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Digitial Trunked System Knocks Down Largest Fire in a Decade - Champaign, IL Fire Dept Case Study

Digitial Trunked System Knocks Down Largest Fire in a Decade - Champaign, IL Fire Dept Case Study

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Published by Motorola Solutions
The Motorola ASTRO® 25 digital 800 MHz trunked radio system provided the solution to a lack of countywide continuous interoperability.
The Motorola ASTRO® 25 digital 800 MHz trunked radio system provided the solution to a lack of countywide continuous interoperability.

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Published by: Motorola Solutions on Nov 10, 2010
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CASE STUDY: Digital Trunked System Knocks Down Largest Fire in a Decade
“November 7, 2008 marked the largest fre in a decade andthe frst major test o our countywide 800 MHz digital trunkedsystem. Not only did everything work well, everyone wasinteroperable—fre, EMS and police—during an incident thatrequired a lot o communication and coordination.
– Chief Douglas Forsman, Champaign Fire Department 
Situation: Lack of continuous interoperability countywide
The Champaign Fire Department serves a burgeoning community o almost75,000 in downstate Illinois. Along with its sister city o Urbana, it is also hostto the University o Illinois and 42,000 students. Despite the rural complexion oits surrounding environs, Champaign is a bustling city with all the public saetyand communication challenges o a major metropolis. As Champaign grew, itwas outgrowing its analog radio system (UHF or law enorcement and VHF orfre) which was not able to provide the level o interoperability needed or majorincidents and multiple agencies across the county.
Solution: Motorola ASTRO® 25 digital 800 MHz trunked radio system
With assistance rom a grant, Champaign County transitioned to a Project 25digital radio system in 2007 that is, according to Deputy Chie Eric Mitchell,“a total public saety system” across its 1000 square miles. The MotorolaASTRO
25 system provides interoperable communications among 1800 usersrom 30 dierent agencies, including police, fre, sheri, EMS and public works.The fve-site, eight-channel system eatures Gold Elite consoles at METCAD(the 911 dispatch center in Urbana) and also delivers interoperability withtalkgroups on the statewide STARCOM Project 25 system.
Result: Shared communication among multiple agencies
For the frst time in his 28-year career, says Deputy Chie Mitchell, the entirecounty is on the same radio system. “Everybody has always operated on theirown system and now police, fre, EMS, public works and the University o Illinoisagencies are connected. In the event o a large incident or a disaster, we have thecapability with this system or everybody to move to a talkgroup that we can talkto each other on and communicate what’s going on in the incident.
CASE STUDYChampaign, Illinois Fire Department
Champaign, IL
Population 75,000
42,000 students
1,000 square miles
ASTRO 25 Digital 800 MHztrunked radio system
STARCOM 21 Project 25system
XTS 5000 and XTS 2500digital radios
County-wide interoperability
Unmatched reliability
Uninterrupted communicationsand optimal efciency
Digital Trunked System Knocks DownLargest Fire in a Decade
Chie Douglas Forsman
CASE STUDY: Digital Trunked System Knocks Down Largest Fire in a Decade
From pockets of coverage to trueinteroperability countywide.
Prior to implementing a digital 800 MHz trunked radiosystem, Champaign County experienced “pocketso interoperability” according to Greg Abbott, 911Coordinator or METCAD (Metropolitan Computer-Aided Dispatch) and system manager o the digital800 MHz trunked system. “Our old system was UHFand VHF, and interoperability was an issue. I frewanted the police, it was okay, but it was lacking inthe other direction. Even in rural Illinois, we werehampered or requencies and 800 MHz was the onlyplace we could go.Rather than transition to a short-term solution,Abbott continues, “We realized we were lookingat it the wrong way – our real need was systemcapacity, eatures, and looking to the uture ocommunications. In-building coverage was alsobig and we were looking at where the industrywas going. With the new ASTRO 25 platorm, wehave increased our system capacity and provideinteroperability across the county.
A digital system that performs seamlesslyunder re.
