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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > SCIP Monthly Update December 2009

SCIP Monthly Update December 2009


December 16, 2009


State of Maine Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP)

OEC Offers Priority Telecommunications Services to Ensure Ongoing communications for disaster Response.

Uninterrupted communications is critical for first responders to effectively and efficiently respond to a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or other emergency event. However, the harsh reality is that a disaster, natural or otherwise, can trigger congestion on the public telephone network. This congestion forces fire and rescue workers, EMTs, police, and other emergency response personnel to compete with the public for the same congested landline and wireless resources. The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), part of the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, provides priority telecommunications services that enable emergency responders and other key emergency management personnel to have their critical communications get ‘priority’ treatment over calls from the general public during times when the public network is severely congested. The OEC priority service offerings include: Government Emergency TelecomŽmunications Service (GETS) and Wireless Priority Service (WPS). GETS is nationwide landline priority service that enables emergency responders to receive priority in the public network by having their calls queue—moving their emergency call to the first available free line. WPS is the OEC wireless companion to the GETS program and provides emergency responders with similar priority treatment when they experience high levels of congestion when dialing from their cell phones. The use of WPS and GETS assures to the greatest extent possible that emergency workers get connected and stay connected to one another.

For more information about the programs and services offered by the OEC, visit their web site at or call 1-866-NCS-CALL (866-627-2255).

COML Training

MEMA recently held a COML Unit Leader Type III Training (COML) Class in Saco. This class was offered through the Office of Emergency Communications Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program (OEC/ICTAP), the All-Hazards Type III Communications Unit Leader (COML) Class is available to provide DHS approved National Incident Management System (NIMS) compliant Communications Unit Leader (COML) instruction to ensure that every state/territory has trained personnel capable of coordinating on-scene emergency communications during a multi-jurisdictional response. Congratulations to the new 21 Communication Unit Leaders; well done, these dedicated professionals join the ranks of the previous 23 bringing the grand total of COML’s in the State to 44. Some of these professionals came from as far away as New Mexico and New Hampshire to attend this class. Again well done…Maine – Dirigo (I Lead).


Recently the MICC Committee voted to allocate funds to the Maine Courts to a project that is the Maine Information Community Safety Information System (MICSIS). This project is aligned from the State of Maine Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP) Strategic Initiative #1.

This Data Project has been in the works for over eight (8) years and was meant to address gaps in communication between the courts and the Law Enforcement Community with data sharing. A few aspects of this project will help the Courts with arrest warrants; protection orders, and streamline electronic complaints which can be filed by the District Attorney’s Office(s). This project will be finalized within 18 months, with different steps being taken along the way for entities participation, discrete servers that will exchange information, and NCIS/Officer Safety involved. The data broker projects future vision is that entities sharing data will create a tremendous data base for all the entities involved for information sharing. Examples of entities that can utilize this system are: Courts, Maine State Police, Forestry, Fish and Game, Probation and Parole, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation, Emergency Medical Services, County Sheriff’s Offices, local Law Enforcement, and unlimited entities that can utilize this system. Almost any entity will be able to access this but they would have to work with their vendor to develop the interface.

The Maine State Police, after funding was dispersed from MEMA to this project basically turned the project over to the Courts; Doug Birgfield is the lead in collaborating and maintaining the projects status. Along with Hawaii, Maine continues to push this visionary project through. Other States are watching intently on the outcome of this project and they will follow suit. This project should be fully operational by June 7, 2010.


SUBJECT: Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grant Program Period of Performance Extension

This Information Bulletin (IB) announces that President Obama has signed into law a statute that extends the period of performance for the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant Program, which is jointly administered by the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It is important to note that this statute does not result in any new or additional funding for PSIC Investments and associated projects. P. L.111-96 was signed into law on November 6, 2009, and provides additional time for funding previously made available to administer the PSIC Grant Program to remain available. Specifically, the new statute provides all PSIC grantees a one year period of performance extension to complete approved PSIC Investment(s) no later than September 30, 2011.


Break-in at Ossipee Mountain Radio Tower Site

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

WATERBORO -- The State of Maine’s Radio Operations Division received word from a local fireman early Sunday morning November 1st that the radio building on Ossipee Mountain in Waterboro had been vandalized. State officials said that such a break-in will be more difficult in the future because of security updates being made to the State’s radio network facilities.

According to an internal OIT report, a State Trooper visited the site and discovered that the door had been kicked in and the battery charger was torn out. In addition other cables and wires were also damaged. According to the report it appears that a shotgun was used to gain entry. The radio transmission equipment was not damaged. “The State’s existing radio towers and facilities were built to security standards that are less stringent than what is now required said Shawn Romanoski, Director of Radio Services for the State. “We are bringing them up to date” he said. “Maine’s radio towers are usually on remote mountaintops, and our legacy facilities are subjected to periodic vandalism” The Maine State Communications Network project (MSCommNet) is working to improve the security of the entire radio network according to Romanoski. MSCommNet falls under the Office of Information Technology’s (OIT’s) Radio Services which is part of Network and Communication Services.

Romanoski said “When the new system is complete in the fall of 2012, the equipment shelters and security fencing will be more resistive to vandalism. The new buildings will feature steel-framed vandal-resistant doors, fencing with top strands of barbed wire, and door alarms that will instantly notify Radio Services of intrusions via a real-time network monitoring system. Some sites are under consideration for installation of monitored security cameras.”

The State’s Radio Services division maintains radio facilities and infrastructure for all State agencies. “Departmental radio systems were consolidated by OIT in 2005 in part because radio and computer technologies are merging” said Romanoski. “The national trend is for state Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to assume responsibility for managing law enforcement, public safety and public service radio networks.”

About the MSCommNet Project: The State of Maine is four years into a process to develop and commission a unified state land mobile radio network for state law enforcement, public safety, and public service agencies. The MSCommNet system is being designed to accommodate continued interoperability with other public partners. The new system will utilize significant portions of the State's existing communications infrastructure with a modern technical foundation that addresses current and future technical needs, regulatory compliance, and business requirements. System security will be substantially improved. MSCommNet is online at Contact Tom Driscoll at:


NPSTC's Home Page features a digital clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until mandatory narrowbanding begins. In 3 short years, all public safety radio systems operating at frequencies below 512 MHz 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 of the spectrum 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 frequency changes affect your coverage area to compensate for the narrower bandwidth.

  5. Determine if pagers will require replacement or reprogramming.

  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).

Interoperable Communications Policy Forum

The Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) is pleased to once again support the Interoperable Communications Policy Forum sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo). This forum, supported by a grant from OEC, is scheduled for February 25 and 26, 2010 and will focus on communications interoperability policy issues. NACo is now accepting applications from county and municipal teams through January 8th for this forum. Please help us spread the word about this opportunity by forwarding the following announcement to the appropriate points-of-contacts in the counties and cities in your State or territory. County and city officials, both in elected and management positions are invited to apply to attend the next Interoperable Communications Policy Forum as a team. Professionals from various disciplines, along with an elected official who serves in a governing capacity, such as county commissioner or city councilmember, are welcome to apply to attend the Forum.

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.

This is an excellent opportunity to build awareness with elected officials and others in your community on communications interoperability policy issues. Most costs are covered. Please see the website for details about eligibility, covered costs, and selection criteria.

If there are any questions not answered on the website, please contact Rocky Lopes, Program Director, Community Services National Association of Counties, phone (202) 661-8841, e-mail


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Steve Mallory


Last update: 07/20/10