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MassCops Angel
121,497 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The Philadelphia police radio system was getting static again.
The network went silent Tuesday night, leaving officers unable to communicate.
The radios were silenced all over the city Tuesday night for almost an hour, meaning officers couldn't communicate with each other or with dispatchers.
"The main concern is the safety of the officers on the street and the safety of the community. I mean right now you can't go out there and operate, especially on a hot summer night in the middle of a heatwave with no radio system," John McNesby, of the Fraternal Order of Police, said.
The police department said the radio system went down at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and there was radio silence for 50 minutes. Officers not already with a partner were doubled up and they were instructed to use cell phones whenever possible.
Police said there were no incidents and everyone stayed safe while the radios were down.
The problem has happened before over the last few years. Motorola, the company that built the system, spent the night trying to find and fix the problem.
The FOP calls the radio system a $52 million failure.
"We're not protected out there, our officers are not safe. If the radio crashes, I don't want to hear it's for a minute whether it's three minutes, whether it's four minutes, it only takes five seconds for something catastrophic to take place," McNesby said.
New Castle County police in Delaware have gone to their backup radio system as well after the main one went down after midnight.
Technicians are working on the problem.
But New Castle County police are able to contact each other.

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Subscribing Member
7,237 Posts
This is one of the biggest dangers to public safety. Direct communication without the use of repeaters and computer controlled systems is, in the opinion of this longtime user, the safest communication possible. There is less to go wrong and at least when one unit is down others can still communicate. If the base is down mobile units can talk anyway.

I've always been convinced Motorola and other companies teamed up to replace the simple systems we had because the complex systems require more repeaters and support equipment which cost more money.

Government agencies have bought into this too, regulating the radio spectrum in such a way that agencies were forced to go to higher frequencies which means less distance which means more repeaters, which means more dollars for Motorola.

In the complex systems when one link in the system goes down the entire system can crash. That probably happened here.

In emergency communication the old adage applies: "Keep it simple."

Sure it's nice that NH has the finest digital communication system out there. It allows us the ability to talk to virtually any law enforcement agency in the state direct from our units. If our base goes down we can switch and any other agency can take over. Yet I worry what happens when I'm out in that rural area and the repeater goes down.
At least they lowered the frequencies of many towns when we went to the state system and that provides longer range.

This is one of the biggest dangers to public safety. Direct communication without the use of repeaters and computer controlled systems is, in the opinion of this longtime user, the safest communication possible. There is less to go wrong and at least when one unit is down others can still communicate. If the base is down mobile units can talk anyway.
The only radios which will work well without repeaters is low-band or VHF high-band, neither of which can support independent portable radios. The old MSP system was low-band (42 mhz) but the portables were actually "extenders" which worked off the cruiser radio. If you got too far away from the cruiser, the extender was useless.

The old MDC Police system was also low-band (39 mhz) but was repeaterized. The problem is that the portables had to have long expandable antennas to work, which were prone to breaking easily.

MassCops Angel
121,497 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Philly police riding 2 to a car following radio glitches

By Barbara Boyer
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — City police officers will be riding two in a car after radio communications cut out Tuesday night for 45 minutes, and officials yesterday told Motorola it must ensure the system is working properly - and soon.
"The system that we have, and what happened, is totally unacceptable both to the mayor and to the city," said Everett Gillison, deputy mayor of public safety. "We have officers that depend on the radio system 24-7 and it can't go down in order to be able to ensure their safety."
Officials said they would not rule out dumping the $62 million system if they were not satisfied with the response from the company, which said a faulty controller board had caused the mishap and had been replaced.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who came across a street fight Tuesday night in North Philadelphia and called for backup, got a quick study in the problems that have plagued the system since it was installed in 2002.
"Two minutes of down time is not acceptable to me. It's totally unacceptable, and Motorola's got to fix it. Period," Ramsey said. "We need 100 percent reliability."
After Ramsey called for assistance and the primary system failed, three backup radio systems failed as well, Gillison said. That left the city using a fourth option - a compromised and less-efficient radio communications and text-messaging system - until the main system was restored about 10:30 p.m.
Motorola said in a statement: "We have contacted city officials and Commissioner Ramsey to discuss this matter and the solution that is now in place to ensure that the system continues to function without interruption."
Previously, Motorola had advised the city to spend $30 million to upgrade the system. Gillison said yesterday that was under consideration, provided Motorola could guarantee uninterrupted service.
The city was never completely without service, Gillison said. Police, fire and medics were still dispatched, and no one was injured as a result of the failure.
Low-priority calls, such as barking dogs or parking violations, were put off, with the focus remaining on priority calls and violent crime.
The commissioner ordered officers to ride two to a car for safety until he orders otherwise.
Capt. Mike Oswald, in charge of radio dispatch Tuesday night, said there were some tense moments in the radio room at Police Headquarters in Center City.
"There's always a sense of urgency because we're dealing with life-and-death issues," Oswald said, adding that dispatchers are trained weekly to handle failures.
"It was a perfect storm," Oswald said of Tuesday night. "Everything bad that could happen did happen."
Gillison said the failure may have been the extension of problems created Monday night when the Domino Lane communications site in Upper Roxborough was struck by lightning. Motorola had been working on the system, and checking the backup, Tuesday morning.
And when Ramsey needed backup, a citywide call went out for "Assist Officer, Car One" - the commissioner - at 9:36 p.m., prompting a large, quick response to the fight, which officers speedily contained. Within a minute, the system failed, possibly because it was overloaded, officials said.
Despite the failure, police still had communication on three major bands with about 22 bands knocked out. The 911 system continued to work and dispatchers still communicated with officers.
Councilman Frank Rizzo, who sits on the committees for public safety and for technology and information services, said his late father - a former Philadelphia mayor and police commissioner - would be "rolling over" if he knew what was happening. Rizzo said he would ask for hearings when Council's fall term begins in September.
"People's lives are at stake," Rizzo said.
In a written statement, he added: "In a terrorist attack or natural disaster, the resulting tragedy could assume Biblical proportions. We've got a problem. We need to fix it now."

Story From: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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