+ Citation: Lichtenstein, Gary (2011). Can you hear me now?: A survey of interagency radio communication readiness in southeast Utah. Bluff, Utah: Quality Evaluation Designs. Available at: www.QualityEvaluationDesigns.com The full technical report upon which this PowerPoint is based is available to download for free at: www.QualityEvaluationDesigns.com This PowerPoint presentation may be used without restriction with appropriate credit to the author so long as there is no monetary gain.
+ Introduction Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interoperability initiatives have focused on large, urban, high infrastructure areas. Little attention has been paid to rural jurisdictions across the country. Interoperability: the ability of multiple agencies to communicate with one another. ICS/NIMS depends on interoperability Over the past 10 years, major efforts have been made to boost the ability of different responders to communicate. …But can we?
+ Main Research Questions 1. How prepared are fire departments in rural, southeast Utah to establish interagency radio communication during every day, multi-agency, and massive disaster incidents? 2. In the event of a mid- or large-scale disaster, could state or federal resources coming into these jurisdictions interface with first responders?
+ We surveyed 9 fire departments in rural, Southeast Utah 47% of departments across all four counties in Southeast Utah: 50% of San Juan County 50% of Grand County 60% of Carbon 25% of Emery
+ The 9 departments were in all but one case small, volunteer departments, typical of many rural departments throughout Utah: 5-15 firefighters 25 calls per year One department was mixed paid and paid-on-call.
+ The survey covered three areas critical for interagency communication: 2. Radio Programming What channels do these departments carry and to what extent are the frequencies likely to be shared by partner agencies? 1. Radio Inventory Do departments carry sufficient numbers of handheld and mobile radios? 3. Fire Department Personnels Confidence to Establish Interagency Radio Communication How confident are fire department personnel that they can establish radio communication with partner agencies on every day & multi-agency incidents, and large-scale disasters?
Handheld Radio Inventory 5 of 9 departments report that 100% of firefighters on scene typically carry handheld radios 3 departments report 33% or less firefighters carry radios at incidents 1 department reports 66% or less carry radios.
+ Mobile Radio Inventory 7 of 9 reporting departments report that all emergency vehicles have mobile radios 6 of 9 of departments report having mobile radios programmed within the last 2 years
+ 2. Radio Programming for Interagency Communication
+ Departments Access to Repeater Channels 60% of departments, program ONLY these repeater frequencies: Sheriffs Office, EMS, Moab Interagency Fire Center, and Utah Highway Patrol. Long Range
+ Utah Highway Patrol & MIFC are restricted, and may not be available for multi-agency incidents and large scale disasters. Sherriffs Office EMS Utah Highway Patrol Moab Interagency Fire Center 2 of 9 departments had alternative repeater frequencies besides SO and EMS
+ Limited repeater frequencies means more traffic on fewer channels = jammed frequencies
+ VTAC VTAC are new in Utah this yearVTAC is designed for interagency communication. There are 4 VTAC repeater frequencies, which are activated on an as-needed basis for large scale disasters involving state and/or federal resources. Only one department (11%) reported carrying VTAC repeater frequencies in its mobile radios.
Departments reported more repeater frequencies programmed on handheld radios than on mobiles. With distances so vast across the region, handheld radios can rarely hit a repeater. Handhelds cannot be relied upon for transmission on repeater frequencies.
+ Simplex Communication Simplex frequencies (also called talk around) can facilitate on-scene interagency radio communication. Short Range
Departments reported mixed ability to communicate on simplex/talk around frequencies with partner agencies in their home jurisdictions. Dont Know No simplex Yes simplex Are departments able to communicate on simplex frequencies with partner agencies that operate within their jurisdictions? 7 Departments Reporting
Fewer than half of departments surveyed can establish simplex communication with EMS, Sheriffs, and UHPagencies with which they commonly partner.
+ Do departments carry simplex frequencies to communicate with partner agencies within and outside their jurisdictions? Common interagency frequencies arent so common. In most cases, fire departments dont carry or dont know if they carry frequencies designated for interagency communication.
+ Five departments report having Private Sector Operators within their jurisdictions but not having any radio frequencies with which to communicate with them. Is there potential at industrial sites such as mines and oil operations for mid- to large-scale incidents to occur? Private Sector
+ 3. Fire Departments Confidence to Establish Interagency Communication
+ How confident are you that you can establish interagency radio communication at every day, multi- agency, and large-scale disasters? By far, departments most common response was Not Confident At All
+ Departments overall confidence in their ability to establish radio communication with partner agencies on Every Day, Multi-Agency, and Massive Disaster calls.
+ Do departments think radio communication is sufficient? Sufficient for Every Day Incidents: 67% Sufficient for Multi-Agency Incidents: 44% Sufficient for Massive Disasters: 25%
+ CONCLUSION 1. Departments do not have the necessary radio frequencies programmed into their radios to support interagency communication. 2. In the event of a mid- or large- scale disaster, state or federal resources coming into these jurisdictions would not likely be able to interface with first responders.
