ASTRID Withstands Brussels Terror Attacks, Users Offer Recommendations
Monday, April 11, 2016 | Comments

The ASTRID communications systems were stressed as a result of the exceptional mobilization of emergency and security services following the 22 March terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium. In consultation with its users, ASTRID seeks to further optimize emergency communications.

Following an initial thorough analysis, ASTRID called a meeting with all of the user organizations to take a close look at the communications processes, both from technical and operational perspectives. Concrete points of action and recommendations were defined in this context.

Several ASTRID communication systems were used during the emergency situation. The radio communications network did not suffer a general outage. Following the attacks in the metro station, the communications masts in the area surrounding the attacks became saturated.

Because of the unprecedented nature of the emergency, which involved successive heavy attacks at several locations, at certain hours and within a limited radius, some radio base stations had to process an unprecedented volume of communications. Emergency and security services from all over the country were mobilized to provide assistance, which led to exceptional radio traffic.

At the request of the organizations, ASTRID connected hundreds of additional radio terminals to the network on the day of the attacks. The failure of commercial mobile phone networks also led to a considerable surge in radio traffic on the ASTRID network.

The radio network did not experience a nationwide outage; however, it did suffer serious capacity problems, particularly in the Brussels region. Shortly after the attacks, the ASTRID base stations close by reached maximum capacity, which affected communications during a few crucial hours. A number of users did not have access to group calls.

“ASTRID did not suffer an outage: the radio, paging and control room systems remained functional at all times,” said Marc De Buyser, ASTRID CEO, in a newsletter. “However, the massive mobilization of emergency services, as well as the hundreds of simultaneous group calls did affect the performance of radio communications in Brussels. Shortly after the attacks, the ASTRID base stations in the vicinity of the Maalbeek metro station reached maximum capacity, which made communications difficult from time to time. A number of users experienced delays or did not get access to group calls. Challenging and stressful moments like these inevitably lead to a higher number of push to talks.”

The police and emergency control rooms in Brussels and Flemish-Brabant (emergency calls to 1-0-1 and 1-0-0/1-1-2) experienced heavy communications loads, but continued to function properly. The paging system for mobilizing firefighting volunteers was also placed under exceptional stress, but continued without problems. ASTRID’s mobile base station (lorry) was set up to increase the capacity of the radio network in the center of Brussels.

ASTRID met with the ASTRID User Advisory Committee 25 March. The meeting resulted in concrete points of action and recommendations regarding radio usage and training. Further technological optimization of the network is already included in ASTRID’s business plan approved by the board of directors.

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Comments
On 6/7/16, Marietjie said:
Not a comment but rather more questions.
What was the outcome? What were the answers? How does it work in rural areas? How will the original block out be managed in the future?


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