Burlington County Integrated Public Safety Communications Network

 Trunk Regions   Overview of New System

Radio Frequencies

   
 
Name TX Freq.

TX PL

RX Freq. RX PL Assignment
F-1 154.220 127.3 154.220 127.3 Dispatch
F-2 154.190 127.3 154.190 127.3 Patching out of County
F-3 154.400 127.3 154.400 127.3 Patching out of County
F-6 154.265   154.265   S.J. Network/Mutual Aid
E-2 155.340   155.340   EMS/Hospitals
E-3 155.280 127.3 155.280 127.3 EMS Mutual Aid
Cnty Local 155.805 127.3 155.805 127.3 County Local/Fire Police

 

The following is a list of the frequencies to be used on the fireground/incident locations.  Central does not have transmit capabilities on these channels.  They are to be used by Police, Fire or EMS depending on the assignment.  These frequencies are common in all Police, Fire and EMS radios in Burlington County.

 

Name TX Freq. TX PL RX Freq. RX PL Assignment
OPS 1 500.1875 127.3 500.1875 127.3 Fire/EMS On-scene ops.
OPS 2 500.2875 127.3 500.2875 127.3 Fire/EMS On-scene ops.
OPS 3 503.1875 127.3 503.1875 127.3 Police On-scene ops.
OPS 4 503.2875 127.3 503.2875 127.3 Police On-scene ops.
OPS 5 506.0375 127.3 506.0375 127.3 Air Operations
OPS 6 506.1375 127.3 506.1375 127.3 On-scene operations.
OPS 7 506.2375 127.3 506.2375 127.3 On-scene operations.
OPS 8 509.0375 127.3 509.0375 127.3 On-scene operations.
OPS 9 509.1375 127.3 509.1375 127.3 County Gov't
OPS 10 509.2375 127.3 509.2375 127.3 Fire Police
WAR-A1 503.0875 127.3 500.0875 127.3 Wide Area Repeater - Analog
WAR-A2 503.2125 127.3 500.1125 127.3 Wide Area Repeater - Analog
WAR-A3 509.1875 127.3 506.1875 127.3 Wide Area Repeater - Analog
WAR-D1 503.0875 127.3 500.0875 127.3 Wide Area Repeater - Digital
WAR-D2 503.2125 127.3 500.1125 127.3 Wide Area Repeater - Digital
WAR-D3 509.1875 127.3 506.1875 127.3 Wide Area Repeater - Digital
 
 

Trunk System Radio Regions

 

Click on region to see detailed information.

 

 

   

 

 

Burlington County Integrated Public Safety Communications Network

By Director of Public Safety Services Joseph Saiia

 March 28, 1975 was a significant date for the law enforcement community in Burlington County for a number of reasons.  First, it was that date when a mentally deranged man on Garden Street in Mount Holly shot three police officers. Many people in Burlington County realized that something had to be done to improve public safety communications, but until then little progress was being made.  When it was learned that inadequate communications might have contributed to the death of police officers responding to assist at the Garden Street incident, the tide changed.

 All elements of the public safety community, police, fire and EMS joined together to work towards enhancing public safety communications in the County.  The Burlington County Board of Freeholders became aware of the need and provided the funds required to get the program rolling.   Consultants were obtained and the nucleus of a countywide public safety radio system was conceived and developed.   What happened in the Burlington County Law Enforcement Community during that period in 1975 and 1976 was unique among the counties in New Jersey.  Up to this point most of the municipal law enforcement agencies in the County operated on one VHF frequency (155.490 MHz) until they could no longer function with all the radio traffic and then they would try to obtain a radio frequency that provided some exclusivity in their town.  The Fire/EMS community was in much the same shape as only a couple of frequencies were available countywide.  Radio spectrum is a scarce resource.  The number of available frequencies is finite.   There are many more agencies in need of frequencies than there are frequencies available.  Consequently when an agency went to the FCC asking for a frequency, they many times had to take a frequency in another band. 

This happened throughout the state.  In most counties, you see public safety agencies operating in the VHF Low band, VHF High Band, UHF and at 800 MHz.  Due to this process there is very little interoperability among police agencies, let alone compatibility with other services.  By funding the entire cost of the network and subscriber units, Burlington County was able to develop interoperability among law enforcement agencies to a far greater extent than in any other county in New Jersey.

