Wireless system improves communication
The Emergency Communications Department of the city and county of San Francisco has developed a wireless voice and data communications system for its public safety agencies. The $40 million radio system has 23 channels that allow the agencies to communicate directly with each other during emergency situations.
Before installing the system, the agencies had a hard time coordinating their efforts. “It was difficult for dispatchers to communicate with emergency units out in the field because the radio system provided only limited coverage,” says Thera Bradshaw, executive director of the department. “In addition, it was not possible for fire, police and EMS agencies to communicate with each other because they were on different and incompatible systems.”
To remedy the problem, the department selected Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola to develop an 800 MHz trunked communications system. As part of the system, the department purchased 4,500 mobile and portable radios for fire, police and EMS agencies. The radios can be arranged in talk groups that allow agencies to communicate privately or in pre-set groups.
The department also constructed an Emergency Communications Center, consolidating 911 operations for EMS, fire and law enforcement agencies, disaster response and recovery, and public safety dispatch to ensure coordination of emergency response. Eight remote antennae were installed throughout the area to enhance coverage in the tunnels, winding streets and hills in the county. The system’s simulcast feature transmits each message simultaneously from all eight sites.
Six departments, including Police, Fire, EMS, Parking and Traffic, Parks and Recreation, and the Sheriff’s Office are the primary users of the system. Other users include the Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, Public Health, Public Works, the Water Department and the Mayor’s Emergency Operations Center.
Since the system’s installation, the department has seen increased efficiency in its daily operations. “We’ve made tremendous improvements in our ability to dispatch and receive critical information, to communicate in the field with voice and data capabilities, and to manage 911 calls, which can average almost 4,000 per day,” Bradshaw says.