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Blog // Connect Michigan

VIDEO: Michigan Public Safety Communications System Site on Wheels

By Wil Payton

What do first responders need for communications in areas Site on Wheelswith poor coverage, or where a tower has been damaged during an emergency situation or a natural disaster? The Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS) has a solution. It’s called the Site on Wheels, or SOW.

Purchased in 2009 through grant funding, the site consists of two trailers. The main trailer has a majority of the end user equipment including a six channel trunked MPSCS site. Using point-to-point (PTP) microwave links, the SOW trunked site equipment can be linked back into the MPSCS and act as a fully functional wide area site.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications had funding states could qualify for to procure strategic technology reserves,” said Bradley Stoddard, Director, Michigan Public Safety Communications System. “Those reserves would provide for states and local communities to have these deployable reserves to stand up communications in a disaster not only in Michigan but in neighboring states as well.”

The main trailer also includes Mesh networking equipment. Mesh networks are wireless networks similar to Wi-Fi but are able to relay data between wireless devices to connect back to the network. If one device is out of range of the network equipment at the SOW and another device is within range, the device in range can relay data to the other out-of-range device.

The trailer also contains an MPSCS console site with a dispatch console that can be tied into the system. Once a connection is established between the system and SOW dispatch site, the console can be loaded with whichever talk groups are needed.

One of the primary goals in purchasing the SOW was to have equipment that allowed for flexibility to provide on scene communications in a variety of situations. These scenarios range from planned events to unplanned emergencies and from increased

MPSCS coverage to on-scene data hotspots.

“When we looked at this solution we not only considered disaster situations but also planned events where we could anticipate a large number of users and a large presence of public safety personnel that could utilize additional communications capabilities,” said Stoddard. “As we look at public safety broadband with LTE technology our thoughts are that we will be able to incorporate more advanced capabilities with these assets.”

The MPSCS is the largest system of its type in North America. With more than 244 towers, 62,000 radios, and covering an area of more than 59,415 square miles, the MPSCS provides interoperable voice and data communications for many of Michigan's first-responders and state government agencies. The MPSCS provides support for more than 1,200 local, state, and federal agencies.

The MPSCS leverages the technologies of broadband, mobile data, computer aided dispatch, automatic resource locator, and asset management hardware and software tools.

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