The ACU technology, which provides these agencies with a means to use their existing equipment to establish communication links, has recently been designated as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology under the Department of Homeland Security’s SAFETY Act specifically for deterring acts of terrorism. The technology will also be deployed to provide communications support at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.
The week-long convention brought an average of 50,000 attendees per day at the Pepsi Center and approximately 80,000 attendees when Senator Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. In addition, thousands of onlookers, support personnel and media outlets arrived on scene.
The last problem any public safety communications team leader needs when such large crowds merge into one area is inadequate communications. Considering the masses of people, several various public safety agencies attended to provide the necessary support. However often times, when many of agencies arrive, they are not able to patch together their disparate communications systems operating on different frequencies. To avoid this happening at the DNC, the CO NGCE intricately coordinated communications and started planning several months prior to the event.
The ACU technology was a fundamental part in the communications planning among the interagency communications teams and control centers. The CO NGCE used ACU-1000s to ensure reliable communication and the Denver Fire Department and the Colorado, Utah and Wyoming Civil Defense Teams also depended on the ACU technology during the DNC.
“The use of the ACU technology was invaluable in terms of interagency communication responsibilities,” CMSgt Robert M. Quinn of the Colorado National Guard Communications Element.
The ACU-1000 accepts up to 12 different incompatible radios, push-to-talk over cellular phones and telephone handsets then routes audio between them.
The CO NGCE had used ACU technology during previous deployments to Gulfport, Mississippi for emergency response following Hurricane Katrina in 2005; in Windsor, Colorado for relief and security response in 2008; and has participated in several multi-day exercises since 2004.
“Although we have provided cross banding and interoperability for multiple military, federal, state and local law enforcement, and relief agencies, the DNC was by far the most complicated deployment of our radio package and the ACU-1000,” said CMSgt Quinn.
The CO NGCE started training for the DNC in January 2008.
“The DNC did not present any significant incidents; however, our group was well trained and highly prepared to provide multiple communications paths using the ACUs if a situation was presented,” he added.
During training, the CO NGCE held weekly conference calls beginning in March 2008 with the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, the Denver Fire Department as well as multiple communications personnel assigned to the 169th Fire Brigade, 540 Network Support Company and the C2 functional representatives from the Colorado CERF, Nebraska CERF, Georgia CERF and the Colorado National Guard Joint Operations Center.
Two of the three ACU-1000 units were part of JISCC Terminals.
“The ACU-1000 has been the standard with the JISCC Terminals since August 2004,” added CMSgt Quinn. “Colorado received its first ACU-1000 in September 2004 with JISCC Terminal 16 and its second ACU-1000 with JISCC Terminal 66 in February 2008.”
Both ACU-1000s assigned to JISCC Terminals 16 and 66 were installed in a modular rack within a mobile case and placed in Drash tents near the stadiums. One was placed at Invesco field, the other at Pepsi Center. From these locations, UHF and VHF radios were connected to the ACU-1000, as well as a VHF Quantar base station repeater and two SINCGARS radios.
JPS’ Wide Area Interoperability System (WAIS) software was also used during the event to tie together the two JISCC terminals. Using WAIS, interoperability can be expanded locally, regionally or in systems that span entire states, allowing National Guard units throughout the country to remain connected.
JPS provided the third ACU-1000 specifically for the event. This ACU was installed in a mobile modular rack with radios from the 140th Communications Flight. The unit was used in the Colorado National Guard Joint Operations Center (JOC) for response during the event.
“The cross banding possibilities as well as the IP connectivity between the two JISCC terminals gave us a wide range of cross banding capabilities between our JOC, the two CERFs, federal agencies and state and local law enforcement,” added CMSgt Quinn.
Roman Kaluta, Customer Advocate – Public Safety Liaison for JPS Interoperability Solutions, was on-hand during the event to provide training and other support if a need arose. Lee Martin, Director of DoD/Federal Sales for JPS, worked with the CO NGE on determining their specific requirements for the loaner ACU-1000 that was sent out for support.
“Roman provided us with the best training we’ve had since we received the ACU devices from the National Guard Bureau with both Terminal 16 and 66,” CMSgt Quinn said. “Lee was very informative while helping us through the deployment of the loaner ACU-1000. His initial response was extremely helpful and we could not have easily met the requirements of the DNC Task Force Commander or the Colorado JFHQ J6 without his help.”
“We would certainly like to see the Colorado Joint Operations Center obtain another ACU interoperability product in the future,” CMSgt Quinn added. “Continuity and standardization of interoperability equipment is very important when we are asked to train personnel.”