By Martin Long, Director of Federal Government Sales, Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications

Much of the technology used by public safety has its roots in military use. The battleground offers some of the harshest conditions for equipment, and wireless communications technology has been one of the main benefactors of this tradition. The requirement to perform regardless of inhospitable weather, challenging terrain and the inherent dangers of the battlefield has forced innovation and improvement in design and usability. Many of the communications tools used by members of public safety agencies, from fire to police to EMS, were once used in the battlefield. By proving themselves in the heat of conflict, they’ve shown that they are ideal tools to handle the rigors of daily public safety use.

Interoperability and public safety communications

The public safety communications landscape is ever evolving and new solutions are needed to satisfy the requirements of first responders. So the question becomes, “How can public safety continue to take advantage improving battlefield communication technologies in a form factor usable to the first responder?” To answer this question, manufacturers first must understand the challenges of modern emergency personnel.

Interoperability between police, fire, EMS, as well as between neighboring agencies, is extremely important. While public safety agencies can achieve interoperability at the network level through gateways and patches, until recently there were limited options for interoperable communications at the radio level. In addition to this level of interoperability, first responders need radios that are easy to use both in regular operation and in times of crisis. These radios should allow first responders to take advantage of their various capabilities quickly and easily through a seamless user experience.

Enter the multiband radio

Multiband radios have emerged as one of the “tried and true” tools to provide the capability to communicate across jurisdictional and organizational lines, especially in those situations where multiple agencies coordinate their response. Multiband radios offer unmatched flexibility that allows for operation in different modes and across multiple frequency bands – including 700 MHz, 800 MHz, VHF and UHF frequencies. Modeled from communication solutions in the battlefield, multiband radios provide users with interoperable communications in portable and mobile form factors, whether they are handling day-to-day tasks or coordinating efforts in large-scale, mutual-aid emergency situations.

Creating a bridge between first responders

As in the military, public safety communications recognizes that technology can help bridge the organizational, frequency and operational differences between agencies, but only if that technology is applied in ways that are accessible to and effective for first responders. The fundamental needs of providing rugged and secure communications to users from the battlefield lay the foundation for public safety to take advantage of this unparalleled interoperability. Multiband radios help first responders overcome the barriers to more effective and efficient cooperation – barriers with which they’ve wrestled for years. Features like GPS and noise-suppression capabilities complement the cross-frequency functionality of these solutions and give incident commanders powerful tools for coordinating efforts with other agencies and communicating with their own first responders.

Multiband radios have proven themselves as some of the most reliable, useful and versatile tools in critical communications settings. While they may have been born on the battlefield, multiband radios have made the logical and inevitable transition to civilian public safety, and all agencies should be exploring how these solutions transform their communications and collaboration capabilities and augment their interoperability efforts.