For 12 months, first-responder communities, public-safety professionals, and government agencies in the Midwest’s Quad City region worked together in an unprecedented way to dramatically improve their ability to collectively, and individually, respond to emergencies, major incidents, and even street crime.  

This unique pilot project, launched in 2007 in partnership with the Raytheon Company and a team of communications-technology leaders, enabled the interoperability of several communication systems used across the Iowa-Illinois state line – connecting two counties and six major cities – to allow a higher level of multi-jurisdictional collaboration, communication, and response efficiency.

“The ability of all of the public and private/public safety agencies involved to seamlessly communicate via voice, video, and data without needing to make a major re-investment in new technology or to change individual operating procedures was a major success of this venture,” said Rob Henry, CIO of the City of Davenport, Iowa. “This had never been done before.”

The newly established network not only connected emergency responders throughout the Quad City region, it also allowed municipalities to leverage their existing infrastructures by easily integrating new capabilities, including fixed and mobile broadband wireless connectivity, to provide situational awareness and camera surveillance in high crime areas. 

The network has had a positive impact in many areas of the Iowa/Illinois Quad-City region. ”Everyone could see the benefit of keeping the costs down and simplifying the process,” Henry said.  “We were able to spend more time on the human side of things that mattered and not the elements of the technology.”

Pilot participants included public safety agencies, first responders, and the municipalities of Davenport, Iowa, and Moline, East Moline, Milan, and Rock Island, Illinois. Another key participant, the Genesis Medical Center, operates a 502-bed facility which functions across three strategically located sites on both sides of the Mississippi River and supports, among other things, a Level II trauma center in Silvis, Illinois.

Raytheon’s Network Centric Systems (NCS) served as the project lead for the pilot system, drawing on the company’s military communications solutions and systems-integration expertise. The company recently established a Civil Communications Solutions division within its Integrated Communications Systems business to focus on the communications and interoperability challenges faced by the nation’s first responders and public safety officers. Partners in the pilot included Nortel Government Solutions, New Era Wireless, and the NexPort Solutions Group.

Strategic Planning Supports Regional Relationships

Prior to performing any network analysis or system upgrades, consortium representatives determined the scope of collaboration desired, obtaining mutual agreements on governance, standard operating procedures, and equipment use. Once these parameters were established, work began on the foundation for what would be an integrated, interoperable network of networks to provide the infrastructure necessary for optimum communications and information sharing. A Raytheon team network operations center was established in Davenport to control and monitor the network 24/7. This important initiative allowed the integration of several new capabilities to the system, including:

  • Voice, video, and data operability among and between users;
  • Commander and first-responder connectivity through fixed and mobile broadband access;
  • Mobile enhanced situational awareness that works in fixed, nomadic, and mobile sites – first responders can now access streaming video (i.e., news coverage) – while en route to an emergency site; and
  • An Electronic Patient Tracking System (EPTS) designed to track and document patients through triage, treatment, and transportation to medical facilities. The system also: (a) supports notifications to the family members of those who may have been killed or injured in a crisis; and (b) tracks medical supplies, vehicles, and even prisoners when needed.

“Raytheon’s approach is to keep what you have and let us add to it more,” said Eddy Boggs, IT director for the City of Moline, Illinois. That approach, he continued, “is very appealing to the municipalities involved because most of them have a lot of money invested in most of their applications and don’t want to start fresh.” 

Sue Booth

Sue Booth is a freelance writer and communication strategist based in Boston, Massachusetts, who has covered various technologies and trends at the Raytheon Company since 2003. During that time she has contributed to both internal and external news vehicles, including the Raytheon Technology Today magazine, for the company, and has covered a wide range of subjects, including Raytheon Six Sigma™, and Engineering, Technology & Mission Assurance.

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