Public safety agencies work toward enhanced radio communication

Interoperability workshop.
Metro Vancouver public safety leaders join E-Comm for interoperability workshop.

In May, a workshop was held with more than 40 public safety leaders from across Metro Vancouver to discuss radio interoperability issues and develop a regional plan for enhancing cross-agency communication. Key to the discussion was understanding the current state of regional radio interoperability and identifying a desired future state.

With the rollout of the Next Generation Radio Program (NGRP) on target for completion late 2017/early 2018, there is an unprecedented opportunity to help first responders take advantage of the improved communication capabilities that the new radio system offers for both routine and major events through shared talk groups. Although the current radio system has this feature already, a recent survey determined that many responders use less direct tools for communication (e.g., cellphones) to coordinate with other jurisdictions or agencies when radio talk groups would be far more effective. Training is going to be a major focus of the new system so all agencies have the confidence to practise and master improved interoperability with the new radios.

An Interoperability Working Group (IWG) was formed just over a year ago to advance multi-jurisdictional and multi-discipline communication for all E-Comm partner agency services. Made up of experienced agency experts and chaired by Richmond Fire Chief John McGowan, the IWG is building a framework to bring forward interoperability for all radio users on the system. It is a broad cooperative group including municipal police and RCMP, fire services, BC Emergency Health Services and leadership and technical support from E-Comm.

“It’s a huge collaborative effort of all working parties,” explains Chief McGowan. “To be truly interoperable, it means you are able to communicate with who you need, when you need it. That’s the piece we’re looking at advancing.”

The Chief adds the IWG is working hard to facilitate and drive change in our radio system and that E-Comm’s expertise and leadership have been beneficial in driving this world-leading radio system in the name of public safety.