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Sprint and public safety: a secure relationship

Written by PSIT Staff

Whether on routine patrol, responding to an emergency situation or ensuring interoperability among multiple jurisdictions, public safety agencies rely on Sprint everyday to deliver an integrated communications strategy with top-notch support. This includes solutions to improve interoperability, refine mission performance, enhance data security, and ensure Continuity of Government (COG). As the first national carrier to market Wimax 4G wireless network technology, Sprint now owns 70% of the WiMax network. This mobile broadband capability makes public service workers more efficient with real-time, high-resolution video and photo downloads, massive file downloads, enhanced security applications, and instant mobile applications. Following is a look at some of Sprint’s communications solutions for public safety, and in turn, for making the world more secure.

Dispatch Operations and Interoperability Solutions

Complementing existing Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems, Sprint’s LMR solutions allow personnel at a dispatch center or incident command post to identify and communicate with resources, regardless of device type or proximity to the point of dispatch. This approach helps resolve traditional geographic and inter-agency communication barriers, and also: Consolidates Dispatch Operations (incorporates logistical, inspection, prevention, public works and other less-critical operations into a dispatch center); Conserves Radio System Frequencies (frees up LMR channels for first responders by off-loading non-critical communications); and Enhances Overall Coverage and Capacity (supplements private systems’ coverage, removing traditional boundaries and limitations).

As the number of radio users and functional demands on the network increases, LMR system owners must upgrade, replace or augment their existing system. However, many agencies lack the resources and/or funding to completely revamp a system they rely on daily. Instead, they need a cost-effective, interoperable solution that complements their existing network and provides extended features, functionality and scalability. The combined Nextel-LMR network delivers an integrated and interoperable system, while maintaining each individual network’s unique strengths. Serving as either the ideal supplemental or complementary system, the Nextel network delivers the interoperability, coverage, capacity and reliability public safety agencies need now and in the future.

Mobile Broadband Solutions

Sprint provides agencies with the fastest mobile broadband connection speed available and in more locations than ever before. Job sites are connected securely and right away via Sprint’s wireless router service or Sprint Mobile Broadband Cards and USB Modems. Sprint’s wireless router connects multiple on-site computers to a headquarters location, while its Mobile Broadband Cards and USB Modems provide first responders with the freedom to share data in the field.

Sprint Mobile Broadband Cards and USB Modems can help an agency or organization mobilize their workforce without compromising security. Other features include: Transmit information securely at high speeds; Access network applications; Maintain operational continuity; Communicate from virtually any location; and Comply with current mandates. In addition, with a Sprint Mobile Broadband Card plugged into a laptop, officers can connect from anywhere in the field.

Emergency Response Team (ERT)

Sprint’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) partners with public sector clients in need of solutions that ensure reliable, scalable and robust communications during any situation. ERT’s role is to coordinate personnel, equipment and infrastructure for federal and state declared disasters, enterprise disaster recovery, CooP, field training exercises, national security events and pre-planned events. Sprint’s specialized expertise can restore all forms of communications even in the most remote and overwhelmed conditions.

The Sprint ERT has 2,800 deployments and counting, including work for more than 700 public sector and enterprise agencies across the country, 28 presidentially declared disasters, seven national security events and dozens of hurricanes. Some of these include the DC Sniper Task Force in 2002; the 2002 Winter Olympics; the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia Recovery; the G8 Summit; Hurricanes Ike and Katrina; the 2007 California Wildfires; the 2008 Papal Visit; and the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. Sprint spent more than five months in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The company built its own infrastructure and hired its own security. The Direct Talk solution proved useful during such a disaster when communications went down.

Nextel Direct Connect® offers instant communication with the nation’s largest push-to-talk (walkie-talkie) network. It establishes multiple private channels for Fire, Police and EMS to communicate with each other on two-way radios. Direct Talk maintains short-range contact with a field team in an emergency when officers are beyond wireless coverage with all-digital, off-network push-to-talk service that works virtually anywhere, anytime. The Sprint ERT Go-Kit™ provides first responders with immediate access to mobile communications tools for emergencies, including fully charged cell phones and Sprint Mobile Broadband devices.

