The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate announced the 14 lead organizations for the upcoming pilot phase of testing and evaluation (T&E) for the multiband radio project. The pilot is part of the final phase of a three-part T&E process that includes laboratory testing, short-term demonstrations and pilot projects, said Dr. David Boyd, director of command, control and interoperability for the directorate.

In 2008, the directorate awarded a contract to the private sector to demonstrate a multiband radio that enables first responders — police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and others — to communicate with partner agencies, regardless of the radio band on which they operate. Currently, public-safety radios only operate within a specific frequency band; subsequently, responders often are unable to communicate with other agencies and support units that operate in different radio frequencies.

"Because public safety has been assigned different channels on different bands there's no single radio that communicates on all of them," Boyd said. "That means that emergency responders often have difficulty talking to each other. So what this project is designed to do is to allow the four major public-safety bands to be covered by this single radio. That means a commander who has one of these will be able to talk to local, state and federal agencies and communicate at an incident."

The pilot phase provides an opportunity for agencies to test the technology and implement it in their daily operations, Boyd said. Feedback from local, state and federal participants during the first two phases was incorporated into a production-ready multiband radio to be used for this pilot. Each agency will conduct a minimum 30-day pilot.

The 14 lead organizations involved in the pilot:

  • 2010 Olympic Security Committee (Blaine, Wash., and Vancouver, B.C., Canada)
  • Amtrak (Northeast Corridor)
  • Boise Fire Department (Boise, Idaho)
  • Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (Ottawa, ON Canada)
  • Customs and Border Patrol (Detroit)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (Multiple Locations)
  • Hawaii State Civil Defense (Honolulu)
  • Interagency Communication Interoperability System (Los Angeles County, Calif.)
  • Michigan Emergency Medical Services (Lower Peninsula Areas)
  • Murray State University (Southwest Kentucky)
  • Phoenix Police Department and Arizona Department of Emergency Management (Greater Phoenix area and Yuma County)
  • Texas National Guard (Austin, Texas)
  • U.S. Marshals Service (Northeast Region)
  • Washington Metro Area Transit Authority Transit Police (District of Columbia)

Results will be documented, and all findings and lessons learned will be published in a report that is expected to be posted on the SAFECOM program Web site in early 2010. The report will provide details to manufacturers about the needs of the response community and assist officials in making informed radio purchasing decisions in the future, Boyd said.

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