andrew Seybold’s explanation of the study, download (pdf) the entire study here, and view a results graph after the break. [click to continue…]
As part of the long and on-going effort to fund, design and deploy a nationwide public safety radio network, a federal technical agency is requesting input on the future network’s features and how they might be implemented. The radio network would not only link every participating agency across the country to provide The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) request for comments was formally printed in the Federal Register on Monday, a follow-up to a forum held in August 2010 that generated 15 operational requriements that would provide resiliency, availability and reliability, security, affordability and what the NIST calls “commercial alignment.” Now the NIST is asking for more specific technical input on each requirement, including possible research and development that could take place to close technical gaps, the importance of a multi-vendor environment, and how to engage public safety official to develop prioritization of NIST’s efforts. Download (pdf) the 2010 forum summary here, and the Federal Register pages with the NIST comment request here.
Not only would a national public safety radio network provide communications for first responders, constructing and maintaining it would create 100,000 badly-needed jobs, two economists hired by a telecommunications group have reported. According to the study commissioned by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the federal government’s proposed $10.7 billion radio network would also produce estimated “spillover benefits” of between $4 billion and $8 billion per year. Authors Robert Shapiro and Aparna Mathur released the study this week, outlining how much the information and communications technologies (ICT) industry contributes to the American economy. Specifically, the authors examined how ICT affects economic growth, worker productivity, job and prosperity. According to the study, ICT overall accounted for 3.5 million jobs during 2009, with an average compensation of $107,229, which is 80% higher than the average for all full-time workers. Looking at the proposed public safety radio network, the authors said about $8 billion would initially be spent on wages and salaries for 107,000 workers. Another $3 billion would be spent on capital investments supporting another 20,000 jobs. Interestingly, the authors said a new radio network would increase police and fire productivity by “at least 1 percentage point per year,” creating efficiency savings of $2 billion per year. Indirect benefits from the new network could total $2 billion to $6 billion a year, the study found. Download (pdf) the summary of the author’s findings here, and read a statement from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) after the break. [click to continue…]
A Sutter County (N. Calif.) sheriff’s dispatcher has been charged with embezzlement, according to the county district attorney. Annette Medeiros is accused of taking up to $10,000 over 12 months from the Sutter Sheriff’s Deputy Association bank account while she served as group’s treasurer.
The city of Lincoln (N. Calif.) was the country’s fastest-growing at the 2010 census, but its budget leaves it with only enough money to staff one on-duty dispatcher at all times. So when 911 calls started ringing in last month to report a leaking propane railcar had caught fire, only Lincoln dispatcher Teri Leedy was in the comm center to field the calls and dispatch emergency units. She quickly notified the city’s police and fire departments, coordinated the response of surrounding agencies, and sent EMS units to treat a propane facility worker who injured by the initial explosion. The fire chief and interim police chief credited Leedy’s experience as one factor in the safe handling of the incident that forced the evacuation of 4,800 of the town’s residents over two days. Fire chief Dave Whitt added that the city should have at least two dispatchers on duty at all times, and that many 911 calls were never answered because Leedy was busy coordinating emergency units. Read more about the incident here.
A woman who was allegedly attacked and injured by a dog in Enfield (Conn.) has now filed a lawsuit against one of the town’s dispatchers, claiming the dispatcher cancelled an ambulance response to the incident and tried to conceal his ownership of the dog. Debra Lee filed the lawsuit in state Superior Court last month against dispatcher Paul Meunier and the town of Enfield. She asks for unstated damages, costs and attorneys’ fees. According to the lawsuit, Lee was walking along a street in the town when, “the Defendant’s dog ran from Defendant’s premises, crossed the street and attacked the plaintiff.” She suffered serious and permanent injuries to one knee and shoulder, along with “severe mental and physical pain and suffering.” The lawsuit claims someone dialed 911 for help, and that Meunier overheard the call. “Realizing that the call concerned his dog, the Defendant, unilaterally cancelled the ambulance which had already been dispatched,” the lawsuit states. Lee’s medical treatment was delayed “many hours,” the lawsuit says, and the additional time subjected Lee to additional pain and suffering. After the incident, Meunier allegedly changed department records related to the EMS response, and concealed that he owned the dog. Download (pdf) the entire lawsuit here.
