Los Angeles’ Interagency Interoperability Authority Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | Comments

Born out of necessity 20 years ago in 2001, the Interagency Communications Interoperability System Authority (ICI System) has grown from humble beginnings into one of the most significant wide-area LMR communications networks in the nation.

Los Angeles County is a sprawling 4,000-square-mile patchwork comprised of 88 cities and a significant unincorporated area. Amongst those 88 cities are 26 independent fire departments and 44 independent police departments, all of whom share a common mission: to provide seamless public-safety services to the more than 10 million inhabitants of the most populated county in the country. Their mission is common, but their ability to communicate with one another has hardly been common at all.

Each of these many fire and police departments had historically operated their own local LMR systems as islands. They employed a variety of spectrum and technologies, most of which were non interoperable, meaning they could not talk to one another. This was problematic in a world where mutual-aid and joint agency responses were becoming ever more commonplace and a call to duty could take resources literally anywhere in the operational area or beyond. Radio communications limited to only your own resources and only within your own backyard were hardly sufficient and too often placed those resources at risk.

In 2001, chief executives from several of these cities were comparing notes on their emerging challenges and a common thread was that their public-safety radio systems were inadequate. They were all antiquated, costly to maintain, did not work beyond city limits, could not talk to other agencies, and were essentially useless in multi-agency responses to emergencies. Additionally, each system soon needed replacing. Agreeing to seek solutions together, the executives reached out to technical resources for guidance and learned pretty quickly that a recently emerged technology called trunking might be an answer. The agencies could replace their present disparate radio systems with a single technology that could be linked together into one wide-area network.

One of the desired outcomes of the search was that each agency continue to have ownership and control of its own radio systems. The technical experts explained that a networked trunked system might also offer them the opportunity to do just that. The agencies could create a system of systems with each having a local radio system (or cell) of their own that, when linked together with one another, operated as a single platform with invisible ownership boundaries. The potential cost effectiveness was apparent, as was the synergistic benefit of such a network where one immediately became many. Within two years, a start-up regional network was engineered and in 2003 the ICI System Joint Powers Authority was formalized as a means of coordinating the effort.

Just one year later, in 2004, funded wholly with local dollars, the system came to life with a master site centrally located in Glendale, California, and cells strategically located across the county in the member cities of Pomona, Glendale, Burbank, Montebello, Beverly Hills, and Culver City being phased in, creating a growing wide-area footprint.

In 2006, the ICI System authority and its founding members received the League of California Cities prestigious Helen Putnam Award for Excellence in Government. Today, the ICI System is owned and operated by a consortium of 22 governance member cities with an expanding number of others employing the network as subscriber members. Thirty-nine of the region’s 44 police agencies and 24 of its 27 fire agencies operate on the network for their mission-critical LMR.

The system hosts more than 30 regional police/fire dispatch centers. In all, more than 70 public-safety and general government agencies, including a number of state, federal, campus and transportation police agencies, employ the ICI system for their primary mission-critical LMR. There are presently more than 22,000 first responder radios affiliated to the network.

Thanks to further local investments and funding made possible through the Homeland Security (DHS) Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), along with tremendous support from both the Los Angeles Area Fire Chiefs Association and Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association, the system has grown into 12 regional cells with some 40 repeater sites establishing significant area-wide coverage. Initially built as a conventional network, the ICI System now operates on Project 25 (P25) trunked digital with modern infrastructure that is P25 Phase 2 TDMA capable. A Motorola Solutions M3 Core and a geographically separated redundant Master Site (DSR) are at the heart of the system. The network has recently begun its migration to P25 Phase 2 TDMA.

Effectively pooling their LMR resources, the ICI System Authority member cities provide seamless, robust public-safety communications capabilities to the region. The system’s formal leadership consists of a 10 person governance board with each seat representing a member entity having direct ownership interest in the network. Additionally, the joint powers authority maintains three standing committees that help guide the organization: technical, legislative, and operations.

The ICI System is working in harmony with neighboring LMR networks developed by the City of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Los Angeles county (the future LA-RICS system), and these organizations have each agreed to automatic roaming interfaces — the P25 Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) — between their system cores to establish a truly seamless fully regional footprint of interoperability across all political and geographic boundaries.

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Comments
On 9/2/21, Ray Edey Executive Director said:
Thank you so much for the article on our LMR system s 20th Anniversary. We take a lot of pride in the wide-area network our member cities have partnered to establish. ICI is a great example of the synergy of team work.


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