For a number of reasons, the Fire and EMS community was reluctant to move their operation to the UHF band where there was additional spectrum available.  For police to communicate with Fire/EMS units, a second separate radio was required.  Unfortunately, this meant there would be limited interoperability with those services and they had to put up with overcrowding and interference from co-channel users.  By moving the Fire/EMS operation to centralized dispatch the fire community has been able to maintain adequate communications capability up to this time.  The Burlington County model was quite unique and served the Countyís needs for many years, however it was not truly a  system that provided reliable coverage universally throughout the county.  It was designed before portable radios became a tool of the trade. With the explosion in population in the County and itís associated work load, it became clear that the existing Fire/EMS and Law Enforcement communication system could not handle any additional growth and something had to be done to improve communication capabilities for the public safety community.

Approximately five years ago the Freeholders responded to the growing need to enhance public safety communication.  The Chiefsí of Police, Prosecutor, Fire and EMS Advisory Boards articulated their needs and the serious problems with the existing system.  After an evaluation of several consultants, one was selected to develop a state of the art design for a new public safety communication system.  A comprehensive needs assessment questionnaire was distributed to the entire public safety community.   Based on the information derived from the needs assessment, a design concept was developed in early 1998 by the consultant and made available for review by all interested elements of the public safety community.  After considering the input from members who would be using the equipment, the design model was nailed down.   Great efforts were made to avoid the problems found in the earlier countywide communications system.  Consideration was given to satisfy the needs of all of the services; police, fire and EMS.   Most importantly, the basis for the design model shifted from countywide mobile coverage to countywide portable coverage.   

The frequency resources issue that impacted the design of the earlier systems was not much better in the late 90ís.  At itís inception, the project team was headed by Harold DeLaRoi as the Freeholders representative, with support from Jeffrey Matheson in Public Safety, and later joined by Thomas Shuler of S.S. I. Consulting.   As the system design model began to take shape, every effort was made to ensure that all of the critical communication needs were considered.   From the start, the freeholders agreed to fund a reasonable system.  Funding has not been an issue in developing the system,  the Freeholders became aware of the critical need and that the potential costs could reach $35,000,000, they did not balk and provided excellent support.  The primary obstacles confronting the developers of the wide area public safety communications network were obtaining sufficient frequency resources, locating and developing tower sites.  From the outset the system planners were aware that the most consistent complaints from the users were:

1.      Lack of coverage  (dead spots)

2.      Channel congestion and interference

3.      No interoperability between Police and Fire/EMS

There is no magical technological solution to these problems.   To deal with those issues it was necessary to acquire additional frequencies and build more tower sites.  These turned out to be formidable tasks.  In our part of the country, sandwiched between New York City and Philadelphia, this region is one of the most frequency-congested parts of the world.  Additionally, the days are gone when you go to a property owner, (public or private), and tell him you have a need to build a radio tower for essential public safety communications on his property.   Even if he agrees, it is necessary to overcome monumental regulatory issues and then get the blessing of the citizens who live in the area.   More than one tower site has been dropped because a few citizens objected to a tower in their community.   One hundred and thirty tower sites were evaluated for this project.   Seventeen sites were selected from all of the sites reviewed.  Many compromises had to be made to acquire these sites; some at this late date have still not been nailed down.  At this point, if any of the selected sites are not implemented, there will be a significant hole in the countywide coverage and a nearby alternative would have to be found.  The system will not work without an adequate number of tower sites.    

Acquisition of additional frequencies was an arduous task requiring extensive research and required waivers from the F.C.C.   The frequencies were eventually obtained with a lot of legal assistance and support from our congressional delegation.  The acquisition of frequencies took over two years.   Regulatory changes to conserve radio frequency spectrum dictated that the frequencies obtained be narrow band.  This was an F.C.C.  policy where the bandwidth  of each frequency was cut in half.   The narrow band frequencies were at 12.5-kilohertz bandwidth as opposed to our existing frequency bandwidth of 25 kilohertz.   In order to justify the large number of new frequencies requested, it was also necessary to demonstrate that our design would incorporate the most frequency efficient technology available to the public safety sector.  This of course translates to more expensive technology.

