November 30, 2006

Public Safety Agencies Begin Work on an HPWREN-like System for Southern California

For more than five years, the HPWREN team has been working with first responders in the San Diego area to better understand how high-speed wireless data networking can assist with public safety aspects in hard-to-reach areas for both persistent and ad-hoc connections. This participation has involved multiple incident management activities over the years, and has not only benefited the HPWREN project, but also the Public Safety community of southern California. Many lessons were gleaned from the collaborative efforts. These collaborations predominantly include the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Most recently, the San Diego City Police Department, the San Diego City Fire and Life Safety Department, the San Diego County Sheriff, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection formed a formal consortium to capitalize on the research findings of HPWREN's work in the public safety arena. The consortium's primary goal is to build a large-pipe data communications system modeled after the HPWREN program. This new network is currently being funded by several public safety and Homeland Security grants.

More than eight million dollars have been allocated to begin the build-out of the HPWREN-like system in southern California. The Communications Command and Control (3C's) Network, when constructed, will allow multiple agencies to communicate with one another - rather than each agency having its own system. The digital communication system will integrate Voice-over-IP, for both phone and FAX needs. Additionally, video conferencing as well as real-time sensor telemetry and data integration will be utilized, once the system is in place.

It is anticipated that phase one if the new multi-agency system will be in place early in 2007. The project is built in five phases which will connect all the public safety agencies in San Diego and Imperial counties, and provides access into Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Negotiations are progressing for connectivity into Arizona as well. Phases one and two are currently funded and in construction.

tower installation

Installation work on a San Diego County tower by RCS and HPWREN staff.

tower installation

HPWREN and the work done in collaboration with Public Safety by HPWREN have provided Public Safety with a model to build from. The HPWREN network will enable the construction of a 'first of its kind' wireless network that will keep this region on the national forefront of technology advancements in interoperable communications.

"To assure long-term continuity of high-performance and reliable data networking, it is important that the technology gets transformed into agency-owned critical infrastructure environments that the public safety agencies need," says Hans-Werner Braun, HPWREN Principal Investigator. "The creation of the 3C network and its support of multiple agencies are precisely in line with the next steps needed."

The San Diego-Imperial County Regional Communications System (RCS) is a wireless interoperability communications platform. Using state-of-the-art technologies and innovative direction, the RCS is and has been a model for governance and technologies in Public Safety communications nationwide. The RCS consists of wireless voice and data communications over a wide range of radio spectrum. Most public safety and public service agencies in San Diego County and Imperial County participate in the RCS. This network provides service to 214 agencies in a two-county service area of approximately 9,000 square miles, including 185 miles of international border. The RCS typically handles approximately 3,000,000 user transmissions (calls) each month. Growth of agencies using the RCS has exceeded expectations. The new 3C network adds a high-speed data component in addition to the existing RCS infrastructure.

Mobile transmitter site containing the same infrastructure equipment used at a remote fixed-installation transmitter site
Incident Command Post vehicle

Working with first responders allows HPWREN researchers to experiment with and demonstrate rapid deployments of networking technologies, as well as how best to create and maintain high-speed data connectivity under difficult circumstances, such as large-scale wildfires. The team deployed high-speed network communication capabilities at six major wildfire Incident Command Post (ICP) sites: Coyote Fire in July 2003, Mataguay Fire in July 2004, Eagle Fire in May 2004, Volcan Fire in September 2005, the Border 50 Fire in October 2005, and the Horse Fire in July 2006.

Additionally, HPWREN researchers worked with the community to prepare connectivity for three California Department of Fire and Forestry (CDF) pre-designated ICP sites: Dos Picos, Puerta La Cruz, and Potrero. The team also participated with CDF firefighters in two of their annual exercises: 2005 at Lake Hodges and 2006 at Dos Picos.

Permanent CDF sites currently connected to HPWREN include the Red Mountain Fire Station, the La Cima Fire Camp, the Ramona Air Attack Base, Gillespie Helitak Base, and the Puerta La Cruz Conservation Camp.

In addition to high-speed network access, ICP and permanent CDF sites connected to HPWREN also have access to real-time video, still cameras, and meteorology sensors, such as those atop Mount Laguna and Lyons Peak. Included with the suite of meteorology sensors is a real-time alert system that automatically pages first responders when environmental conditions of concern are present. Functionalities like this are expected to be integrated into the new public safety consortium network.

Chris R. Hinshaw
Manager, Wireless Services Division
San Diego County Sheriff's Department
San Diego-Imperial County Regional Communications System

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