MCP Insights

How to mitigate LMR tower site challenges to select the optimal location

Posted on November 16, 2022 by Alicia Trotman

A previous blog identified some of the most significant challenges that public-safety organizations face when trying to select a tower site that will deliver the largest signal coverage footprint. This blog offers suggestions regarding how to resolve the challenges.

The first and best suggestion is to do your homework — knowing always is better than guessing. Start by conducting a thorough needs assessment to fully understand the performance that the tower must deliver and the options for meeting this objective. After a preferred site is identified, first check whether existing zoning laws permit its construction, then check whether local ordinance permit the type being considered.

The next step is to conduct a thorough environmental assessment to determine whether the site is a brownfield location, and whether the site will run afoul — the pun is intended — of any wetlands or other natural habitats, as well as airport flight patterns and those of migratory birds. While an environmental assessment is conducted, a geotechnical study can be run in parallel to determine whether the site’s soil can support the type of tower that you want to build without a lot of additional cost. Finally, determine whether the site location complies with the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act and any similar state and local laws.

Some of these issues — e.g., the brownfield challenge — might be vexing enough to warrant an abandonment of the preferred site. But others can be mitigated and sometimes it’s easy to do. For example, any issues stemming from flight-path regulations — both the aviation and aviary kind — often can be resolved simply by painting and lighting the tower appropriately.

But sometimes mitigation is a lot more involved, which one of our clients discovered. To meet the fall-zone criteria for the location it selected, the tower would need to be placed in the middle of a retention pond. So, the Army Corps of Engineers had to get involved to ensure that there were no wetlands or other environmental issues. Then the pond had to be drained and refilled. Finally, the tower had to be built on a platform because the location was in a flood plain. All of this added considerable cost to the project.

Sometimes it’s just not feasible to abandon a preferred site because doing so would diminish radio system performance to such degree that emergency responders might have trouble doing their jobs effectively or would be placed at even greater risk. Moving ahead with the project then might require seeking a waiver from the county or municipal government, getting a judge to grant eminent domain, or gaining public buy-in. This in turn will require making your case at multiple hearings and/or town-hall meetings. The good news is that government officials, judges, and citizens — even the NIMBY (not in my backyard) variety — instinctively understand the vital importance of effective communications to optimal emergency response. So, getting buy-in is achievable — but the key is to attend hearings and meetings armed with quantifiable facts that leave no doubt as to why your preferred site is the only one that will deliver the sought-after performance.

MCP has more than 200 subject-matter experts who are eager to support you in these efforts and more — please reach out.

Alicia Trotman is an MCP technology specialist.

Email her at AliciaTrotman@MissionCriticalPartners.com.

Subscribe to Newsletter