Dispatchers from the Colonie (NY) communications center helped start a drive to collect supplies for those affected by Hurricane Irene.
An Federal Communications Commission (FCC) technician tracked down a man making pirate radio transmissions on a Las Vegas (Nev.) Metro Police frequency last February, and police confronted him with the radio still in his hand. Now, besides narcotics charges and a warrant, Estevan Gutierrez faces a $25,000 fine from the FCC for broadcasting on 159.150 MHz without a license. In a “Notice of Apparent Liability” posted yesterday, the FCC says a San Diego (Calif.) FCC field agent assisted in finding Gutierrez, who police say made 400 transmissions in a single day. Gutierrez would threaten officers and dispatchers, make phony calls for help and otherwise interfered with transmissions so police had to use an alternate channel. On the first day the FCC tech used direction-finding gear in a vehicle to track Gutierrez as he moved around the city making harassing radio transmissions. The next day, the FCC tech determined Gutierrez was no longer moving, and narrowed his location to near University and 7th St. By driving the area, the tech was able to pinpoint a specific duplex, and police moved in. But Gutierrez fled police by climbing into the attic, and then breaking into the adjacent residence. Police used pepper spray to flush him out and take him into custody. The FCC says Gutierrez was using an Icom IC-F50 model portable radio programmed to transmit on 159.150 MHz to make the transmissions. Download (pdf) the full FCC notice and read the story of Gutierrez’s capture, how the FCC arrived at the $25,000 amount, and their commission’s interpretation of “willful and malicious” when assessing Gutierrez’s guilt.
Despite assembling 230,000 people and spending $50 billion a year on national security, a bipartisan group of experts and politicians says the country is not as safe as it could be from future terrorist attacks, and pointed to radio interoperability as one of the lagging projects. In its report released today ahead of the Sept. 11th anniversary, the National Security Preparedness Group (NSPG) outlined the original 9/11 Commission recommendations on national security, including communications, command and control, Congressional reform, transportation security, secure identification systems and detention standards. All of the recommendations remain unfinished, the group discovered. On the subject of radio spectrum and interoperability, the group recalled the original recommendation that Congress support legislation to quickly assign more spectrum to public safety. “To date, this recommendation continues to languish,” the group said in its 10th anniversary report. “Despite the lives at stake,” the group said, the recommendation to improve radio interoperability for first responders, “stalled because of a political fight.” The group reiterated its support for D Block legislation directly to public safety and added, “We urge the Congress to act swiftly.” In response to today’s report, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) issued a press release adding its voice to the NSPG, saying the recent east coast earthquake and hurricane also demonstrated how urgently improved communications are needed. Download (pdf) the NSPG report here, and read APCO’s press release after the break. [click to continue…]
A Pickaway County (Ohio) sheriff’s dispatcher has been fired after failing to take action on two citizen calls reporting that a highway intersection stop sign that had been obscured with plastic wrap by two teenagers as a prank. Hours after the calls, two vehicles collided at the intersection, killing an 83 year-old woman and injuring her 80 year-old sister. Kimberly Chapman was fired today for neglect of duty, incompetency and malfeasance when handling the calls on Aug. 17th. According to Lt. John Monce, the teens purchased plastic wrap at a Walmart store and wrapped it around the stop sign. A passing motorist called the sheriff’s office to report the problem at 10:30 a.m., and Chapman fielded the call. She assured the motorist she would notify the state highway department, but never did because she was apparently busy with other incidents. Another motorist reported the obscured stop sign about two hours later to another dispatcher, who reported it to Chapman. Again, Chapman said she would notify the highway department, but never did. About 3½ hours later, the fatal accident occurred. The teens have been arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter. Read more about the incident here.
