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Automated Situational Awareness

To ensure successful management of mission-critical operations, public safety agencies continue to focus on technologies that enhance situational awareness.

Police, fire and emergency personnel rely upon a network of combined communications systems to effectively assess and control crisis situations. From wireless data, voice and video solutions to state-of-the-art mobile command centers, today’s first responders have access to an unprecedented amount of technological tools that result in enhanced public safety.


Since 1977, LDV has designed and manufactured more than 20,000 special service vehicles for customers worldwide. Serving the commercial industry and public safety sector, the company builds mobile command centers, bomb/EOD trucks and mobile laboratories, as well as SWAT/tactical and emergency response vehicles.

A state-of-the-art command and communications vehicle is vital to an agency’s mobile operations. While designs may vary, typical interior configurations include four to six work stations; a conference room; a galley and lavatory; and an exterior work station with access to telephone, radio and audio/ video technology.

LDV maintains a 50 percent U.S. market share in the design and manufacture of mobile command vehicles, and it has delivered turnkey solutions for many agencies and municipalities across the country. In the past year, LDV has provided command and communications vehicles to several major cities including New York, Dallas and Philadelphia.

The city of Philadelphia and the NYPD both purchased a Dodge Sprinter 3500 Step-Van, while the Dallas PD opted for the Freightliner M2 with a custom cab/chassis platform. Wisconsin’s Pierce County Sheriff’s Department selected a Freightliner MT-55 Step-Van with a load space of 28 feet.

LDV’s exceptional reputation for building quality vehicles brings it many repeat customers. The Tempe, Ariz., Police have had five mobile command vehicles built by LDV: a Police/ Fire Mobile Command Center, a Bomb Squad Command Center, a Tactical Team Equipment Truck, a Hostage Negotiator Command Center and a Mobile DUI Processing Center.

The “In Command” mobile command center is LDV’s newest model and combines field-tested design with cutting-edge technologies to ensure maximum situational awareness in mission- critical environments. Most importantly, based on LDV’s streamlined production process, it can be ready for delivery in as little as 90 days. The vehicle comes equipped with LDV’s patented Intel-l-Touch, a single-touch power management and operating control system that allows automatic deployment with the touch of a single button.

Built on a Freightliner MT-55 chassis, the “In Command” vehicle offers numerous features including a nine-radio pre-wire with antenna raceway, a TracStar mobile Internet antenna system, a cellular broadband Internet router and a wireless access point. The modulated audio/video system features a 32-inch LCD monitor with SmartBoard interactive overlay, seven 19- inch widescreen HD LCD monitors, and an exterior-mounted 32-inch widescreen HD LCD monitor.

Also included are two DVD recorders, satellite TV with four receivers and an over-the-air TV antenna for local reception. With more than 40 features to choose from, the “In Command” vehicle comes with an industry-leading three-year warranty for the interior upfit. Agencies interested in trading in a vehicle may qualify for credit that can be applied towards the $298,000 base price.

As the senior electrical engineer for LDV, Jason Gaulke pointed out that the industry standard, and most common, interoperability system LDV installs is the JPS ACU-1000. Because most agencies are familiar with this type of system, transferring command to a mobile command post is fairly seamless. This technology, however, requires an agency to physically connect each radio it wants to combine to the interoperability system.

Gaulke noted that the new Web-based interoperability systems allow agencies to operate using their own radios, the only requirement being everyone in the group must be running a Web-based system. The talk-groups are then established via the Internet and are not restricted as much by the range of radio transmission. These systems also open the door to new opportunities, such as incorporating security and public address connectivity (i.e., school campuses and sports stadiums).

Gaulke recommends that agencies consider a system that fulfills their requirements, yet is also within their capabilities to operate. Should an agency be interested in purchasing a new system, LDV suggests arranging for a demo before making a commitment. “All too often, agencies purchase the latest and greatest equipment they can obtain, only to let it collect dust because no one knows how to use it or is comfortable with it,” said Gaulke.

Jerry Phillips, special service vehicle sales consultant for LDV, pointed out that a major concern with mobile interoperability communications is how quickly technology changes. Phillips stated, “When designing an interoperability system for a mobile command center, your agency should look to the future and allow room for expansion and other systems that you may want to connect down the road.

“Be sure to find out if those agencies with which you want to connect have any plans to change systems soon. Also, make accommodations for upgraded, additional equipment from other agencies. Technology in this area is changing rapidly, so planning effectively with all agencies involved will ensure your success.”

General Dynamics C4 Systems

General Dynamics C4 Systems develops and integrates communication and information technology systems for defense, government and select commercial customers worldwide. For more than 20 years, the company has provided cost-effective command and control solutions for rapid deployment and maximum performance. With semi-rugged and fully rugged computing platforms and accessories, GDC4 Systems delivers interoperable, end-to-end, secure voice and data communications.

