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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > SCIP Monthly Update February 2010

SCIP Monthly Update February 2010


February 22, 2010


State of Maine Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP)

OEC Trains more than 1,600 First Responders in Effort to Improve Multi-Jurisdictional Emergency Response Coordination

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Department of Homeland Security‟s (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) announced today that more than 1,600 first responders have successfully completed the All-Hazards Type III Communications Unit Leader (COML) training course, a program designed to improve multi-jurisdictional coordination among first responders for events ranging from the presidential inauguration to natural disasters. “When it comes to improving emergency communications, training is crucial,” says Chris Essid, Director of OEC. “Better technology is one part of the solution, but COML training provides first responders with the other part of the solution, by focusing on planning, preparation, and leadership skills.” The emergency response community identified the need for COML training and, with DHS support, helped to create this formal training program by building on the successful wildfire scenario model. As part of the National Emergency Communications Plan, OEC offered 66 COML training courses nationwide to help public safety professionals more effectively lead and coordinate communications during emergencies and large-scale events. Multi-jurisdictional events around the nation have demonstrated the benefits of consistent planning, training, and operating procedures for emergency responders at all levels of government. Captain Al Ruiz of the Los Angeles Fire Department was a participant in the development of the COML course and has since led several training sessions. When serious brush fires broke out in Los Angeles soon after Ruiz‟s first COML course, he quickly recognized fellow COML graduates from other departments contributing to the response efforts. “It was great to see them,” says Ruiz. “But even better, was to see how they were able to help right away.” According to Ruiz, COML training has helped jurisdictions standardize their planning for such incidents so that all responders are working off the same plan of action.

COML training will continue through state-sponsored courses. With the assistance of first responders, OEC developed a COML “Train-the-Trainer” course in 2009, and prepared an additional 62 instructors to lead courses throughout the country. States can formally request COML training through OEC's Technical Assistance program or they can organize a class by contacting OEC for a list of approved instructors.

For more information on COML training, please contact or visit


             DAYS    HRS
             1046    14
            ARE YOU READY!

NPSTC's Home Page features a digital clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until mandatory narrowbanding begins. In 3 short years, radio systems operating in VHF and UHF spectrum will be required to narrowband, i.e. begin operating in 12.5 kHz channel bandwidths instead of the current 25 kHz channel bandwidths in use today or meet the efficiency standard of two talk paths in 25 kHz. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that narrowbanding be complete by January 1, 2013. What does this mean to you? It means that many existing systems operating in these bands will need to be modified or replaced.
But, the clock may be ticking even more quickly than you think. By January 1, 2011- a little over a year away- the FCC will no longer accept new or modified applications that exceed the narrowbanding guidelines, which means that a modification to expand the interference contour of an existing station will not be accepted. It means that the manufacture or importation of equipment will be limited to 12.5 kHz technology. So if an agency's 25 kHz bandwidth-only equipment is damaged or lost, replacement equipment may not be readily available after January 1, 2011. Another thing to consider is the fact that it is not unusual for public safety agencies to expand or change the geographic areas for which they are responsible, but these changes would not be permitted by 2011 for systems that operate exclusively at 25 kHz, unless they meet the efficiency standard, e.g. utilize two or four slot TDMA.

And wait, there's more. Although a deadline for the second phase of narrowbanding, conversion to 6.25 kHz channel efficiency, has not been specified by the FCC for VHF/UHF licenses, a deadline has been established which requires 700 MHz channels to operate at 6.25 kHz efficiency by January 1, 2017.

Take a Narrowbanding Quiz: True or False

  1. Narrowbanding requires licensees to implement digital technology. False. There is no digital requirement.

  2. Licensees will end up with twice as many channels. False.

  3. Hundreds of new channels will be available in 2013. False.

  4. Failure to narrowband will result in secondary status. False. Failure to narrowband will be illegal and stations will have to go off the air.

  5. Interference may occur to existing systems. True. Wideband operations may experience interference from new narrowband stations

  6. Interoperability may be negatively impacted. True. Until all entities transition to narrowband, some may operate on interoperability channels with wideband equipment while others are at narrowband. Distortion or volume discrepancies may occur.

There Are Good Reasons for Narrowbanding

The FCC made the decision to narrowband this part of the spectrum to promote more efficient use of the highly congested VHF and UHF land mobile bands. There is often not enough spectrums available for licensees to expand their existing systems or implement new systems. The FCC expects that as licensees convert to equipment that operates on the narrower channel bandwidths, new channels will become available, and that the narrowband conversion will encourage the development and use of new more spectrum-efficient technologies.