Police in a suburb of Atlanta (Geo.) say the telephone call their dispatcher received reporting a home invasion robbery was a hoax intended to generate large police response. In this case, a woman used a VoIP phone line to make the call, and dialed the Roswell 911 center’s TTY line to make the so-called SWATing call. The caller sounded authentic and reported four men with guns had broken into her home, and gave an address. Responding police quickly learned there was no emergency at the address, and no one was injured. Police have not said if the address was specifically targeted, which is usually the case in SWATing incidents. Read more about the incident here.
The 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the east coast on Tuesday created no problems for public safety communications centers in a 10-state region, but it did generate a press release that linked the earthquake to political efforts to create a nationwide public safety radio network. Residents over a 12-state region felt the earthquake and began dialing and texting on their cellular phones, tying up every major wireless carrier. The carriers later reported that no facilities were damaged from the quake, but that network congestion was entirely man-made and lasted only about 30 minutes. Few true emergencies resulted from the earthquake, but many dialed 911 to report it and ask questions. Albermarle County (Virg.) reported no damage from the quake, but that their overloaded 911 system stopped routing calls to dispatchers for about 40 minute. Roanoke (Virg.) dispatchers, about 150 from the epicenter, fielded 160 calls within eight minutes of the quake, about four times normal volume. Allentown (Penn.) dispatchers handled 300 call in the 60 minutes after the quake, some reporting minor problems. In a press release the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) used the non-event to claim, “Earthquake underscores need for public safety network.” The PSA said that commercial networks became overloaded with citizen calls, but admitted that, “There was (sic) no reports of outages or congestion on public safety radio systems.” Even so, the cellular congestion did impact first responders, “Who relied on their commercial cell phones and data cards to communicate with their colleagues and families,” the PSA said. Proposals for the D-Block of spectrum include having commercial carriers create and maintain a public safety network. But according to the PSA, the earthquake experience proves, “Public safety cannot rely on commercial networks during critical incident and major events, as they cannot gain access to roam onto or gain the level of priority access necessary to be effective in such incidents.” Read the entire PSA press release here.
A consultant’s study of Illinois‘ 911 systems shows that funding from 911 surcharges falls 20 percent short of funding the state’s emergency telephone service, and also sets out a path for improvements on the way to Next Generation 911 (NG911) service within the state. The three-volume report by the St. Louis (Mo.) firm Stone Carlie includes a survey of Illinois’ public safety answering points (PSAP), and an enormous amount of 911 information gathered from other states and large U.S. cities. Besides answering many state questions, the consultants’ report also provides several benchmarks useful for states who are facing the same reality—the costs of providing emergency communications has far outstripped 1970-era funding sources based on wired telephone lines. Besides funding shortfalls, the study found that annual 911 data is reported manually each year, making analysis difficult, and that there is no uniform method of accounting for 911 surcharge receipts and disbursements. Oversight and coordination of 911 is light. Significantly, the public is “not well informed” about 911 systems, limiting their use of the system and their political support for funding and upgrades. The state can borrow 911 surcharge funds any time, the consultants said, and some surcharges are routinely collected and swept into the state’s general fund. Download (pdf) the main report, and also the PSAP survey summary and full survey numbers.
In a world of increasing increasing interoperability, Hinds County (Miss.) has reportedly settled an unusual lawsuit with Motorola, accusing the company of providing confidential radio codes to neighboring cities and counties so they could access the county’s system without paying the county an access fee. The county picked Motorola to install the 800 MHz trunked system, and in 2008 discovered several unidentified radios using the network, and were not paying the county’s standard $10 a month fee for public safety agencies. Later, the county accused Motorola of providing the access codes to the cities, and then filed a lawsuit in 2009 seeking damages. The lawsuit was set for trial last April, and now it’s been revealed that the county and Motorola agreed to a settlement the day of the trial—the company will reportedly pay $1,425,730. Both sides refuse to comment, saying the settlement is confidential. However, several news agencies are asking the county court to release the settlement details. Read more about the settlement here.