Sprint ERT personnel use a system of Communications on Light Trucks (COLTs) to carry retractable cell phone towers on top of 22,500-pound Ford F650 Super Duty chassis. Once deployed, these mobile base stations are technically and functionally indistinguishable from any other base station transmitter in the Sprint network. SatCOLT is a satellite-based cell-on-light truck, which essentially creates a satellite where there isn’t one.

Denver Police Department

The Denver Police Department has worked with Sprint for seven years. The department is currently using Nextel devices for wireless priority service for all command staff. Dr. Tracie L. Keesee is division chief of the Denver Police Department’s Research, Training and Technology Division. She said Sprint gives chiefs and commanders a way of making a phone call when they need to.

For the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC), the Denver Police Department had more than 200 Intel officers in plain clothes, plus more than 2,000 officers from other jurisdictions. They wanted to keep them off main radio channels, so they used Sprint GPS tracking of officers and had no failure rates. This was similar to Sprint’s GPS solution the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama used for maintaining contact with officers in the field. Twenty-two major hotels in the Denver metro area were used during the DNC, and Sprint set up operations in the basements of the hotels. Communications went from the ground level to the top of the buildings.

Keesee said her department has spoken with other agencies about what technology they are using, but her department also allows their patrol officers to make decisions on rugged devices/solutions they use. According to Keesee, five years ago radios were assigned to vehicles, not officers. Patrol officers on the street in Denver now carry their radios on their belts, with Sprint’s two-way Direct Connect service, and administrators use BlackBerrys.

“Technology is a priority for next year,” Keesee said, citing data sharing as one of the main focuses. Although Keesee admitted it’s a struggle keeping up with kids and the technology they’re using today, as well as convincing some of the old-school chiefs to embrace new technology, the payoff is worth it.

Detroit EMS

The Detroit EMS is one of the divisions of the Detroit Fire Department, responding to an average of 130,000 medical emergencies every year. With limited time to brief medical staff on the way to hospitals, the Detroit EMS needed to provide information as quickly and concisely as possible. Because the information was shared verbally, there was a chance of miscommunication.

Using the Sprint wireless network, Detroit EMS equipped its 24 vehicles’ Medtronic Life-Pak 12 units with Sprint wireless connections that transmit patient data to the Trauma Center at five area hospitals in advance of patient arrival. The devices are connected to the Medtronic Life-Pak 12 using a data cable. They use the advanced circuit data transmission capabilities built into the Nextel National Network and the i335 by Motorola to transmit the patient vitals to hospitals wirelessly.

Chicago Wireless Services

The city of Chicago, which has been a user of Sprint’s Now Network for more than a decade, has signed a $12 million agreement with Sprint for five more years of wireless services. The contract calls for Sprint to provide wireless services to all government departments for the nation’s third largest city, including voice and data solutions, the new and rapidly expanding Sprint 4G technology, and a continuance of its industry-leading Nextel Direct Connect.

In 2003, the Department of Buildings began using Xora GPS TimeTrack, running on GPS-enabled Nextel handsets. The application enabled supervisors to quickly and easily locate and manage field building inspectors, resulting in improved staff communications and better customer service. Before deploying the Xora application, the city was already using Nextel Direct Connect for back office communications. Nextel Direct Connect is the only national service featuring guaranteed call setup in less than a second—true instant communications.

“Our wireless solutions have been used very effectively by thousands of city workers during large public gatherings, such as the President Obama event on election night,” said Paget Alves, president of the Business Markets Group at Sprint.

FEMA’s Nationwide Vehicle Tracking Program

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is relying on Sprint to provide 2,000 Nextel handsets in support of FEMA’s nationwide vehicle tracking system. As part of an agreement signed earlier this year, Sprint is providing handsets equipped with industry-leading Nextel Direct Connect® and TeleNav Track™, a cell phone-based GPS navigation and tracking service. The ability to set up anywhere and at any time is crucial for FEMA, especially when the agency is called upon to provide disaster support.