During emergency or crisis operations, law enforcement and protective personnel rely on tactical communications to effectively coordinate and execute their mission. In 2007, the Department of Justice selected General Dynamics C4 Systems to implement wireless communications services to its field agents as part of the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN).

Based on a VHF, Project 25 trunked system, the IWN uses a packet switched Internet IP for enhanced communications that support federal law enforcement missions and first responder operations. The system provides for AES encrypted communications and is currently based on LMR services that may be complemented by commercial wireless service solutions. The IWN program will develop systems and services for enhanced interoperability and resource consolidation.

A part of General Dynamics C4 Systems, SATCOM Technologies is a leading provider of satellite and wireless communications solutions for voice, data and video. Through its VertexRSI, Gabriel and Prodelin products, SATCOM delivers base- and earth-station communications products and services, antenna systems and wireless backhaul technology.

Its flexible and easy-to-use Warrior line of rugged terminals provides enhanced situational awareness for first responders and is designed to support a wide range of applications. Warrior’s fixed, mobile, man-portable and transportable units deliver secure, reliable communications in the harshest situations.

For robust voice and data satellite communications in rugged terrain, General Dynamics’ SATCOM-on-the-Move (SOTM) terminals are fully interoperable and can be deployed on most on- and off-road vehicles. SOTMs provide “on-satellite” tracking accuracy via a combination of integral satellite beacon receiver, gyro stabilization and an inertial measurement unit. FCC and ITU compliant, these full-motion terminals operate on the X-, Ku-, Ka-Band spectrum.

In August of 2010, General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies received an $80 million contract from Harris Corporation to upgrade the NOAA’s current satellite communications antennas. The six new 16-meter antennas will enable next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R (GOES-R) systems to provide critical command, control, telemetry and sensor data communications between satellites and ground stations.

The GOES system delivers a continuous stream of environmental data to track severe weather, allowing forecasters to monitor meteorological events that could affect public safety. Delivering more accurate weather forecasts 40 times faster, the new satellites will be installed at the NOAA Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station in Virginia, with a remote backup site in Fairmont, W.Va.

General Dynamics offers unmatched expertise and security credentials, as well as a track record of bringing together agencies for cooperation. With its vast experience in managing complex communications programs, the company offers the direction and guidance needed to make the right choices. Jeff Harris, wireless systems architect for GDC4 Systems, states, “General Dynamics is a prime system integrator that understands the shift to multiagency communications systems and has significant experience in systems of this kind.”

Incident Communications Solutions

Incident Communications Solutions, LLC (ICS) offers customized solutions using an integrated approach that provides full connectivity in the field. Its management team has more than 30 years of combined experience, and its staff is trained and certified at the highest levels in the industry.

By partnering with leading vendors, ICS provides quality products and services and is dedicated to helping customers find flexible, cost-effective solutions to suit their needs. ICS solutions include mobile command vehicles, emergency management centers, tactical video surveillance and rapidly deployable communications systems.

TCOMM is a tactical communications vehicle that gives public safety personnel full voice, data and video interoperability at any location. Custom-configured on a Chevrolet Avalanche platform, TCOMM is equipped with ICS’ patented On-board VehiclePower architecture. Quick and easy to set up, TCOMM gives first responders access to phones, data systems and video teleconference via Tactical-IP satellite connectivity.

The Tactical-Voice VoIP solution uses standards-based, off-the-shelf systems that offer a single or set of local Direct Inward Dial (DID) line appearances. Powered by the ICS Tactical Incident Communications System (TICS), TCOMM delivers reliable connectivity in both urban settings and rugged, isolated areas.

The ICS pCom 355 is a mobile communications infrastructure solution that gives first responders essential on-scene communications and site resources in a portable platform. With 100 gallons of diesel on board, this self-sufficient system can stay powered without refueling for up to seven days. Towable by any half-ton truck, the unit comes equipped with an integrated 41-foot tower that provides site lighting, radio and repeater antennas, and wireless mesh endpoints.

The system also includes the ICS Outrigger Network Extension Module and 1,000 feet of tactical-grade fiber optics to provide extended system capabilities into fixed facilities or shelters. The system features an environmentally controlled electronics enclosure that meets extreme environment NEMA4X standards, can be quickly deployed by one person in less than 15 minutes, and is ideal for tighter, hard-to-reach areas.

In September of 2010, North Carolina’s Urban Search and Rescue Taskforce 8 (NCTF-8) took delivery of an ICS pCom 355, providing the team with an effective portable solution when natural or man-made disasters occur. The system includes an ACU-2000 interoperability switch that connects to Motorola’s XTL-5000 LMR radios, allowing operators to patch UHF, VHF and other radio networks. Also included in the ICS pCom 355 system is a SkyTerra MSAT G2 radio that can be integrated into the ACU-2000 or used standalone, providing L-Band satellite PTT and two-way voice capability.

