DHS Deploys Multiband Radios to State, Local Public Safety Agencies

To increase interoperability, the federal government is transitioning new multiband radios to response agencies around the nation.

by / August 22, 2012
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After years of interest, field tests and the conclusion of a pilot project, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) transitioned more than 100 multiband radios to 15 emergency response agencies around the nation, according to an Aug. 21 press release.

“Today, many state, local and federal emergency responders face communications interoperability challenges that put lives at risk,” said David Boyd, director of the S&T’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility. “Thanks to the participation and insights of our state, local and federal pilot partners, S&T’s new multiband radio allows responders to communicate with other responding agencies and jurisdictions, regardless of radio band.”

Responders across agencies and jurisdictions can communicate critical information quickly with multiband radio, because the technology eliminates the need to carry multiple radios, swap or share radios, use a patching system, relay messages through dispatchers, or use runners to hand-carry messages.

In June 2011, amid an estimated crowd of 400,000, multiband radios were used at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of several tests that year. During the event, responders from 16 local, state and federal agencies tested the noise suppression and interoperability of their radios. Signal coverage for the test was 96 percent, and the radios were generally received favorably by responders. Many responders particularly liked the idea of only needing one radio, though some complained of the long antenna found on the Harris Unity XG-100P radio that was used in the test.

First responders can use the multiband radios in bands between 136 and 870 MHz, including the primary public safety very high frequency and ultra high frequency bands and the 700 and 800 MHz bands. When authorized, the radio also operates in the U.S. Defense Department bands and two federal bands.

Sales of multiband radios are increasing, and one manufacturer reported more than 20,000 radios sold. The Department of Interior spent $90,000 and the U.S. Marine Corps is expected to spend $49 million on multiband radios, according to the S&T.

Pilot partners that are receiving new multiband radios include:

  • Arizona Emergency Management
  • Blaine, Wash., Police Department                  
  • Boise, Idaho, Fire Department
  • Chicago Police Department/Emergency Management 
  • DHS Immigration/Customs Enforcement
  • Hawaii Civil Defense                         
  • Indianapolis Fire Department             
  • Miami-Dade County Public Safety               
  • Michigan Emergency Medical Services      
  • Murray State University in Kentucky            
  • National Capitol Region
  • New Orleans Public Safety                 
  • Phoenix Police Department
  • U.S. Coast Guard, District 7, Miami
  • U.S. Coast Guard, Portsmouth, Va.