The F.C.C. mandate to utilize the most frequency efficient technology, along with the required use of narrow band frequencies, presented a significant challenge to the project team.  Some of the new technology necessary for the system had not yet been invented when the project commenced.  The decision to move to Trunking Technology was an easy one.  There was no other technically feasible method of meeting F.C.C. requirements available within the time frame that we could reasonably expect the current system to remain functional.  Trunking is a method of providing a large number of communications to take place over a smaller number of frequencies.   Frequencies are used only for the duration of a communications transaction and are then made available for another transaction.  A good analogy is like the queue at the airline ticket counter.    A single line is formed and the passenger is sent to the first available ticket agent as opposed to a line at each agent.  If an agent gets a lengthy transaction, it doesnít stop the whole line and it is a far more efficient way to process transactions.   The technology has been used in the public safety service since 1984 and is now fully mature.   Other decisions were more difficult, such as whether to develop an analog, digital or mixed mode system.   Analog was the most economical, but it is unlikely that analog will be supported for the fifteen-year lifetime of the system.  Mixed mode would have required a more expensive infrastructure.  Digital was chosen because all wireless communication is gravitating in that direction.  Initially, digital would be more expensive but costs will drop as the industry ramps up production of digital equipment.   With a digital-only system, there would be no legacy or backward compatibility issues.  Many features such as encryption are only available in the digital mode.   In order to provide adequate coverage throughout the county, with the limited number of new frequencies that were available, it was also necessary to incorporate simulcast technology in a large part of the county.  The most populous portion of the county will be covered by four simulcast trunking systems.   The transmitters at the tower sites within each of these systems are synchronized very closely to a G.P.S. clock or rhibidium standard.  This allows all the transmitters in a system to key simultaneously without causing interference.  Using this technology blankets the coverage area and tends to fill in poor coverage areas to provide enhanced reception.    Intelligent repeaters provide non-simulcast coverage in some of the more remote areas and for fill in.   The immediate benefit to the user will be far better reception in all parts of the county.

The trunking technology provides partitioning through use of digitally addressed groups and eliminates the need to have a discrete frequency to provide channels for detectives, patrol, etc.   These virtual groups also provide for all necessary interoperability.  For the first time utilizing the same radio, police, fire and EMS can meet on a common channel to deal with an incident.   A countywide disaster talk group will be available to tie public works and the highway department together with public safety responders.

As you may have noticed, installation of subscriber units, (Mobile and Portable Radios), has commenced in police vehicles.   The new subscriber units are completely compatible with the existing police conventional channels.  These state of the art radios can operate digital analog and in trunked or conventional mode.  When the trunking system is completed, each of these units will be reprogrammed to operate on the trunked system.   This early phase in has allowed many agencies to replace their older, unreliable equipment with new radios.

This will get the police installations out of the way before installations start on Fire and EMS radios.   The Fire/EMS radios can only become functional when the trunking system is turned up.  The County is providing a portable radio for each active sworn police officer in the County as of December 31, 2001.  A mobile radio is provided for each marked patrol car and docking stations for the portables in each support vehicle.   The Countyís S.R.T. group will have encrypted radios.  All radios in the trunked mode will have automatic I.D. and an emergency button.  In the trunked mode, lost or stolen radios can be inhibited to prevent misuse on the system. 

The trunking system is expected to come on line in the spring of 2003.  When it does it will be possible for a police officer with a portable in Palmyra to talk to another with a portable in Bass River and anywhere in between.  Design criteria calls for in-building coverage in light commercial and residential buildings in 95% of the county.  The current police zones will be carried into the system as talk groups along with the previously mentioned common groups. 

Fire and EMS users will have similar capabilities.  The completed system will have multiple levels of redundancy.  In the event of a controller failure, the system operates in a failsafe mode that still provides communication capability.  Where possible the microwave backbone is configured in a loop.   This allows communications to continue by reversing direction even when a failure occurs in one of the terminals in the loop.

The network is far more complex than the current base and mobile type operation.   Comprehensive training programs are being developed to coincide with the commencement of the trunking mode of operation in the spring.  Implementation of the countywide network is dependent upon completing the renovation of the Public Safety Center and several tower sites that have been tied up because of environmental or regulatory issues.   When completed the network will provide public safety users in the county with one of the finest wide area communication networks in the country. 

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