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Old 03-14-2018, 9:10 AM
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Default Years After Sept. 11, Critical Incidents Still Overload Emergency Radios

Years After Sept. 11, Critical Incidents Still Overload Emergency Radios | WBUR News

From 90.9 WBUR-FM; Boston, MA

Portion of Article:

If you go back and listen to the recording of the Broward County radio dispatch system during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School last month, you can hear the frustration in the voices of police.

"I can't transmit for some reason," says one officer. Other first responders echo the complaint.

"Just so you know, we're having trouble transmitting," says another person, and more than once, you hear a general plea for users to limit their communications to "10-33 calls" radio code for an emergency.
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Old 03-15-2018, 10:13 AM
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Default How 911 call system, radio failures hindered police response to Florida school shooti

How 911 call system, radio failures hindered police response to Florida school shooting - ABC News

ABC NEWS March 9, 2018

How 911 call system, radio failures hindered police response to Florida school shooting

An analysis of 911 calls, radio traffic and security footage released by authorities Thursday reveals system failures amid the chaos and confusion between law enforcement during the Valentine's Day school shooting in South Florida.

The sheriff's office explained in its report that it operates Broward County's regional 911 system, but the city of Coral Springs isn't part of that and thus operates its own separate center. The city of Parkland contracts the Coral Springs Fire Department for its fire rescue services and the Broward County Sheriff's Office for its law enforcement services.
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Old 03-16-2018, 5:23 AM
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What exactly do you think is gonna happen when 74 people try to key up simultaneously?
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Old 03-16-2018, 9:26 AM
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That's one of the better written articles I've read. Sounds like the reporter actually did his homework.

A couple of key takeaways:
- Officers need radio training. They are required to qualify and re-qualify frequently at the range, but often get a few minutes (at best) of radio training once in their career. Maybe some more if they change systems. Ask an officer what their most important tool is and they'll tell you "communications". Officers need to re-qualify on their radio usage.
- Doesn't matter what system, company, protocol, etc. you use, when you're out of capacity, that's it. You design the system for a level of busy hour blocking, balance that against cost, and hope that user training covers the rest. (See above).
- People need to learn to shut the *#$@ up on the radio. It can be a limited resource, learn to be brief.
- Stop expecting technology to solve all of life's issues.
- Analog trunking will do the same thing. Analog conventional will do the same thing. Cellular will do the same thing. FirstNet will do the same thing.
- Stop wasting taxpayer dollars on whiz-bang technology that isn't going to fix this.
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Old 03-16-2018, 9:54 AM
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mmckenna nails it.
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Old 03-16-2018, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
- Doesn't matter what system, company, protocol, etc. you use, when you're out of capacity, that's it. You design the system for a level of busy hour blocking, balance that against cost, and hope that user training covers the rest. (See above).
- People need to learn to shut the *#$@ up on the radio. It can be a limited resource, learn to be brief.
- Stop expecting technology to solve all of life's issues.
- Analog trunking will do the same thing. Analog conventional will do the same thing. Cellular will do the same thing. FirstNet will do the same thing.
- Stop wasting taxpayer dollars on whiz-bang technology that isn't going to fix this.
A-MEN! Could not have said it better myself.
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Old 03-16-2018, 10:23 AM
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I've experienced several very high profile events on systems Ive maintained. I have a couple of observations.

The act of just turning on a radio and switching channels uses control channel resources. When several hundred radios are all doing this at the same time, it will impact quality of service. Units needing to transmit can't because of control channel collisions on the input. Older systems will drop to failsoft simply because too many affiliation requests at once will slow the processors enough to miss the watch dog timer reset.

In P25 systems, dragging talkgroups across to different cells can overload the channel capacity, and the normal traffic of agencies unaffected by the emergency goes on as usual.

In an emergency, talkgroups that normally get little use get selected, with multiple tactical channels, and admin channels, in addition to the really busy primary channels. Other agencies get wind of the event, and dial around trying to find the active channels, especially from adjacent cells.

It can really turn out to be quite a mess.
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Old 03-16-2018, 10:30 AM
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I've always felt that Wide area/regional radio systems were not always the best choice. Sticking with smaller trunked or even legacy conventional systems and just purchasing multiband radios for those that need them was a better approach.
Probably would save a hell of a lot of money, too.

Next county over from me has a large regional system. Looking at the bid documents, every user had to have a P25 700/800MHz radio to use the system. That makes sense for most public safety users, but they also wanted to put non-public safety users on the system. That meant the weed-whacker pilot at the local park needed to carry a $2500 radio when a $500 radio would have worked just fine. If PD really needed to talk to the guy on the lawn mower, there are much cheaper ways to do this.
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Old 03-16-2018, 10:59 AM
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It's not always radio problems, per se, that are the issue.

Reminds me of an incident in the greater L.A. area many years ago. Officers, all from the same PD on the same tac channel, had a suspect surrounded and they justifiably discharged their weapons at him. The next radio transmission heard was, "watch the crossfire, watch the crossfire!" The situation turned out OK -- except for the suspect.

