FirstNet Service and Analog LMR in Play During Super Bowl by Fire Rescue Department
Monday, February 03, 2020 | Comments
The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department (MDFR) put its First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) service, along with its two-way radio network, to use during Super Bowl LIV Feb. 2 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Communications Chief Greg Rubin said more than 50 Sonim Technologies rugged devices with remote speaker microphones (RSMs) attached were used by MDFR units during the game. The Sonim band 14 devices were programmed in a similar channel configuration as the agency’s UHF conventional analog simulcast two-way radio network, so if there was an LMR failure or compromise, the Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices could be the backup.

MDFR has 2,100 sworn firefighters and runs more than 250,000 calls per year with more than 70 fire stations. The agency has 150 frontline units and is the sixth-largest fire rescue department in the country.

For the Super Bowl, MDFR operated in a unified command structure combined with numerous local law enforcement and fire agencies, along with state and federal officials. In addition to the department’s Fire Command and Emergency Operations Center, there were two command centers within the stadium and a joint special operations center outside the stadium.

The county’s Emergency Operations Center had representation from local, state and federal agencies too. MDFR housed an all-hazards center run by the FBI, along with an air security operations center staffed by the U.S. Air Force, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), FBI, FAA and local law enforcement.

Chief Rubin said that MDFR’s staff prepared for two years for the event and had personnel at the stadium and in surrounding areas and operations centers.

MDFR’s FirstNet-certified devices were connected via a Project 25 (P25) Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) to its radio system and the agency’s dispatch consoles. A separate tab allowed MDFR’s fire rescue dispatchers to see all the resources and talkgroups, so they could create patches between the LMR system and FirstNet’s Enhanced Push to Talk (EPTT) service, Rubin said.

In its daily operations, the agency also uses tablets with FirstNet service for patient care reporting, and MDFR fire trucks have rugged computers with FirstNet service. The Sonim devices operate on band 14 spectrum, while the tablets and computers use AT&T’s commercial spectrum with priority and pre-emption services.

Although the agency uses a 48-site conventional analog simulcast system, a P25 master core runs the analog system and provides a P25-capable back end for ISSI. The ISSI also allows the MDFR Motorola Solutions UHF network to interoperate with L3Harris P25 networks used by other local agencies.

Rubin noted the importance of conventional analog communications for his agency because the fire service requires robust in-building communications. With the use of a conventional analog voted simulcast system, it’s possible for a dispatcher to hear multiple transmissions simultaneously, so if there is an emergency call on top of another user on the same channel, the call for help is unlikely to be missed. He said that until LTE offers a similar simplex communications option with strong in-building penetration, he couldn’t replace his radio network with broadband technology.

“NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) rules say we must have direct mode capability when operating in hazardous environments like the fire ground,” Rubin said. “You can have direct mode on 700 or 800 MHz, however, it doesn’t work on trunked networks the way we have it designed.”

A local police department has a P25 trunked system that MDFR interoperates with for hospital communications. Rubin said it’s too costly in his environment for trunked P25 networks to provide the level of in-building penetration he needs for firefighting and gets with the UHF conventional analog network.

“Trunked networks don’t allow a dispatcher to hear two people talking at once or allow for simplex communications on the same channel as the dispatcher,” Rubin said. “We won’t use the trunked P25 system when our firefighters would enter into a burning building; it doesn’t have the in-building penetration or offer the simplex capabilities that ensure firefighter safety. We don’t use the trunked P25 system for any communications where firefighters are in a potentially life threatening hazardous environment such as a structural fire or confined space.”

Other Public-Safety Communications
L3Harris Technologies is a partner with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee and supplies P25 and other LMR networks in more than 20 Florida counties for public-safety operations and critical communications. L3Harris customers in South Florida include the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, city of West Palm Beach, Aventura, Coral Gables, Hialeah and Florida Power & Light, among others.

The L3Harris P25 800 MHz radio system in Miami-Dade County is one of the largest in the nation and provides daily public-safety communications for nearly 100 agencies and 32,000 users, serving 2.5 million people. The system processes more than 5 million transmissions per month and supports the day-to-day communications for state, federal and tribal agencies in South Florida.

“L3Harris is proud to partner with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee and to help those who protect the big game stay connected so they can keep the public safe,” said Dana Mehnert, president, communication systems, L3Harris.

L3Harris had a team in Miami in the municipality dispatch centers who helped with any issues that arose before or during the game, said Michael Hayes, L3 Harris vice president, program management, public safety and professional communications.

“We had a lot of preparation before the Super Bowl to make sure the teams were ready, and we had a team there for the weekend, ready for any changes or questions,” he said.

SaferWatch also partnered with the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee and Motorola Solutions. The SaferWatch mobile application was used by about 10,000 staff and volunteers during the game and ancillary events in Miami-Dade County.

The technology was integrated with Motorola Solutions’ CommandCentral Aware software as part of a proof of concept to provide the app with additional capability to provide law enforcement with real-time reports of suspicious activity and potential threats reported by fans, residents and visitors during the game and the events leading up to it.

Public-safety analysts will be able to view tip details and any supporting pictures or videos from the tip submitter. Analysts will have the detailed information they need to share actionable intelligence with public-safety staff at the events.

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