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Primetech – Pioneers in Communication

The launch of Primetech’s innovative new MultiNet Comms range of portable incident ground communications solutions will help answer a real need among emergency services for better incident ground communications, helping them improve their response to major public safety threats such as wide area fires, floods and fast moving terror attacks.

Primetech’s new range will also complement and build on a number of other unique technologies and flexible, agile platforms that the company has developed for improving emergency communications and operational command. These are highly relevant to the Australasian market, as mobile satellite broadband and other solutions can help overcome the communications problems caused by terrestrial networks being burnt out during fast moving wild fires, such as occurred during the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

UK mobile satellite broadband and communications developer and integrator Primetech has, over the past decade, built a growing reputation for developing and implementing advanced communications solutions. It supplies Ka-band mobile satellite broadband and other integrated communications systems, such as High Definition video and incident ground WiFi, to fire, police, ambulance and other public services on a wide variety of platforms, from major Incident Command Units to more mobile Resilient Communications Trailers and ute-style vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Trojan and Land Rovers.

Now, with the launch of its new MultiNet Comms family of modular, portable integrated incident ground communications solutions, combining video, voice and internet access over 2.4 and 5.5 GHz COFDM-supported WiFi and 3G/4G, plus private cellular networks, the company has made another major leap forward, demonstrating once again its commitment to supplying emergency services with some of the world’s most advanced operational communications systems. Such systems support enhanced situational awareness and improved multi-agency interoperability.

Emergency services around the world need high capacity, joined up and flexible communications to support them in their work, whether it is in fires, flooding, Urban Search and Rescue, firearms incidents, terror attacks or rail and road accidents.

Common issues impacting on the effectiveness of emergency response were identified in the various papers presented as part of the UK’s Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme – JESIP (now Principles), with specific incidents and ‘lessons learned’ evaluated, as recorded in post-incident enquiries and reports.

Sadly, there was a wide selection of incidents that could be referred to, but the more recent ones included: the 2004 ICL Factory Explosion; 2004 Boscastle Floods; 2005 Buncefield Oil Depot Explosion; 2005 London Terrorist Attacks; 2005 Stockwell Shooting; 2005 Carlisle Floods; 2007 Hull Floods; 2007 Pitt Review (UK Floods); and the 2010 Derrick Bird Shootings. Other major incidents referred to included the 1987 King’s Cross Underground Fire; the 1987 Hungerford Shootings; the 1988 Piper Alpha Explosion; the 1988 Clapham Rail Crash; the 1988 Lockerbie Bombing and the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium disaster.

The Primetech MultiNet Comms modules are housed in Peli cases, providing mobile satellite broadband communications support for UAV live imagery, body-worn, tripod and other ground based imagery feeds, plus wide area 2.4 and 5.5 GHz COFDM supported WiFi, 3G/4G and private cellular network communications. They can also support life signs monitoring, and are powered by light, powerful batteries and swappable back-up battery packs.

In the past, as the JESIP working documents acknowledge, poor communications and organisational problems have often been the causes of ineffective multi-agency emergency management response. The consequences of such mistakes, involving many people’s lives, incomes and property, can often be catastrophic and linger on for decades.

The active training and education phases of the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) are now winding down. Around 10,000 staff from across the UK emergency services have participated in training courses designed to improve multi-agency communications, cooperation and operational effectiveness during large and complex incidents. Soon the word ‘Programme’ in the title will be replaced by ‘Principles’, to sustain the work done and to reinforce the lessons learned.

Two key issues highlighted throughout the JESIP papers (and the post-incident reports examined) were Operational Communications and Shared Situational Awareness, areas where in the past there have often been problems. Improved use of communications was one area focused on in the JESIP training and exercising sessions, with particular emphasis on the use of Airwave (TETRA).

But radio is now only one of many options on the menu of communications options available to emergency service commanders; other, complementary, communications options are now available.

In fact, the communications solutions currently available to emergency services have never before been so powerful. Emergency services can now gather and share key incident ground information using live-streamed, High Definition video imagery, and share command information using ruggedised tablet and laptop computers linked by wide-area WiFi.

This can all be done in real time and across different command levels of individual services, as well as shared with other emergency services, Cat 1 responders and combined headquarters, such as Local Resilience Forums (and even COBRA, the central government emergency command HQ in London).

