New Orleans Jazz Festival becomes multiband radio test bed
The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate recently completed the first two weeks of a 30-day multiband radio pilot in partnership with New Orleans area law-enforcement and emergency-management agencies. The pilot tested Harris’s Unity XG-100P multiband radio’s ability to connect 17 disparate agencies working the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, said Thomas Chirhart, S&T’s multiband program manager.
The New Orleans Department of Emergency Management, police and fire departments, as well as other state, regional and local police tested the radio during the city’s jazz festival events. Local parishes and the U.S. Coast Guard participated as well, Chirhart said. Even commercial operators — specifically taxicab companies —interoperated with public safety during the pilot in order to increase situational awareness. The taxis were authorized to communicate with police, fire or EMS on one of the radio channels, he said.
“It’s thinking outside the box. Think about the cabs on the streets: At any one given time in a situation where they observed something and could communicate with the police or fire department,” Chirhart said. “I think it was a unique asset to incorporate, especially when you have a large event — with more than 200,000 people converging on one or two locations, such as the French Quarter.”
In addition, the pilot tested the use of disposable battery packs, Chirhart said.
“Not everyone is close to a charging station. A lot of people are on foot or perimeter patrol and not actually in vehicles,” he said. “So if you have a situation where your battery goes dead, you have the capability of replacing it until you have an opportunity to charge your battery at a mobile command post.”
The pilot has been extended so that Louisiana agencies and local parishes can test the radio prior to the start of hurricane season, Chirhart added.
“We are now entering into hurricane season, and by extending the pilot a short period of time we give the opportunity to other agencies that have an interest and what to try it,” he said.