There are several other misconceptions in the public safety community in addition to the ones noted in the True or False Quiz. Narrowbanding is not required in 800 MHz; it only applies to spectrum below 512 MHz (low band, 30-50 MHz and 220 MHz are not included). Another rumor is that the FCC will allow continued operation at 25.0 kHz after January 1, 2013, by waiver or extend the deadline as they did for the Digital Television transition. "This is extremely unlikely," says Ralph Haller, NPSTC's Chair. "The FCC has taken a hard line policy on narrowbanding."

What You Need to Do Now

Start planning now especially in the context of your agency's budget cycle. Narrowbanding is the next serious challenge to interoperability, and the deadline looms, we need to educate our constituents and their governing bodies who will be asked to pay for the cost of narrowbanding."

What Else Should You Do?

  1. Inventory equipment subject to narrowbanding. Most equipment manufactured since 1997 has a narrowband mode so narrowbanding may be no more than a programming issue.

  2. Get a funding cycle approved.

  3. Establish a schedule to meet the 2013 date. "Develop a wideband-to-narrowband conversion plan that reflects well-coordinated logistical and implementation strategies needed to accommodate the replacement and installation of any new narrowband-capable off-site base or repeater station radio(s) needed in advance," says Nick Ruark, General Manager, Quality Mobile Communications, LLC. "The plan should include reprogramming all radios in a system as close to simultaneously as possible to assure minimal disruption to ongoing radio communications operations. Work closely with a professional two-way radio service vendor during the development of any system conversion plan to insure there are no surprises during the actual narrowbanding cutover."

  4. Determine if additional sites will be needed to compensate for the narrower bandwidth.

  5. Determine if pagers will require replacement.

  6. Ruark suggests that agencies schedule and coordinate with their radio service vendor, as soon as possible, ascertaining the dates and times for the actual system conversion (or cutover), and making certain that all radio users have been advised in advance and are aware of the process. Also make sure that all handheld and mobile radios are readily available for reprogramming at pre-scheduled times.

  7. Modify existing licenses for narrowband, including new sites, if needed, working closely with frequency coordinators.

  8. Notify the FCC of conversion through license modification to remove wideband emission designator(s) after full narrowband conversion.

For More Information: The January 2010 Public Safety Communications magazine included a very detailed assessment of Narrowbanding. The article included a list of narrowband compliant products on the market today. This would be a very good article to share with all of YOUR first responders, public works depts., Communications Center, etc.!/


“Y2Thirteen” (2013): How the FCC’s Next Big Deadline May Affect You and Your VHF Public Safety Radio Communications

By Tom Driscoll, OIT Radio Project Office, MSCommNet Outreach Coordinator

The clock is ticking for Maine to comply with a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate involving most public safety radios throughout the State.

“Whether it is your handheld radio attached to your belt, the mobile radio in your vehicle, or the dispatch console back at headquarters you’re going to be affected. Narrowbanding is the Y2K problem in radio land,” said Major Ray Bessette of the Maine State Police.

The Federal mandate which takes effect on January 1, 2013 is similar to the mandate for changing televisions from analog to digital which went into effect in 2009.

Narrowbanding – which makes radio frequency spectrum more efficient – will help meet the demand for more VHF (very high frequency) channels created by the dramatic increase in wireless communications usage over the last 25 years.

Most public safety radio systems use 25 kHz wide channels. The FCC has mandated that all non-Federal public safety licensees using 25 kHz radio systems make the switch to 12.5 kHz channels by the deadline. Those who have not taken action need to immediately start planning to migrate to narrowband frequencies by assessing their current radio equipment and applying for new or modified licenses.

Maine State Government is actively taking steps to be compliance with the FCC mandate through the consolidation of its legacy, independent department radio networks and the creation of a new modernized State system. The Office of Information Technology (OIT) has assigned a dedicated group to drive and manage the state’s radio transition called MSCommNet (Maine State Communications Network). MSCommNet is tasked with having the system fully operational in time to comply with the FCC narrowbanding mandate.

Bessette says, “That if someone has to go first, it should be the State, since so many smaller local and regional organizations must be interoperable with State radio communications systems.” The State has its own technical support provided by the Office of Information Technology (OIT). “OIT should provide guidance and establish standards,” he said. “The Maine State Police need to concentrate on what they do best – providing public safety services. OIT’s radio technology group needs to concentrate on what they do best – providing technical solutions in support of their public safety and public service customers.”

“Everyone will gain from this in the long run,” he said.

