The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is completing tests that would pave the way for first responders to use multi-band radios to communicate on various frequencies, the agency has announced.
The latest version of the multi-band radio has undergone four pilot tests to ultimately transition emergency responders to its use, according to the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), a coalition of groups that manage research within DHS.
The multi-band radio enables police officers, firefighters, and other emergency response and management personnel to use a single mobile radio to communicate with multiple agencies and jurisdictions operating on different radio bands. The multi-band radio can replace as many as five different radios at a cost comparable to one of the existing high-end portable radios.
"The final pilot in Chicago provides the opportunity to integrate all we have learned in previous tests and provide the updated multi-band radio to Chicago's finest for testing," said Tom Chirhart, program manager for S&T's multi-band radio program. "Pilot programs allow DHS to work closely with local responders to ensure the technologies align with their unique needs."
Previous pilots were conducted in Phoenix, New Orleans and the Miami-Dade area. Feedback and suggestions from users in the emergency management, first responder and critical infrastructure communities have been incorporated into radio specifications.
The initiative has sparked industry development of multi-band radio technology, which is now commercially available and being developed and marketed by three manufacturers. Other OEMs have committed to building multi-band devices, according to DHS.
"DHS is working to ensure that the best radio equipment is available to emergency responders at all levels," said Chirhart. "Having multi-band radios with various options and capabilities available to agencies will not only improve selection, but will increase competition and drive prices down over time."
The tests were conducted in partnership with the Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police, Cook County Sheriff, FEMA, MABAS (Illinois Fire Mutual Aid), and other agencies. The final pilot featured the Harris Corp.'s Unity XG-100P multi-band radio.