Status quo analysis

Before you can decide where you want to go with your communications, you need a clear understanding of where you are now. A good description of your current system will serve multiple purposes.

  • It will help prospective vendors understand the gap between where you are and what you need.
  • It will identify elements of the system that can be re-used in the future network, thus lowering your cost.
  • It will provide good input for cutover/migration planning.

Unfortunately, most Public Safety organizations have only limited records of their current systems, and these are rarely available in one document. As you enter the upgrade/replacement process, gather together everything you can, and start a self-documented system audit as the basis of your RFP.

Here are the basic types of system information your potential vendors need to see:

  • FCC and other applicable licensing documentation
  • models of RF base stations (repeaters)
  • locations of existing and potentially-available radio sites
  • tower heights and locations
  • antenna types and locations
  • backhaul (fiber, microwave, other) and capacity/performance characteristics. If microwave is used for the backhaul, include type/model number, configuration,
  • number and types of subscriber radios (mobiles, portables and stationary units) and which are P25-capable
  • dispatch center description
  • dispatch center equipment (consoles, instant recall recorders, logging recorders, CAD, phone system)
  • power (main and back-up) at RF, administrative and dispatch sites
  • space availability at site shelters and other equipment locations
  • current alarm and monitoring systems

Don’t overlook information sources that may have been prepared for other purposes. For example, most systems have undergone narrow-banding (in UHF and VHF) or
re-banding (in 700 and 800 MHz bands) efforts. The documentation that supported these processes may include information your vendors will be interested in.

TICPs (Tactical Interoperability Communications Plans) have been developed for every county in the United States in recent years. Similar documents should have been prepared at state level, and usually contain significant detailed information.

Gathering together as much information as possible will improve the quality of the proposal responses. Once the bid is published, site visits give the vendors the opportunity to evaluate your sites, locate additional information to assist their response and request any information they do not have. These visits are also your opportunity for you to place the responsibility for accurate design on the vendors.

Subscriber and system information should be – but is generally not – well maintained. Supplement your existing documents with these additional system audit activities.

  • Conduct interviews with team leaders to provide indicative fleet counts.
  • Download 365 days of system activity for a guide to your current use and requirements.
  • If you have no activity data, start monitoring your current use today.
  • Create coverage maps showing problem areas

System Operational Description
It will also be helpful to prepare your system operational description – how it is actually used.
This will include:

  • individuals and groups who must interoperate,
  • dispatch operations, process and applications,
  • data technologies and applications (integrated voice and data, stand-alone narrowband data, broadband data cards; GPS/AVL, SMS, database searches)
  • security (encryption, asset management, call logging)
  • call prioritization protocol,
  • interoperation procedures and agreements with outside agencies and organizations,
  • emergency procedures,
  • paging operations,
  • alarm reporting procedures.

What else?
For your own benefit you should also gather and document some additional information about your organization, identifying current situation, especially your resources and constraints:

  • internal and external costs of running your current system;
  • any revenues – for example leasing part of your backhaul to other entities;
  • budget information – available and potentially available funds;
  • human resources and assets involved in managing and maintaining your current and future system (vehicles, computers, test equipment, spares),
  • all agencies using the system,
  • non-technical licenses and permits; relevant environmental studies,
  • resource sharing agreements,
  • interoperability and mutual aid agreements.

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