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Responder News: NPSTC Report Highlights LTE Broadband Advantages for First Responder Communications

Responder News: NPSTC Report Highlights LTE Broadband Advantages for First Responder Communications

Release Date: 
July 26, 2017

A fire truck equipped with an in-vehicle LTE solution can extend firefighters’ communications range into subbasement levels of a large brick apartment complex.Two critical issues for first responders are communications and situational awareness. Technological advancements in broadband communications will transform the way first responders communicate and manage both day-to-day operations and emergencies. However, first responders are not necessarily experts in broadband communications, and may not be aware of how to include broadband communications into their response. Addressing the near, intermediate and long-term requirements of building a more robust and resilient communications network is a task for experts in the field of public safety communications.

Recognizing this need, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) has collaborated with Defence Research and Development Canada-Centre for Security Science to produce a report on Deployable Systems. The report offers first responders recommendations for the operation and use of broadband deployable systems. In addition, the report provides background information and informative text on many technical challenges, operational issues and governance considerations that impact the use of these systems by first responders.

Long-Term Evolution (LTE) broadband is a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile phones and data terminals. LTE is a key component to augment the coverage and capacity for first responders. The report defines safety requirements to incorporate LTE into operations, identifies 54 technical requirements, possible technical barriers and ultimately 16 actionable items to incorporate LTE.

In the context of emergency response, broadband presents several attractive capabilities—many of which are already in use on commercial networks. Firefighters using wireless broadband can download blueprints for a burning building while in the field, a police officer can receive surveillance video feeds while on-scene, and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel are able to remotely access or transmit medical information. Depending on the network’s speed, some on-scene personnel can transmit live video feeds or pictures to their incident commander, enhancing situational awareness. Each of these capabilities significantly improves emergency communications and levels of response.

There are many advantages to using LTE. In areas that lack wireless coverage, LTE technology can be used in a variety of sizes and configurations. This flexibility allows for the systems to be portable, self-contained and quickly activated without complicated training. Using LTE communications could even provide interoperable communications with first responders from our neighboring countries Canada and Mexico.

To access the report, visit the NPSTC website. S&T will continually provide information on NPSTC’s work. For more information on S&T’s work on Interoperable Communications or to ask S&T a question, contact us at First.responder@hq.dhs.gov.

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