TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Rowan Incident Command Unit
Mobile Command 31

Picture of RICU - Rowan Incident Command UnitConstruction is complete on the new Rowan Incident Command Unit (RICU).  Our mobile command unit is financed by grants from the Department of Homeland Security and is available to all local government and public safety agencies for any incident or event in Rowan County.

INTERNAL RELEASE

Rowan County Telecommunications Gets New 40' Mobile Command Bus

Rob Robinson, September 2005

Thanks to Rowan Regional Medical Center, Department of Homeland Security, China Grove Glass and Body, Wireless Communications, Coates Communications and Public Safety Agencies in Rowan County; Rowan Telecommunications Center will be unveiling a new Public Safety tool in a few more weeks. Over the past 12-18 months, work has been underway to convert an old mammogram bus over to a fully functional mobile command and EOC known as R.I.C.U. or Rowan Incident Command Unit. The 40’ foot Thomas bus was sold to the county by Rowan Regional Hospital for $1. Frank Thomason, Rowan County’s Emergency Services Director began the process of trying to get a more functional mobile command unit for Rowan County approximately 12-18 months ago when working with Homeland Security Grant Money. The current mobile command unit known as 519 is a box type van that the county has long since out grown.

The unit will have 4 fully functional Motorola CRT Console Positions to be used to relieve the call load in the communications center during large-scale incidents. It will also be equipped with 5 laptop computers, an 800 radio system, with interoperability capabilities on UHF, VHF and Low Band, a mobile EOC, TV DVD and VCR, Microwave, coffee maker, refrigerator. The laptop will have wireless Internet capabilities to access the county CAD system. It will have both cellular phones by Nextel and Sprint as well as a fully functional wire line phone system that can be accessed at several designated locations. The unit will have 12 spare 800 portable radios that can be issued out in the field if additional radios are needed in surrounding counties. The emergency lighting system consists of all Strobe and LED totaling 22 different lights strategically located around the bus.

The unique concept of this bus is that it is actually the Telecommunication Centers unit and not under the direct control of law enforcement, fire or EMS. The unit is housed at EMS Station 85 at 123 N Shaver St in downtown Salisbury.

The County is also developing an Incident Management Team, or IMT, which consists of highly trained people in the areas of EMS, Fire Marshall, Haz-Mat and Communications. R.I.C.U. will actually become a unit on the run cards for departments and will be automatically dispatched to certain incidents when certain priority levels are reached.

Although the County Manger has not yet approved it, I hope that the unit can be considered a tool that can be used by the NC Chapter of NENA TERT Program and be deployed statewide if needed.

Radio Network

Rowan County shares management, operation, and use of an 800 MHz voice and data radio communications system with the City of Salisbury. This system, originally installed by the City in 1991 now provides radio communications for every public safety and most local government agencies in Rowan County with over 1,500 total radios on the system...

In addition to the 800 system, the County maintains several conventional radio transmitters for area/statewide mutual aid, and for tone/voice paging for the volunteer fire departments and rescue squad. These conventional transmitters are linked to the 800 system to allow the highest level of interoperability available...

How popular and effective are radio systems such as ours? A current review of similar systems just like our 800 radio system across North Carolina revealed the following:

70% of the population in North Carolina are protected by public safety and local governments that use a 800 MHz trunked radio system in their community today. 

A total of 25 systems are in operation statewide with two more scheduled to come on line in the next year.

A total of 80 governmental jurisdictions use those systems to provide needed services to citizens.

Key Benefits of 800 Trunking

Equipment cost savings - operating one system as opposed to multiple individual systems.
Increased technology - affords users abilities not available on older or smaller conventional systems.
Agency interoperability - uses are no longer limited to communicate with just "their" users. System allows connectivity to virtually any other system user.
Increased level of safety - each radio is individually identified by use, issued agency and, in most cases, who the radio is issued to.
System and Technical Information

The system consists of a single site Motorola Smartnet II 800 Mhz trunked radio system operating on twenty (20) channels. Geographic location of the site allows for 95% coverage of the entire county with a portable radio. Additionally, through a statewide users group (NCSUN) agreement, selected radios have roaming capability to access adjecent Smartnet II systems in ajoining counties. Backup capabilities include a fully functional 5 channel 800 National Mutual Aid conventional repeater system that provides general countywide coverage.

Initially constructed as a five (5) channel system in 1991, the system was gradually increased to eight (8) channels over the next three years. In 1994 a joint effort between the City of Salisbury and Rowan County built the system out to it's current twenty channel capacity. In this configuration, the system can very well adequately support 2,000 radio users.

The site is controlled from either of two communications centers located at the Salisbury Police Department or the Rowan County Telecommunications Center.

All radio console positions (four at Salisbury Police & six at Rowan County Telcom) are Motorola Centracom Elite consoles. Each position contains direct access to all system talk groups and available features such as push to talk radio ID, paging, call alerting, talk group and conventional radio channel patching, system wide or group wide call, and many others. Consoles are mouse trackball "driven" giving the user quick and easy operation and use.

The system allows both mobile and portable radios to make and receive telephone calls (telephone interconnect). Critical public safety users such as law enforcement applications also have digital voice security available to selected radios to ensure communications can be totally private and secure when needed. Individual radios allow "private call" ability to any other radio in the system, regardless of agency use or assignment.

All radios system wide have a programmed emergency button to allow a user to "declare" a life threatening situation and to access priority to the system. Once activated, the radio that has declared automatically switches to a per-designated dispatch channel dependent on primary agency use of the radio. Emergencies are displayed as audible and visual warnings to telecommunicators, who verify the nature and location of the emergency and take appropriate action to supply the assistance required.

System Watch allows managers to view and track all system activity live as it happens. Automated daily reports and statistics assist in review of system operation and maintenance.

What is a Trunked Radio System?

For our County where instant, effective and private communications are a vital part of everyday operation, a trunked two-way radio system provides the coverage, channel efficiency, security and flexibility needed.

What is trunking?

Simply put, trunking permits a large number of users to share a relatively small number of communication paths - or trunks. Commercial telephone communication is a wireline version of trunking. This sharing of communication paths is managed automatically by a computer. Channel selections and other decisions normally made by the radio user are made by the central controller, a computerized switch. Channel assignment is automatic and completely transparent to the individual users.

Trunking offers many benefits, including faster system access, better channel efficiency, more user privacy and the flexibility to expand. Because of its flexibility, a trunked system can expand easily, to accommodate a growing number of users and restructuring as needed. And it can be continuously upgraded with software.

With trunking our users no longer need to share common RF (radio) channels with other government agencies and compete for air time. In addition, users don't need to monitor a channel in order to make a call on their own.

Because of its efficient channel usage, a trunked radio system affords users reliable, quick access to a channel during emergencies and advanced features to help ensure that these calls will get through. The dynamic regrouping feature allows the system to reassign units so users can talk between departments for special events. Lost or stolen radios can be disabled remotely by the central controller. And the Unit ID feature can identify a radio that has been keyed by the user, even if he or she is unable to speak. The Telephone Interconnect feature even enables users to receive and make telephone calls directly from the radio.