“It’s not to say that this project will be without its challenges; nothing of this scale or magnitude wouldn’t be. However this is an inevitable change that we must partake. There will certainly be some growing pains in the beginning, but through patience, open communication, and an understanding of why we have been compelled to move in the first place, we will not only persevere – we will thrive,” said Bessette. The MSCommNet project is OIT’s solution to facilitate this change for the State Government.

Richard Thompson, the State’s Chief Information Officer is responsible for the overall success of the State’s effort to meet this new FCC mandate on January 1, 2013. The MSCommNet project team is working to meet this deadline while consolidating the State’s radio network into a new modernized system.

“The State, through OIT, has the planning and technical capability to meet this FCC mandate, while some smaller communities rely solely on vendors who may not be able to provide strategic direction,” said Bessette. “While the vendors are technically competent, they cannot guess where the state – a primary partner – is headed with their technical solution to this FCC mandate and other technological trends. The State has the responsibility to provide direction” said Bessette. “Now that the State has chosen a strategy, their vendors will have more definitive information to assist in supporting their clients.”

Federal Government public safety organizations such as the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have an active, vested interest in facilitating interoperability between all levels of government. The Federal government is interested in communications that can scale up to support the response and recovery efforts on a September 11th or Hurricane Katrina scale. Maine’s State government officials and representatives are vigorously working on and committed to improving interoperability with regional and local partners. “We must all be in alignment to meet any future contingency,” said Ginnie Ricker of the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

For more on the MSCommNet project, see

More Narrowbanding Information…

Radio licensees are required to convert their current wideband voice or data radio systems to narrowband operation no later than January 1, 2013.

All FCC Part 90 VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-512 MHz) Private Land Mobile Radio licensees are required to convert their current wideband voice or data radio systems to narrowband operation no later than January 1, 2013.

Typical Part 90 VHF & UHF radio system licensees would include:

  • Many Small & Large Private Business Enterprises
  • Industrial Plants, Manufacturing & Warehousing Facilities
  • Electric, Gas, Energy & Water/Wastewater Utilities
  • Mining & Natural Resource Exploration Companies
  • Transportation, Railroad, Subway, Taxi, Bus & Delivery
  • Airport Tarmacs, Facilities & Security Operations
  • Marine Terminals, Ports, Shipping & Logistic Operations
  • Automobile Towing & Heavy Recovery Companies
  • Garbage, Refuese, Recycling & Disposal Services
  • Farming, Ranching, Agricultural & Nursery Services
  • Construction & On-Site Facilities Maintenance Services
  • School Districts, Universities & Colleges
  • Convention Centers, Hotels & Hospitality Services
  • Coliseums, Arenas & Sports Stadiums
  • Hospitals, Ambulance & EMS Providers
  • Local Municipal Government & Public Works Agencies
  • Public Safety, Disaster Response & Emergency Management Agencies
  • City, County & State Government Agencies
  • Wireless Data, SCADA, Telemetry & Private Radio Paging Networks

What do MSCommNet, Narrowband, and Ham Radio have in common?

These are just three of the many workshops that are scheduled for the: 2nd Annual Maine Partners in Emergency Preparedness Conference

The conference will be held on April 29 & 30 at the Augusta Civic Center. For more information or to register access

Interoperable Communications Policy Forum

February 25th and 26th the State of Maine will be sending two teams to an Interoperable Communications Policy Forum which is being sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo) in Mobile, Alabama. This forum, supported by a grant from OEC, will focus on communications interoperability policy issues. This two-day event will help county and municipal officials address important questions and learn how to advocate for and implement actions related to governance, procedures, technology, training and exercises, and usage of voice and data equipment in a seamless manner in real-time. This is not a technical training seminar; rather, the Forum will focus on policy-level issues and concerns. I would like to thank the members of the two teams for their commitment and involvement in this excellent opportunity to build awareness with elected officials and others in your community on communications interoperability policy issues.

SOP Project

MEMA’s SOP All Hazard’s Communication Plan for the Counties continues to move forward. 5 County plans have been completed and accepted, 2 are in Draft status, and I have 8 confirmed County workshops planned in the next few weeks. I still am still waiting on notification and/or confirmation from one other County. Please get back to me as soon as possible to set up these meetings. I encourage all EMA Directors to review the attachment that I sent out with the possible dates to understand the importance of completing these workshops. These workshops should be attended by key stakeholders within their Counties. If you have any questions please contact me.

Have you received your copy of Maine’s Communication Unit Leader and Resource Package DVD? MEMA developed this COML DVD as a tool to better educate communication professionals. If you would like to have a copy, please contact me…

Contribute to the SCIP Newsletter?

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innovative practices in your respective counties
and/or areas, please contact



Steven Mallory


Last update: 07/20/10