It is no secret that Federal Regulations surrounding Emergency Response Preparedness after such events like September 11th and the Fukushima disaster have increased considerably, placing even greater regulatory burden on critical infrastructure companies here and abroad. Though not directly dictating specific actions, and true to fashion, federal regulations are somewhat vague. But the intent is clear: be prepared with planning, technology and sufficient personnel resources to execute emergency operations in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Key to meeting these regulations is responding to and comprehending the implications of 49 CFR 192.615, which states:
“Notifying appropriate fire, police, and other public officials of gas pipeline emergencies and coordinating with them both planned responses and actual responses during an emergency.”
Gas and power utilities are required to create incident response plans, practice the execution of these plans and coordinate with local First Responders in actual emergency events. Communication and information availability is critical. In fact, in a recent IDL survey of emergency managers over 90% recognized that improved interoperability is a high priority need and requires increased attention and budget allocation. For one Gas & Power company on the west coast this meant focusing on emergency communications capabilities similar to those in use by public first responders and the military. While enormous efforts have been put forth to meet demands of handling the 10X increase of incoming calls during emergencies (brought on by the proliferation of cell phones), little attention has been paid to what was required if and when every means of communication were eliminated.
The west coast based utility covers a large geographic area and operates multiple command centers. Over 42K miles of natural gas pipeline arc across their region. Hydroelectric facilities add to the complicated response scenarios that this company must plan and execute. The company is at the forefront in Incident Response Planning and consistently invests in new response capabilities to assist local Public Safety. In particular, the company recently completed a comprehensive emergency plan for large-scale events and has conducted numerous “practice events” to ensure that operational excellence follows comprehensive planning.
The Gas & Power Company identified several challenges to comprehensively respond to multiple emergency scenarios:
- Real-time status reporting from remote locations within the pipeline infrastructure and relaying that information back to Command Centers while also being able to relay information directly to First Responders
- Devise a flexible communication strategy that expands and contracts within the requirements of the fluid situation, ensuring limited redundancy and conflict as installed infrastructure is brought back online
- In all situations use existing capabilities (e.g., same IP phones, same IT infrastructure) when possible
- Ensure maximum mobility of equipment and personnel to facilitate deployment in the most critical areas over time
- Use both the company’s common communication methods alongside public communications protocols to enhance interoperability among all emergency response teams
The Gas & Power Company chose a TRAILER COMMUNICATION PLATFORM and a FLY-AWAY SATELLITE COMMUNICATION KIT to meet their needs for Incident Response Communications.
The TRAILER COMMUNICATION PLATFORM provided a flexible operation platform for communicating with all emergency response agencies. Fire, Police and Ambulance Services, County and City government agencies and the Coast Guard were available via RF and VSAT modalities leveraging CISCO IP protocols. Delivering both Radio-over-IP (ROIP) and Voice-over-IP (VOIP) allowed commanders to seamlessly exchange multimedia information to both tactical teams and those in Command Centers. The Company chose the OSPREY™ from PEAKE. of Maryland to house the IP-based communications infrastructure.
- The OSPREY™ Communication Trailer by PEAKE provides the following capabilities to the Gas and Power Company:
- Essential on-scene communications featuring Cobham AVL one-push, auto-acquire VSAT antenna with Tactical-IP™ VSAT Bandwidth
- Cisco Integrated Services Router providing advanced IP-Networking
- On-board 7000 watt, 60hz generator, supporting Communication and Scene power requirements
- 30 gallon Fuel Tank offering approximately 36 hours of operation (load-dependent)
With a mid-term communications solution in hand, The Company next addressed those same needs at the most remote and least accessible branches of their operational region. ”First In” Teams would require a highly mobile yet firmly reliable communications system in the most severe topographies. A Flyaway configuration ensured both lower costs and maximum mobility in a small footprint. Still IP-based and providing flexible bandwidth for response scenarios, the Flyaway ensured remote personnel could reliably communicate with multiple agencies.
The TICS WARRIOR-S by PEAKE provides the following capability to the Gas and Power Company:
- Hand-Carry Communications directly to the Scene-of-Action
- Integrated iDirect Evolution X5 Series Satellite Modem
- Setup IP-Centric, Converged Voice, Video, and Data in minutes
- 8 Fast Ethernet Ports supporting computers and IP Phones (featuring 802.3af Power Over Ethernet)
- 4 Analog POTS Line (PSTN-FXS) inputs
- 4 FXO Telco outputs
Key Benefits Identified
As the company became more familiar with the technologies and used the equipment during planned and real situations, key benefits emerged.
- More data points in real time helped Incident Commanders make better decisions. In one example, a SCADA reading of malfunctioning equipment was discovered to not be critical in the emergency situation. Due to the proximity of the sensors along the shoreline it was faster to get to by boat with a truly portable communications system. Access with a Flyaway allowed commanders to correctly identify the reading as faulty and not a real gas emergency.
- The flexibility of mobile deployed communications allowed response teams to communicate from the field to the command center as well as communicate from the field to other field-deployed Public Safety, closing a critical interoperability gap that traditionally existed.
- The addition of integrated communication platforms provided redundancy to existing RF communication from Field Service vehicles. The trailers became a constantly moving way station for field personnel.
- Continuity of Operations: Responders carried their VoIP handsets to any of the integrated platforms, which remove the need for a changing contact list of phone numbers.
PEAKE has a proven record in Emergency Response communication with Public Safety, Government Agencies and advanced military tactical teams. PEAKE delivers cutting edge technologies in flexible, mobile platforms and in fixed central command center environments. From extensive knowledge in advanced communications to a design expertise of large command installations, PEAKE is the leader in configuring diverse emergency communication technologies in reliable, easy to use packages. Public Safety has long looked to PEAKE to build command trucks, flexible trailers and mobile flyaway platforms. Backed by years of professional consulting in Emergency Planning, PEAKE engineers know how to develop practical systems that work under the most demanding situations.