City of San Luis Obispo (SLO) is located on the central coast of California, mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. With a population of 45,000, SLO covers 10.8 square miles of mountainous topography.
I’ve worked with a lot of different companies over the years and I have never worked with a company as customer-focused as Tait.Steve Schmidt, IT Manager, San Luis Obispo
The police, fire departments and public utilities providers of the mountainous City of San Luis Obispo, California, had been relying on a 30-year-old analog public safety radio network. The challenging terrain meant that portable hand-held service was particularly unreliable.
Steve Schmidt, SLO IT Manager, says in an emergency, first responders had to physically leave the emergency site and drive until they could establish radio communications to request back-up. "Even worse, they would use their cell phones to communicate. This was simply unacceptable—people's lives were at risk."
The City is also contracted to provide fire service for the California Polytechnic State University campus and student residences.
In 2009, the City decided to replace the old analog network with a new network that could provide reliable, secure city-wide coverage, encourage increased co-operation between police, SWAT, fire, city and dispatch teams, and make use of existing fiber infrastructure.
Tait experts worked closely with the City to design a solution that addressed the challenges of the terrain, without compromising reliability, by carefully selecting three geographically diverse radio sites to reduce risk of network failure. The solution was also designed to re-utilize the existing fiber infrastructure.
The solution was a six-site IP-based TaitNet QS2 Simulcast/P25 Conventional Simulcast network for the City's police, SWAT, fire, public works and utility departments. The hybrid solution was designed to interface with Avtech IP-based console equipment located at the Emergency Communications Center.
The network deployment in 2010 was managed by qualified Tait professionals. "Project Management was great," says Steve Schmidt. "They kept everything on time and there were no delays with installation."
Commissioning, Technical Training and support are provided by Tait Services experts on an ongoing basis.
Coverage tests show that SLO now has 98.5% city-wide coverage on portable and mobile radios, as well as 100% network redundancy via re-use of the City's fiber infrastructure, giving first responders confidence in their communications. The resilient Tait P25 radio system has solved all of the previously identified coverage issues.
"With the new state-of-the-art Tait network, our city workers feel confident now with their communications equipment," says Steve Schmidt. "The system has solved all of the coverage issues we had in the City and out at the Cal Poly campus."
The Simulcast cross-band, city common channel means that communication between police, fire, utility and public works is fully interoperable, enabling radio users to work together seamlessly to manage large events or emergencies.
A P25 digital encrypted channel, utilizing the FIPS-certified 140-2 Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), ensures that police and SWAT operations are carried out in complete secrecy, improving safety of staff and the community.
In August 2011, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International awarded the SLO Communications Center the prestigious Horizon Award, recognizing the proactive achievements of the Center.
Other case studies
The most important elements of a communications system for fire fighters are reliability, clarity, good coverage, appropriate call services, privacy, interoperability and data. This paper describes P25 communications technology and its benefits for Fire Fighters, as well as providing a comparison with other open digital radio standards—DMR and dPMR.