Of course, the truth in the adage that 'most of us don't know what we don't know', applies to emergency situations. Always has, and always will, in spite of the improvements in radio systems.
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Old 03-16-2018, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
I've always felt that Wide area/regional radio systems were not always the best choice. Sticking with smaller trunked or even legacy conventional systems and just purchasing multiband radios for those that need them was a better approach.
I agree. One of the more serious flaws is in channel loading predictions. They're quite effective for normal traffic, and most "routine emergencies", to coin a new phrase.

But they get tossed out the window with a large response event like a school shooting or a terrorist attack. And when that critical threshold is reached, it all comes apart quickly and dramatically.

It's quite frightening to sit there at the control point watching over things, hearing officers getting shot at, and watching it drop to failsoft when too many radios get turned on and start switching through channels.
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Old 03-16-2018, 11:15 AM
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Quote:
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It's quite frightening to sit there at the control point watching over things, hearing officers getting shot at, and watching it drop to failsoft when too many radios get turned on and start switching through channels.
That's gotta be sickening.


Part of my job includes running a rather large hybrid PBX system. I often get told I'm over trunked by people that don't understand what happens when things go wrong. Not only is outdialing an issue, but a few years ago we went to a hosted alerting system that can easily busy out all my trunks with incoming alert messages. When I show the traffic reports for those incidents, suddenly I'm under trunked and I need to do something about it.
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Old 03-16-2018, 11:40 AM
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It's quite frightening to sit there at the control point watching over things, hearing officers getting shot at, and watching it drop to failsoft when too many radios get turned on and start switching through channels.
I've got a single site system. The system is located on top of one of our lab buildings. They had a fire in a lab, and the fire department shut off power and gas feeds to the building for obvious reasons. That took down the primary power to the site as well as our backup generator. Put the 5 channel system on batteries for 10+ hours. At the time, our fire and PD were on the trunked system. I watched (remotely) as the control channel would fail as it ran down the battery for that repeater. I had to go over to the IC and explain they were going to lose their radios in short order.
The issue we had was that the fire required rerouting vehicle traffic. Our bus fleet had to adapt, but they are really talkative even on a good day. Most of the system resources were going to a few bus drivers.
I finally disabled their talk groups, but it wasn't enough.

The replacement system was designed with a larger centralized battery plant to help reduce this.

These sorts of challenges are good learning experiences. What counts is what happens with what is learned.
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Old 03-16-2018, 11:53 AM
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I live in small town and we have same issues. I keep saying everyone needs radio training, but it never happens. Trunk radio systems, my understanding only on person can talk at a time.
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Old 03-16-2018, 11:57 AM
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Trunk radio systems, my understanding only on person can talk at a time.
Once the channel grant is made, it's essentially a conventional talk channel where only one radio can transmit at a time. The difference is that there is more than one talk channel, so multiple conversations can take place at the same time.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:08 PM
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These sorts of challenges are good learning experiences. What counts is what happens with what is learned.
No matter what we design and build, mother nature and mankind will devise new failure modes. Live, learn... and make sure that the system users are aware of how things work so when the SHTF, they can adjust accordingly.

And have competent people at the control point when things are getting busy.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:50 PM
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Quote - "It's quite frightening to sit there at the control point watching over things, hearing officers getting shot at, and watching it drop to failsoft when too many radios get turned on and start switching through channels."

Seems like many more simply want to stay in-the-know rather than actually need to transmit or request information. If everyone is switching through channels just to be able to hear what's going on, would it make sense to equip them with scanners? Then everyone who needs to know could listen in without actually taxing the system.
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Old 03-16-2018, 1:21 PM
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Quote:
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Seems like many more simply want to stay in-the-know rather than actually need to transmit or request information. If everyone is switching through channels just to be able to hear what's going on, would it make sense to equip them with scanners? Then everyone who needs to know could listen in without actually taxing the system.
It would.
If it wasn't for encryption, or officers having to carry multiple radios, or training them how to use it. Some agencies don't want their officers paying attention to other radios, as it makes it difficult to follow what they are supposed to be listening to. Scan functions can be dangerous.

When I was a kid, my uncle was a sergeant in the PD. Sergeants cars had a scanner so they could listen in on what other agencies were doing.
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Old 03-16-2018, 1:29 PM
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These sorts of challenges are good learning experiences. What counts is what happens with what is learned.

Quite often nothing happens, or it gets studied, then studied again, then recommendation come out, but by then its so far past the event, that the politicians have changed, and the bureaucrats involved have moved on.



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Old 03-16-2018, 2:59 PM
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This is what happens when Motorola goes into a town and gives a sales pitch on how the existing analog radio repeater system is outdated their new digital wiz bang trunking system will fix everything. Yea, right.
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Old 03-16-2018, 4:51 PM
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Quote:
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People need to learn to shut the *#$@ up on the radio. It can be a limited resource, learn to be brief.
Spot on. I think radio manufacturers should rename the Push-to-talk button. It should be called "Release-to-listen".
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