NCTF-8 Program Manager/TFL Battalion Chief Frank McLaurin explained that the ICS pCom 355 complements their existing equipment and will encourage future interoperability efforts through the state. “Having ICS as a partner on this program ensured that NCTF-8 is a leader in communications capability and can directly interface and be system-level compatible with the other state teams should the need arise,” McLaurin said.

In 2009, the Salt Lake City UASI COML Group and the Charlotte Fire Department FIELDCOM unit participated in a fourday cross-training exercise that took place on the grounds of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and Fire Training Academy in North Carolina. Conducted by ICS and hosted by the Charlotte Fire Department (CFD), the exercise simulated a multi-agency regional incident response and allowed the two agencies to share best practices and standard operating guidelines.

After training on the new systems, which included several ICS solutions, the COML team established a command and communications center at the “incident” site. The CFD FIELDCOM Unit also trained on SLC’s communications systems and offered best practices for similar equipment used at their agency. The simulation encompassed two different scenarios— one a search and rescue mission, the other a surveillance response to an active shooter suspect.

Members of each team were able to patch their radios through the MITS ACU-2000 radio interoperability solution, allowing disparate radio systems to talk across the various LMR systems, SkyTerra MSAT and Broadband VSAT VoIP Links. The agencies were also able to send data and video from team to team using various methods, and at one point were sending tactical video links from each team’s cameras to the incident command structure.

Leaders from both teams noted the importance of information-sharing and interoperability testing among regions on a national level. Charlotte Fire Department Communications Lead Gregory Hauser said, “When ICS approached CFD with this training opportunity, we were very interested in learning how the equipment and technology was being put to use by the SLC. When Field- Comm’s equipment could function with MITS-1’s equipment, true interoperability was demonstrated.”

Salt Lake City Fire Captain Jeffrey Clark found the exercise to be a unique and immeasurable experience for their communications team: “The successful testing of interoperability between two different UASI region assets was a truly beneficial exercise that we hope to duplicate again.”

According to Chris Boyd, communications architect and vice president of Marketing and Product Development for ICS, the company’s turnkey applications make its solutions a better choice. After spending time with each customer to assess mission and capability requirements, ICS takes that information and custom builds the product around those needs. It also offers professional services that include project management, systems training and integration, deployment support and COOP development.


For more than 31 years, Inmarsat has been at the forefront of mobile satellite services and continues to introduce new technologies for improved interoperability and situational awareness. Jack Deasy, director of Civil Government Programs for Inmarsat, pointed out that “Throughout that time, our satellites have evolved from basic safety at sea services to mobile broadband satellite connectivity.” The company’s latest generation of satellites is the Inmarsat 4 (1-4), providing worldwide coverage on land, sea and air via its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN).

As the only mobile satellite service to offer broadband data with simultaneous voice through a single, portable device, BGAN is accessible via compact, lightweight satellite terminals that can be set up in minutes. With standard user interface across all terminals, BGAN is easy to use and provides communications operability even when terrestrial networks are disrupted.

The broadband mobile command post supports e-mail, Internet, VPN and telephony systems, allowing all critical personnel to remain connected via standard HF radios and cell phones. Available as a fixed or mobile application, it supports multiple users from a single device via a WLAN.

In-field equipment includes the BGAN satellite terminal and voice handset, MAC or PC laptop, hand-held video camera, power accessories, and IP-based hardware and software solutions. With simultaneous voice and broadband data, communications can be quickly established at a disaster site, allowing rescue efforts to continue uninterrupted. BGAN allows the same device to be used nationwide, resulting in a cost-effective solution that enables real-time communications from more locations.

Recently, BGAN mobile satellite technology was used to map the environmental after-effects of the Gulf oil disaster that occurred on April 20, 2010. GIS technology provider ESRI was called in to support the federal incident command post located at Houma, La. To ensure uninterrupted Internet connectivity for realtime mapping, ESRI used a Hughes 9201 BGAN terminal supplied by Inmarsat service provider Remote Satellite Systems.

The company’s mission was to map the oil barricades, including sand levees and booms. Because there is no cellular connectivity in much of the deployment zone, the field teams used BGAN to synchronize data with our server back in Redlands, California. The use of this technology allowed incident command staff to view updates as they happened and provided scientists with crucial information to help them determine the spill’s impact on sensitive habitats and wildlife.

When the Philippines were hit with a typhoon in July 2010, a BGAN-powered emergency telecoms kit was donated to the Philippines National Disaster Council (NDCC) to assist with the rescue efforts. According to the NDCC’s Information and Communications Technology Officer Frederic Bragas, more than 200 e-mails of alerts, situation reports and weather bulletins were sent via BGAN in a single day.

Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at sgeofl@

Published in Law and Order, Nov 2010

Rating : 5.5

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