MCP Insights

How Public Safety Agencies are Navigating Change and Accelerating Progress

Posted on August 8, 2019 by Morgan Sava

MCP’s Model for Advancing Public Safety is Helping Agencies Build a Blueprint for Today and What They Can Become

Last year, the 911 Center that serves Harford County, Maryland, was having a hard time recruiting and retaining telecommunicators, a problem that is quite common in emergency communications centers (ECCs) across the country.

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APCO Preview: This Year's Hot Topic Will Be the Growing Cybersecurity Threat

Posted on July 31, 2019 by Glenn Bischoff

During the decade that I covered the public safety communications sector for Urgent Communications magazine, I always looked forward to the national trade shows and conferences, such as the one that the Association of Public-Safety Officials (APCO) will host in Baltimore in a couple of weeks. In fact, I and my colleague Donny Jackson spent most of our time in the educational sessions because we felt that was the best place to learn where the sector was heading. As important, those sessions are where one learns about the sector’s biggest challenges and their potential solutions.

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This Weekend's GPS Rollover Event Requires Public Safety Communication's Attention

Posted on April 5, 2019 by Dennis Matzen

Global Positioning System (GPS)-based time sources are used throughout the public safety sector to synchronize a wide array of systems and equipment, including radio consoles, voice recorders, and computer-aided dispatch, fire alarm and video surveillance systems. Such time sources, known as master clocks, also ensure that every system used by a public safety agency generates an accurate, consistent timestamp for every emergency event that requires a law enforcement, fire/rescue and/or emergency medical services (EMS) response.

An event that will occur in two days—Saturday, April 6—threatens to throw things out of sync, at least to some degree. GPS marks time by transmitting signals that indicate the current week and the number of seconds into that week. That data is then converted by the various systems and equipment into the more recognizable format of year, month, day and time of day.

Because the field that represents the current week is a 10-bit binary number, a total of 1,024 weeks can transpire—roughly 19.7 years—before GPS resets the week value to zero. In the world of GPS, this time period is known as an epoch. The first epoch began on January 6, 1980 and rolled over on August 21, 1999; the second epoch will roll over in two days.

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If you’re operating an IP-based 911 network, plan to be attacked

Posted on April 24, 2018 by Mark Perkins

From coast to coast, public safety agencies are implementing Emergency Services Internet Protocol (IP) Networks (ESInets) to provide Next Generation 911 (NG911) services. Such broadband-enabled networks promise to greatly enhance emergency response, as they will enable bandwidth-intensive files, such as streaming video, to be received by NG911-capable public safety answering points (PSAPs) and then shared with first responders in the field, bringing situational awareness to new, lofty levels.

At the same time, ESInets will enable PSAPs to share data with each other seamlessly and in real time, and will enable them to serve as backups to each other in the event that one or more PSAPs in a region are rendered inoperable, inaccessible or uninhabitable due to a disaster.

More than 180 PSAP cyber attacks in the last two years

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that municipal communications systems, especially 911 systems, are viewed in the black-hat hacker community as a very large notch in the belt, so they increasingly are being targeted. More than 180 cyber attacks on PSAP infrastructure have been recorded in the last two years alone. A huge factor is that IP networks are far more vulnerable to cyber attack than the closed networks provided by telecommunications carriers that carried 911 calls to PSAPs for most of the last half century. (Learn more about this and how 911 network management is changing in our upcoming webinar on 4/26.)

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