Illinois Consultation Explores NPSBN Possibilities from Various Disciplines’ Perspectives

September 28, 2015
The Illinois Initial Consultation meeting featured 60 stakeholders from local, state, federal, and private entities, with discussions focused on state needs and coverage objectives.
The Illinois Initial Consultation meeting featured 60 stakeholders from local, state, federal, and private entities, with discussions focused on state needs and coverage objectives.
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By Jeremy Zollo, Deputy Director of State Consultation

The Illinois Initial Consultation Meeting provided FirstNet with a detailed look at how Illinois is using data applications across disciplines and departments and how FirstNet could support and improve those efforts. With 60 stakeholders from local, state, federal, and private entities gathered in Springfield, discussions focused on state needs and coverage objectives. Illinois also presented six diverse perspectives on the current and future uses of broadband across the state:

Gary Schenkel, Executive Director Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) Chicago and Dan Casey, Deputy Director, OEMC Chicago

Chicago frequently hosts large-scale events and often encounters capacity issues with current commercial providers. During events, the city currently uses a variety of methods to communicate, including mobile data terminals, smart phones, cameras, land mobile radios (LMR), and global positioning system (GPS) devices. Much of their data use comes from streaming video, computer aided dispatch (CAD), sending pictures, TXT2TIP, automated license plate readers, and patient tracking services.

The city often experiences cellular degradations as crowds grow at these large-scale events, and the presenters noted that private networks cannot keep up with the demand. FirstNet offers a few distinct advantages over commercial carriers, including dedicated coverage for pre-planned events and incidents (priority/pre-emption), deployable resources, and a service provider that understands public safety and its unique challenges, just to name a few. With the FirstNet network, OEMC would like to increase the capacity to view high quality maps, send video (live and recorded), and produce analytics (immediately usable information).

Keenan Campbell, Director of Bureau County Emergency Management Agency, Regional VP of Illinois Emergency Services Management Association

During an incident, emergency management agencies (EMA) typically rely on cell phone and radio communications. During most incidents, EMAs also utilize the statewide communications system, STARCOM21, to supplement local communications systems. Currently, video streaming and conferencing services are not often used due to a lack of standard systems. For day-to-day, planned events, and disaster responses, EMA uses video and photos from unmanned aviation vehicles (UAV) for situational awareness; however, the unified command posts do not have enough bandwidth to upload video to the state emergency management operations center.

Chief Dave Dato, Fire Chief Wauconda

There are 18,420 firefighters in Illinois, many of whom are volunteers at departments with very small budgets. Most fire department communications are done on LMR systems, and CAD systems represent the largest use of data in the state. Currently, most of the data that is referenced onsite at an incident is stored on a laptop or the cloud and very little is done through real-time, live video transmission.

With a network large enough to support their data flow requirements, fire and EMS agencies would be able to enhance their response capabilities, including accessing up-to-the-minute incident action plans and tactical plans to allow for live collaboration, accessing records management system (RMS) data in the field and uploading photo and data files from the field, streaming videos to provide situational awareness to the unified command group, streaming video to an emergency room physician for unique or prolonged field cases, and uploading patient clinical findings to an emergency department.

Joseph Gillespie, Deputy Commander Kendall County Sheriff’s Office

Today, law enforcement relies on radios and cell phones for communications and situational awareness. When they do access data in the field over private networks, they are subject to network congestion. Police officers in some parts of the state use in-car and body-worn cameras at times, but live streaming of mobile video is not a reality. Currently, officers have to bring the recorder back to the station to view it. Day-to-day, law enforcement currently uses data for secure text messaging, database inquiries, and CAD dispatching. Law enforcement looks to the NPSBN to provide the broadband bandwidth to expand its data usage.

Steve Rauter and Chris Kindlespire, Illinois Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International and Illinois Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association

With the proper coordination as the NPSBN is being developed, Next Generation 911 (NG911) and the NPSBN have the opportunity to improve public safety communications. Integration between FirstNet and NG911 is critical in order to achieve success for public safety. The use of a standards-based, non-proprietary approach is important.

Bill Springer, Illinois FirstNet System Architect (formerly with the Toll Highway Authority)

Transportation is extremely important in public safety, as transportation officials are often one of the first responders at an incident and traffic flow is a safety issue across the state. It is essential from the transportation perspective to know what is happening in a traffic incident. Back-ups on a highway and high-speed on-coming traffic can be a fatal combination. Mr. Springer stressed that preventing incidents is the main goal of transportation departments, and the NPSBN can help with that mission.

Currently, transportation uses fixed camera and sensors; these work well but are limited by their lack of movement. Portable cameras, sensors, and messaging are where the future is in traffic management. Once you get the camera out there, live streaming video is important in providing real-time information back to the department of transportation, which is managing an incident. Looking ahead, the NPSBN has the potential to change how information is distributed, especially through video and sensor data. With wider bandwidth and additional capacity, the NPSBN will help improve transportation operations across the state.

At the end of the presentations, Illinois explained its successful outreach and data collection efforts to-date. The state’s FirstNet team is utilizing the Mobile Data Survey Tool and is developing a simplified survey tool specific to Illinois. Bill Springer noted they are working with a variety of data sources in the state and conversing with local agencies to learn more about coverage needs.

Overall, participants were very engaged throughout the day, and there was a lot of spirited discussion regarding FirstNet. Thank you to the participants for their very helpful feedback. We appreciate your support in this effort and look forward to continuing to work together with Illinois.


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