New radios to enhance safety of first responders
Starting in spring 2017, police officers, firefighters and paramedics across the Lower Mainland will start to use new radios that will be more effective and durable in challenging conditions and provide greater safety features for first responders. The transition to new radios is part of the planned replacement of the current regional radio system, an initiative known as the Next Generation Radio Program (NGRP).
“What it all comes down to is what’s best for the public safety community; helping first responders to be able to provide the highest level of service by ensuring they have the right radios at their disposal.”
E-Comm President and CEO
Agreements were recently signed with three radio suppliers—JVC KENWOOD Canada Inc., Motorola Solutions Canada and RELM Wireless Corporation following a Request for Proposal from pre-qualified vendors earlier in the year. The agreements mark a significant milestone for the NGRP as it will be the first time emergency-service agencies will get to choose from a range of radio equipment that suits their specific operational requirements and budgets. Among the key features of the new radios are the following: Greater reliability, water immersion resistance, radio monitoring (enabling dispatchers to remotely activate radio microphones for improved responder safety), noise-cancelling technology (to reduce background sounds and allow responders to be heard more clearly in noisy environments), increased security, GPS tracking, an expanded range of accessories and the ability to add new features through software upgrades in the future.
Leading up to the signed agreements, a comprehensive technical evaluation of proposals and series of conformance tests were undertaken to ensure radios met the technical requirements of operating on the new network.
“A priority for the NGRP team was to engage vendors that could offer agencies a variety of radio options to ensure responders are outfitted with the best tools to do their job,” explained Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services’ Deputy Chief Tyler Moore, who had an opportunity to test some of the new radios at a recent tradeshow event organized by E-Comm. “The importance of police, fire and ambulance departments being able to select radio equipment that suits their specific needs cannot be overemphasized.”
“A priority for the NGRP team was to engage vendors that could offer agencies a variety of radio options to ensure responders are outfitted with the best tools to do their job.”
Deputy Chief Tyler Moore,
Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services
The preferred type of radio and specific technology features required can differ between police, fire and ambulance. For example, larger radios are more desirable for firefighters who wear bulky protective gear such as gloves and jackets. Radios also need to be extra rugged to operate in firefighting conditions (i.e. waterproof); whereas police may prefer smaller, lighter radios that have longer battery life during extended events.
E-Comm President and CEO David Guscott echoed Deputy Chief Moore’s comments about the benefit of providing agencies with options for radios. “What it all comes down to is what’s best for the public safety community; helping first responders to be able to provide the highest level of service by ensuring they have the right radios at their disposal. I’m pleased to have such a wide variety of options available for our partners.”
To assist in the selection of radio equipment, E-Comm held several tradeshow events over the past few months that allowed agencies to examine the new equipment and learn about the different radio features and functionalities. Sample radios and accessories (e.g. radio chargers, speaker microphones and headsets) were made available for chiefs and frontline responders to try out as part of the equipment selection process. The next step is to arrange for ‘live’ testing sessions using demo radios on the new network. This will allow responders to get a feel for how the radios will operate in the field.
The new network—scheduled to be fully rolled out across Metro Vancouver and Abbotsford by early 2018—will be based on digital radio technology known as Project 25 (P25) in the 700 MHz band. This is an open standard that public-safety agencies across North America have widely adopted and that has been endorsed by the Lower Mainland emergency services community.
P25 RADIO FEATURES
• Improved reliability, extended life cycle, increased durability
• Designed to withstand a variety of operational conditions including water immersion
• Increased security/privacy
• Radio unit monitoring for dispatchers to remotely activate radio microphones
• Enhanced noise-cancelling technology allows responders to be heard more clearly in noisy environments
• Ability to locate portable and mobile radios through the use of GPS
• Improved options for radio accessories
• Upgraded processors/memory capabilities means new features can be added through software upgrades