Chinese Delegates Visit U.S. Communication Sites
Wednesday, February 01, 2012 | Comments
 
 Photo courtesy Fairfax County Sheriff's Office
 
By Josie Leyman Elias
 
The Chinese first responder community’s interest in developing new communications capabilities to transmit voice, data and video via RF in dense urban environments is piqued. In October 2011, the China National Disaster conference in Shanghai showcased response capabilities and technologies similar to U.S. emergency management and homeland security trade shows. Exhibitors displayed technologies for patient care and response, shelters and rescue equipment, national response agencies, vehicles and video.
 
Most of the technologies were homegrown products developed through various Chinese research companies with a few North American firms. The primary focus of the research firms is new technologies to enhance data compression ratios and IP-based dispatching for the TETRA systems used by the Shanghai law enforcement and metro transit system.
 
China has 160 cities with populations of more than 1 million and two of the world’s largest subway systems. Shanghai boasts more than 1,000 high-rise buildings with more than 100 others under construction and a metro system with over 270 miles of track on 11 lines, delivering almost 2 billion rides in 2010. Las September, two of these trains collided and injured 287 people. “Thanks to rapid urbanization, which has transformed small towns into crowded metropolises, disasters have the potential to cause more damage than ever before,” the deputy secretary-general of China Association of Mayors told the China Daily.
 
As a result, the Shanghai Civil Defense agency organized a delegation of 25 senior officials to visit the U.S. and learn from U.S. responders. The delegates, from Shanghai and surrounding districts, visited the New York; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles regions last November and December to learn best practices for procedures and equipment used by public-safety agencies in dealing with manmade and natural disasters.
 
The delegation was hosted by the Nassau County Fire Marshal’s (NCFM) office. Nassau County lies east of New York City and is home to JFK International Airport. Bob Hare, supervising fire marshal, hazardous materials (Haz-Mat) division, introduced the delegates to a range of fire/rescue and communications equipment in the department’s cache.
 
The delegates toured the Nassau County Public Safety Center and various other sites in the county, including the Nassau FSA 9/11 memorial, Fire Service Academy and Hicksville Fire Department headquarters. As part of the exchange, the delegates were shown specialized apparatus and equipment, instructed in methods of fire and emergency communications and coordination, and interacted with local firefighters and fire marshals at the NCFM Haz-Mat response quarters.
 
Of particular interest to the Shanghai guests was the equipment used for extended supplied air operations. One of the chief responsibilities of the Civil Defense Ministry is to develop and maintain the underground emergency bunkers, as well as respond to any underground emergencies in their city.
 
Next the group spent two days in the Washington area, participating in training simulations, site visits and equipment demonstrations by members of Montgomery County (Va.) Fire and Rescue (MCFR), Fairfax County (Va.) Fire and Rescue and Fairfax County Sheriff’s Department.
 
Shanghai’s metro system is 20 years old and undergoing a drastic transformation, doubling in the last five years and adding high-speed maglev rail lines. The D.C. suburb and National Capital Region (NCR) member, MCFR, similarly must respond to and coordinate with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). The D.C. area metro system is the second busiest in the country, covering two states and the district, with more than 100 miles of track. In 2008 it served 215 million riders.
 
The delegates entered the behind-the-scenes areas at the Metrorail station and participated in the 800 MHz radio operations throughout the Maryland station. MCFR Master Firefighter Brian Jefferson and Interoperability Coordinator John Freeburger provided a live demonstration of a tunnel response. The team established a street-level command post and set up portable repeaters to maintain radio communications from track level/tunnel responders. The Metro uses fixed repeaters, however during an incident, the team uses a separate portable kit to mitigate potential complications from power outages caused by fire. The kit allows the responding agencies up to five talk around channels bridged to five trunked channels above ground and up to 1 mile of coverage.
 
The setup uses an Incident Commanders’ Radio Interface (ICRI) from Communications-Applied Technology and Motorola Solutions XTS-5000 radios. The responders in the station and tunnel can move about freely, talking with each other on their handheld radios while maintaining five-by-five radio communications with the incident command. The delegation was impressed by the demonstration of the cable real attachment that extended the range further below grade and the internal electrical slip rings, which enabled the entry team to maintain communications with the incident command during setup.
 
To cap off the D.C. region visit, the delegates crossed the river to Fairfax County. Both county fire and rescue and sheriff departments hosted tours, exchanging information on establishing and maintaining regional response caches.
 
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue (FCFR), led by Lt. Wes Rogers, provided a tour of the Public Safety Tactical Operations Center (PSTOC) and the Virginia (northern region) communications equipment cache as well as the FCFR communications equipment cache. Master Deputy Sheriff Marc Dominguez displayed and described the capabilities of its mobile command vehicle, including interagency radio interoperability and the 80-foot collapsible antenna mast.
 
Lastly, the Virginia Export Development Agency, which helped facilitate the cross-border exchange, hosted presentations on adapting U.S. products for Chinese responders. Officials discussed in depth the radio communications issues and solutions developed by the agencies that they had just visited, including operations of personnel in rail tunnels, heavily reinforced buildings and deep cave rescues.
 
Once in Los Angeles, Sergeant In-Charge Thanh M. Ly, of the Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau – International Liaison Unit, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, coordinated the delegates’ briefing regarding the unique preparations the agency has made for natural disasters.
 
The Shanghai delegation came away from the trip with a renewed desire to address response capabilities, gaining invaluable knowledge from the U.S. responder community.
 

 
Josie Leyman Elias is a project manager for Communications-Applied Technology. She is also a COMS(t) for the Massachusetts Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) team, MA-TF1. Contact her at josie.elias@gmail.com 
 
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