Several hundred of the 2,000 Motorola i365 phones are being used by FEMA employees and the rest are on standby and staged throughout the country, ready to deploy in case of an emergency. Units have been staged in the Gulf Coast region throughout the hurricane season. All phones are prepackaged in a FEMA kit—a rugged pelican case that includes the handset, a car charger, a wall charger, a splitter and two batteries. After receiving the initial request, Sprint and TeleNav rapidly set up the entire program, including device configuration and testing.

“Interoperable communications and emergency preparedness have always been top priorities for Sprint, especially in the wake of some of the recent natural and man-made disasters,” said Bill White, vice president, Federal Programs at Sprint.

While Nextel Direct Connect allows instant and seamless communication among FEMA personnel and interoperable communications with first responder and law enforcement agencies, TeleNav Track allows FEMA to monitor in near real-time the location of its mission-critical resources, including ambulances, buses and trucks. With geo-fencing, authorized FEMA personnel can also receive alerts if a tracked unit travels outside or inside a defined geographic boundary.

Sprint Awards

IACP Excellence in Research Award

The IACP and Sprint’s Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award recognizes law enforcement agencies that demonstrate excellence in initiating, collaborating on and employing research to improve police operations and public safety. The goal of this award program is to promote the establishment of effective research, especially partnerships among law enforcement agencies and researchers.

All law enforcement agencies worldwide (private corporations or individuals excluded) can compete for the award by submitting a description of their research and its impact on the agency, community and the profession of law enforcement. Judges take agency size and capacity into consideration when selecting finalists. Awards are given annually to agencies in three size categories: smaller, medium, and large. A representative from each winning agency is provided with complimentary conference registration, transportation costs and three nights lodging at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference, where an event to recognize the winning agencies is held.

The Second Annual IACP Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award criteria focused on: Leadership; Partnerships; Uniqueness of Research; Quality of Research; and Influence of Research. The award subcommittee has chosen the following to receive this year’s award: Winner: Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ontario Provincial Police—for the research and development of a police resourcing model; Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Police Department—for the work and research conducted to improve productivity and efficiency in the recruiting and hiring process; Honorable Mention: Grampian Police (Aberdeen, Scotland)—for the work and research conducted to improve police response to missing persons.

All-Star First Responder of the Year Award

In collaboration with John Walsh and America’s Most Wanted, Sprint sponsors the annual All-Star First Responder of the Year Award. The 2009 award went to Officer William Weigt, Detective Investigator for the Peoria, AZ Police Department. Weigt received $10,000 and an All-Star weekend at the NASCAR SPRINT Cup Series All-Star Race in Charlotte, NC.

In 2005, Detective Weigt was shot while conducting a high-risk stop, following a drug related shooting; he awoke three days later to find that he was paralyzed from the chest down. He received a Distinguish Cross and a Police Star for his work as a first responder that day and continues to work for the Peoria Police Department as detective investigator in the robbery unit. Detective Weigt’s will to make a difference in the face of tragedy is a demonstration of strength and inspiration in his community.

Looking Ahead

Public safety entities seeking 800 MHz spectrum in November will be able to apply for interleaved frequencies being cleared by Sprint Nextel as part of the rebanding process, the FCC announced recently. As part of 800 MHz rebanding, certain interleaved channels will be cleared by Sprint Nextel and dedicated for public safety usage, based on rebanding progress in a given geographic area.

In this second stage, 30 channels in the 809.5–810.5/854.5–855.5 MHz block will be available for public safety application in geographic regions where at least 25% of rebanding is completed. In addition, any channels that were not claimed in the January first-stage process are available for application, FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said. A list of available channels can be found at the FCC’s license search page. The spectrum will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sprint’s role in public safety is expansive, as evident by the number of solutions they provide for mission-critical communications. Ultimately, technology comes second to people, according to Dan Gillison, Sprint’s national director for state, local and public safety sales. Sprint’s job in the public safety sector is “not an opportunity, but an obligation…we live it,” Gillison said.

Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2009

Rating : 8.0


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