Public Safety Grade

At the recent (2014 May 20-21) APCO Emerging Technology Forum in Toronto, Barry Luke from NPSTC (National Public Safety Telecommunications Council) mentioned the imminent release of a document defining “Public Safety Grade”.  This is a term that is been used frequently and has been for a long time but I’ve never seen any attempt to explain just what is meant by the phrase or define exactly what the public safety industry is looking for in terms of system performance.

Sure enough the report “Defining Public Safety Grade Systems and Facilities” was released on May 22 and is free to download as a pdf file. I’ve looked at it and here are my first impressions:

  1. It is a very good document and anyone in the business of procuring, supporting or selling systems for public safety should at the very least be aware that such a document now exists and can be referred to.
  2. A goal of this document is to make a clear distinction between commercial and public safety grade requirements.
  3. While the impetus for this report is to provide guidance to FirstNet in the implementation of Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) in the United States, much of its information should be applicable to any public safety system, in any country.
  4. While my first thought when I think public safety is radio communications, with parameters like coverage and availability, this report certainly goes well beyond those topics covering things such as Service Level Agreements, Applications, Site Hardening, Installations and Operations & Maintenance.
  5. A third of the document is dedicated to “Site Hardening” with considerable attention to security, antenna support structures and power systems.
  6. Most of the topics covered in this report include a description of the topic and a list of best practices.

At 115 pages this report is comprehensive . No doubt a textbook covering these topics in greater detail could run to a thousand pages, so this document probably won’t serve as a tutorial for the complete novice. However, for a person somewhat familiar with public safety and these technologies this report will serve as an excellent resource – as a reminder, a checklist, of the topics and requirements that must be covered in specifying all aspects of a communications system that is  intended to be “Public Safety Grade”.

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