Rather than endless descriptive radio chatter and clutter, with the risk of overload, confusion and inaccuracy, commanders can now see with their own eyes what is happening down to individual sector level (the improved Situational Awareness identified as a key priority), and then make better-informed multi-agency decisions.

Mobile Ka-band satellite broadband, including Primetech’s new MultiNet Comms family of modular, battery powered, wide area communications, combining COFDM-supported 2.4 and 5.8 GHz WiFi, 3G/4G wireless solutions, UAV imagery and private cellular networks, plus supporting technologies, are what make this new level of video transmission possible, in particular the new, higher bandwidth Ka-band standard. The MultiNet Comms units are powered by light, powerful batteries and housed in rugged waterproof peli cases.

Primetech’s Rapid Response Multi-Role Vehicle, on Mitsubishi Trojan, Land Rover and other platforms, can deliver HD video, WiFi and voice comms in less accessible areas.

The Primetech MultiNet Comms range has been developed in response to requests from emergency services for communications solutions that are not dependent on being housed in Incident Command Units, of whatever size.

Large mobile Incident Command Units are still needed to manage many emergency situations, however, and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s new ICU, supplied by Primetech, is probably one of the most advanced ICUs in the world, featuring Ka-band mobile satellite broadband and High Definition incident ground video imagery (an industry first). It was this range of features that helped it deliver outstanding performance during the large-scale Thames Valley floods in early 2014.

Under very difficult conditions, the service was able to deliver very high levels of satellite broadband command communications, both for itself and for all local emergency services. Using Primetech’s C-Com satellite receivers and the Ka-band channel, the service was able to provide high levels of mobile satellite broadband capacity for emergency command teams from all local emergency services and agencies.

Surrey FRS’s new ICU was deployed to its Chertsey station (a few miles south west of Heathrow), which was the incident joint forward tactical operating base for around two weeks in mid-February 2014, during the height of the flooding crisis.

Based in the station’s car park, and connected into the main building, it was able to provide previously unobtainable levels of satellite broadband communications capacity in support of command and field teams from the fire service itself, along with police, ambulance and other agencies, the local authority and volunteers, as they battled to help local communities.’

Rory Coulter, head of logistics at Surrey FRS, observes.

‘Ka-band gave us a much better broadband capacity than we could achieve within the station. But it wasn’t only us using the station, it was all the other agencies – the police, the HART teams, the local authority, plus volunteers. The station became the hub of everything for our area of the river Thames. We wouldn’t have been able to provide the level of information transfer which they achieved without the Ka-band communications systems of the ICU vehicle.’

Swaledale Mountain Rescue has successfully completed trials using Primetech’s mobile satellite broadband to support a new multi-site Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) network comprising a number of base stations and terminals. The Ka-band satellite system is being used to address a broadband black spot in one of the sites, which previously had little or no coverage.

Black spots are a major issue for any rescue team, as volunteers rely heavily on mobile technology to communicate with each other during emergencies. (Swaledale Mountain Rescue is a volunteer service providing mountain and cave rescue services within the Swaledale and Wensleydale areas of North Yorkshire).

Another emergency responder which has adopted Primetech’s Ka-band mobile satellite broadband is Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT), a volunteer service providing mountain and cave rescue services within Northumberland.

Both the Swaledale and Northumberland teams are made up of highly trained volunteers who are available to be called out (at short notice) for a variety of land based search and rescue operations, any time day or night.

Ka-band mobile satellite broadband provision doesn’t need to be located in a big ICU format like Surrey FRS’s. Primetech’s Resilient Communications Trailer is a self contained, flexible, resilient and highly portable communications unit that we have developed to deliver high bandwidth Ka-band capability, in any location, via an auto-seeking C-Com receiver system, with multi-VPN automatic 3G/4G failover and wireless communications from a 5-metre pneumatic mast.

The trailer allows mobile satellite broadband and wireless comms to be taken into sites not easily reached by larger mobile command vehicles. Use of the trailer frees up larger command vehicles, essential during large-scale, wide-area, multi-site and multi-agency emergencies.

It provides a low cost ‘force multiplier’ to boost emergency services’ communications capabilities and resilience.

With extension cables the trailer can be used at sites such as schools, community centres and office buildings, when major emergencies require short or long-term communications capability.

Mobile satellite broadband is also available as an option on the Primetech Rapid Response Multi-Role Vehicle, on Mitsubishi Trojan, Land Rover and other platforms.

For more information, go to www.primetech.co.uk

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Henry Walker is a Director of Primetech (UK) Ltd.

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