Reliable Communications and the Hazard Zone

Issue 5 and Volume 163.

BY LEIF ANDERSON AND DOUG MUMMERT Do you understand how your public safety radio works? Was it designed to support predictable and reliable communications in your most critical environment? Was it designed to accommodate wide-area communications outside a critical environment? How predicable or reliable is it? How would you measure its predictability or reliability? To answer these questions, the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department (PFD) spent several years researching its own radio system requirements.   COMMUNICATIONS RELIABILITY   A newspaper article, “Cellphones Problematic for 911” (USA Today, August 18, 2009), questioned the reliability of cellular telephones vs. landline telephones as more people switch to cell phones. The article reported that a woman called 911 from her cell phone—she was experiencing severe difficulty breathing and could barely speak. The 911 operator misunderstood the street name and sent first responders to the wrong location. It took almost an hour for first responders to…

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