An initial study sponsored by the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) and North Dakota Public Safety Organizations conducted interviews and collected surveyed feedback at multiple levels regarding user understanding of the current systems. Additionally, the study team collected data and conducted analysis of known systems and radio coverage to determine current functionality. The team compared current functionality with a study-recommended approach to identify potential gaps that could be addressed by newer systems. Finally, the study team assessed currently available technologies, provided an initial budget rough order of magnitude estimate for cost based on analyzed data, and recommended Key Deliverable improvements and process changes to public safety radio system owners in the State of North Dakota.
Statewide wireless communications systems consist of the LMR “ecosystem” within the State of North Dakota. The ecosystem operates across over 130 law enforcement agencies, 175 public and private EMS departments, 22 dispatch centers, and nearly 400 fire departments, operational across 53 counties, tribal nations, and the State. Land mobile radio systems in the State of North Dakota are comprised of disparate statewide, regional and local two-way voice and paging systems with varying levels of performance and sophistication. Most counties in the State operate an independent, or local dispatch facility and communications system, or have partnered with one or more neighboring counties to form consolidated systems. Populous counties or jurisdictions such as Burleigh, Grand Forks and the City of Fargo each maintain independent simulcast radio systems utilizing several sites to provide the requisite hand held or portable coverage to their end users. A number of the less populous rural counties employ the State Radio network for all their primary mission critical communication needs including 911call taking and processing, first responder dispatching and radio communications. Most counties additionally operate various small, local area communications networks to provide two-way voice services to secondary agencies such as highway departments, public works and schools. While dispatch services statewide are being delivered by 22 public safety answering points (PSAPs), the communications needs of first and second responder agencies in the State are delivered by dozens of county and regional radio networks and the State Radio system.
A 2014 exploratory study of public safety radio communications in North Dakota described a collection of networks lacking local and cross-jurisdictional interoperability (city, county, tribal, state). The report asserted that the current infrastructure possesses potentially significant gaps, limiting the ability of public safety field and dispatch personnel to operate transparently across jurisdictions and public safety communities. Equipment was described as lacking operational suitability based on an analytical assessment of readily available data. As a result, the study developer recommended the State conduct a comprehensive update of systems based on an integrated, interoperable trunked Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Project 25 standard (P25) system. The study also recommended implementation of a consistently applied governance model to ensure improved training and operations.
Understanding SIRN 20/20
Statewide - strategic planning and implementation among all emergency responders and designated public-service organizations that serve the residents of the State (Establishing Governance to Achieve Statewide Communications Interoperability, Dec 2008, Guide for Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan, DHS)
Interoperability - ability of public safety and support providers – law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, emergency management, the public utilities, transportation, and others – to communicate with other responding agencies, to exchange voice and/or data communications on demand and in real-time (AGILE, March 2003, Guide to Radio Communications Interoperability Strategies, NLECTC-NE)
When SIEC representatives talk about "interoperability" in the context of this study, we're referring to
- Day-to-day interoperability – routine public safety operations
- Mutual aid interoperability – joint and immediate response to accidents, incidents and natural disasters
- Task force interoperability – Agencies collaborating for an extended period of time to address a particular problem
2012 - Current SIEC is formed by the Governor
2013 - 63rd North Dakota Legislative Assembly codifies the SIEC into law
2014 - Exploratory study to clarify the issue of land mobile radio interoperability
2015 - 64th Assembly directs ITD in collaboration with the SIEC to conduct a Feasibility Study
2016 - SIEC conducting a study to determine the feasibility and desirability of interoperable radio across North Dakota
2017 - 65th Assembly passes House Bill 1178 authorizing execution of the SIRN 20/20 program and the program is initiated