+ Lesson #1 Departments need to be sufficiently equipped with handheld and mobile radios that carry interagency frequencies. …
+ …This does NOT have to be expensive 4 of 9 fire departments lacked sufficient numbers of handheld and mobile radios. For each department involved, $2,500 or less would meet their needs. $2,500 or Less
Handheld radios are basic personal protective equipment (PPE), and mobiles ensure consistent communication and coordination at any incident.
+ Lesson #2 The biggest obstacles to Inter- Agency Communication are NOT technical.
+ Obstacles are not technical In nearly every case, radios were programmed within the last two years, but… Most departments are unprepared to communicate with partner agencies both within and outside their jurisdictions, simply because they lack common repeater and simplex frequencies.
+ Lesson #3 Firefighters are not sufficiently trained on how to use their radios.
+ 2. Radios are often purchased and maintained by others (such as the county) firefighters might not fully understand the radios functions and capacities. 1. Fire departments surveyed experience relatively few calls each year, and typical incidents can be managed using a handful of channels contained on the Every Day group. WHY dont we train more on radios?
+ QUESTION: Is it worth the time and effort it would take to effect interagency communication? Incidents requiring interagency communication in the region have already made headlines. The question is not IF interagency communication will ever be needed, its WHEN.
+ Is it worth the time and effort it would take to effect interagency communication? The planning required to ensure interagency communication is not simply to prepare for the big one. Departments report insufficient radio communication with partner agencies on an Every Day basis.
+ Is it worth the time and effort it would take to effect interagency communication? In the event of a large scale incident, resources will be brought in from multiple agencies from state and possibly federal levels. How will responders from outside our home jurisdictions communicate with local first responders?
+ 1. The fix isnt difficult. 2. The fix need not be expensive.
+ Basically, departments and their county administrators just need to: 1. Identify existing frequencies that partner agencies can share (such as VTAC). 2. Ensure these frequencies are included in the menus of handheld and mobile radios within jurisdictions and throughout the region.
+ If its so easy, why hasnt it been done already. Obstacles nationwide include: Getting agreement from the parties involved to program shared frequencies. Overcoming jurisdictional resistance within and across agencies.
+ The solution: Get over it and on with it. Research literature includes examples of departments nationwide that have responded to the need for interagency communication after injury and loss of life and property have occurred. The term for addressing these issues after-the- fact is tombstone engineering.
+ Jurisdictional resistance cannot be overcome by top-down mandates. It can only be overcome by the insistence of those within the jurisdiction to devote the time and energy to get the job done. Locally, collective effort breaks the inertia of ego and complacency about whats always worked.
Department officers and county administrators should ensure that every firefighter and apparatus on scene is equipped with a radio. Department officers and county administrators should identify repeater and simplex frequencies that can be used for interagency communication, then program handheld and mobile radios with those frequencies.
County administrators, working with department officers and partner agencies, can build county- wide radio program menus with built-in interagency radio communication capacity, then expand outward to neighboring jurisdictions. Department officers and county administrators should ensure that handheld and mobile radios are reprogrammed annually, since frequencies may change.
County administrators should ensure that repeater frequencies are programmed on mobile radios, not simply handhelds. Some departments surveyed carried repeater frequencies on handhelds but not mobiles.
Departments need to train on their radios. Trainings should include understanding the purposes and restrictions of different frequencies, the difference between repeater and simplex frequencies, and how to switch zones or groups. Once interagency frequencies have been identified and uploaded into radios, firefighters should use these frequencies during routine calls. If firefighters dont use interagency frequencies on Every Day incidents, they wont be comfortable using them during Multi-Agency calls and Massive Disasters.
Department officers should create plans with Private Sector Operators (PSOs) within their jurisdictions for establishing radio communication during industrial emergencies. Department officers and county administrators should practice using interagency frequencies across jurisdictions. Drills are one way, but simple radio checks as firefighters travel into neighboring jurisdictions can also be effective.
+ About the Author Gary Lichtenstein is Captain and Assistant Chief of the Bluff Volunteer Fire Department, in Bluff Utah. He has been with the department since 1998 and has passed Firefighter 1 & II, Hazmat Awareness and Operations, Wildland Firefighter 1, ICS/NIMS, and participated in numerous other trainings. Gary earned his doctorate in education from Stanford University and is principal and owner of Quality Evaluation Designs, a firm specializing in education research and evaluation for non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, think tanks, and state and federal agencies nationwide.
+ Citation: Lichtenstein, Gary (2011). Can you hear me now: A survey of interagency radio communication readiness in southeast Utah. Bluff, Utah: Quality Evaluation Designs. Available at: www.QualityEvaluationDesigns.com The full technical report upon which this PowerPoint is based is available to download for free at: www.QualityEvaluationDesigns.com This PowerPoint presentation may be used without restriction with appropriate credit to the author so long as there is no monetary gain. Special thanks to Nicole DuFour for her excellent assistance preparing this PowerPoint presentation.