11.09.2017Enterprise Tech

First responders in VA see the present and future of public safety support

By: John O’Malley
From redundant systems and back-up power to mobile network assets and virtual command centers, Verizon has public safety’s back during major events
Dunne Buggy

Not your father's dune buggy. This off-road vehicle goes into emergency areas to deploy satellite communications, drones, and other emergency response technologies

Public safely officials from across the State of Virginia have been seeing and learning firsthand how Verizon prepares its network to stand up to major weather emergencies and other events – and how the company continues to support their emergency response efforts with new technologies – at a series of briefings at Verizon network facilities.

On November 1st in Richmond, representatives from the VA State Police, VA Office of Emergency Management, the City of Richmond, and other local police, fire and EMS agencies heard from Verizon’s chief innovation architect Jeffrey Schweitzer who described how emerging technologies can be deployed and scaled to advance the emergency response capabilities of agencies and jurisdictions of all sizes.

“Working with our ecosystem of technology partners, we’re rethinking and repurposing what we do today to help you respond better tomorrow,” he said.

Russ Preite

Verizon Southeast Market President Russ Preite talks about Verizon's support of public safety

Schweitzer stressed how first responders need access to communications that are both resilient and secure, and how evolving technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based technologies will continue to grow in importance for public safety. He used Operation Convergent Response – a large-scale disaster response exercise conducted in June in Perry, GA – as a showcase of some of the technologies currently available.

He also explained how virtual reality and 4-D visualization can give public safety the ability to create a “virtual incident command center” that allows multiple agencies to coordinate emergency response efforts in real time, even if they can’t physically be in the same location.

“This isn’t fantasy,” he said. “It’s real. We continue to challenge conventional thinking and are on the cusp of some very cool things for public safety.”

Verizon solutions architect John Wasilewski discussed the company’s continued commitment to public safety, and our plans to continue to enhance our network and to provide innovative solutions for first responders.

“Having access to a reliable network, and having coverage where and when you need it, are the most important thing for public safety communications,” he said.

Wasilewski highlighted the $125 billion in network investments Verizon has made since 2000, including efforts to ensure our network is up to public safety standards, citing how 98 percent of our Houston-area network remained in service during Hurricane Harvey and 92 percent of our Florida network was operational during Hurricane Irma.

He also discussed Verizon’s plan to build a dedicated public safety network core and to provide priority services and preemption when necessary, stressing the importance of public safety network interoperability to first responders nationwide.

“Public safety needs access to the best network all the time,” he said. “That happens through interoperability.”

Satellite Picocell

The satellite picocell on trailer (SPOT) can set up a satellite communications link quickly to connect first responders in an emergency area

Steve Moses from Kodiak, Verizon’s partner for our Push-to-Talk Plus service, also talked about the importance of interoperability as it relates to Push-to-Talk Plus and its interoperability with land mobile radio (LMR) systems.

Steve explained how Verizon and Kodiak are always collaborating and testing systems to ensure Push-to-Talk Plus continues to meet the needs of public safety.

Verizon’s director of network assurance, Tim Dykstra, rounded out the meeting with a discussion of the company’s coverage and network build-out plans in Virginia; its ongoing investments in added capacity, reliability and new technologies; and its support of recent major events including Hurricane Matthew, flooding in West Virginia, and Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in Florida.

Dykstra explained how every Verizon cell site has either back-up battery power or a generator onsite (many have both) and ran down a list of the varied deployable assets the company has at the ready to enhance the network during a major event, including mobile cell sites and generators, repeaters, and satellite communications.

He also assured the audience that Verizon continues to invest in its network in Virginia and across the country, providing coverage and capacity first responders can rely on.

“We’re not stopping. We don’t plan on letting anybody catch up.”

The guests were then given a behind-the-scenes look at Verizon’s switching center – the nerve center of its local network – including the redundant systems and massive battery rooms and generators in place to ensure the local network stays up and running even in the event of commercial power loss. They then got a chance to see some of our mobile network assets up close, along with a new off-road ATV, specially built to deploy satellite communications, drones, and other emergency response technologies in disaster areas.

Verizon continues to support public safety and to advocate for interoperability, innovation and choice. Want to learn more about public safety events like this one? Contact your local Verizon business sales representative.

For related media inquiries, please contact story.inquiry@one.verizon.com

About the author(s): 

John O’Malley is an external communications manager at Verizon writing about enterprise solutions and public safety.