The countywide system was put to the test onNovember 7, 2008 in what Chie Douglas Forsmandescribes as the largest fre in a decade and one othe top fve in his 45-year career. As he looked outhis picture window early that morning, he saw thesky lit up six miles away. A three-story, 125-year oldbuilding under renovation in downtown Champaignwas ablaze.*“A huge body o fre was showing upon our arrival,so we knew this was going to be challenging, notonly or the building on fre but or those adjacentto it,” he explains. “We called a second alarm andthen a third alarm very quickly which brought a hugeamount o resources there, and it was a task thattook us most o the day. It involved not only the fredepartment, but police or security and public worksor helping us clear the streets and demolish portionso the building that had burned, so it was a multi-agency, multi-discipline activity that required a lot ocoordination and communication.Utilizing Motorola XTS
5000 and XTS
2500 digitalradios, renowned or their ruggedness, clarity andull-eatured unctionality, numerous agenciesworked the inerno. The huge range o talkgroups andencrypted channels made sharing inormation andmanaging resources run like clockwork, according toChampaign’s chie. “It would have been an absolutenightmare i the P25 standard hadn’t been in place,he says. “When you need all o the resources to dealwith a signifcant incident, they’re all there and theycan all switch to a shared channel.
Uninterrupted communications andoptimal efciency.
As the fre raged, Greg Abbott responded to thedispatch center in which is located in neighboringUrbana to monitor system perormance. “Thecountywide system perormed admirably. At thepeak o the fre, we had fve talkgroups in use orfre exclusively and we had eight more talkgroupsor normal trafc. At peak loading, the 5:30am to6:00am range, we were only using 35% o thesystem’s capacity with 600 radios. I was amazed byits perormance.
We were able to talk and respond like clockwork. You don’t want communicationsto ever be an issue on scene.
– Chief Douglas Forsman, Champaign Fire Department 
Magazine (November2009) reported that 110 frefghters,nine engines, our ladders, onesquad and one incident commandvehicle were on scene; six buildingswere damaged and the historicbuilding destroyed, totaling three-and-a-hal million dollars.
   P   h  o   t  o   ©    L  a   P  a  y  n  e   P   h  o   t  o  g  r  a  p   h  y
CASE STUDY: Digital Trunked System Knocks Down Largest Fire in a Decade
On the previous analog system, interoperability wouldhave been “ace to ace” with hand signals, runnersgoing back and orth, re-transmissions and longwaits or airtime to communicate. There would havebeen multiple radios and channels or an incidentcommander to juggle to coordinate resources. Giventhe magnitude o the fre, this would have jeopardizedthe saety o responders and the eectiveness o theresponse.“That morning it was important or us to talk to unitsat various locations and to do so uninterrupted. Wecould talk to our dispatch center on one talk group, tothe police agency on another talk group. We need tohave uninterrupted communications with the peoplethat are in peril and the system helped us do that, noquestion about it,” says Chie Forsman.
Durable radios that withstand and deliver.
Firefghters are in a demanding business whereradios get dropped daily and endure extreme heatand cold, smoke, water and humidity. Motoroladigital radios are well-designed with continuousinput rom the fre service about eatures they needmost: devices should be easy to use and operate byfrefghters with top-mounted displays, knobs thatcan be turned while wearing gloves and large, easy-to-access emergency buttons.“You can’t take a device that was designed orCEOs who are away rom the ofce and still needto communicate and make that work or the freservice,” explains Lieutenant Brad Bone, who was onscene on November 7th. “It’s just not going to do it.They’re not going to be rugged enough. The batterylie won’t be there and exposing them to extremetemperatures and moisture is just not going towork out.
At the peak o the fre, we had fve talkgroups in use or fre exclusively and we hadeight more talkgroups or normal trafc. At peak loading, the 5:30am to 6:00amrange, we were only using 35% o the system’s capacity with 600 radios. I wasamazed by its perormance.
– Greg Abbott, 911 Coordinator, METCAD Emergency Communications 

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