Isolated Systems (Video Included)

Part 3 of Walkie Choices for Local Authorities

As part of our ongoing series of blog and video series “’Walkie’ Choices for Local Authorities” TowerIQ is pleased to present the following overview of Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement System operational architectures. Isolated systems provided emergency responders with dedicated radio enchantment isolated to the building. Integrated systems enhance the typical coverage and operations an emergency responder would have outside the building. Both system types have significant benefits and costs, and we hope to help you understand the different choices available for your responders and provide the necessary information to help you make the best choice.


Isolated Operations

Isolated operations are, as the name implies, operationally isolated. These Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement Systems are designed to intentionally limit the radio coverage to the structure alone. At first blush, it may seem like a bizarre concept to limit your emergency response personnel’s radio coverage to a single structure, especially when they use those same two-way radios to cover your city, county, or even state. However, compare isolated systems to the firefighter phone systems of yesterday. Firefighter phone systems are also an isolated system, providing communications coverage exclusively to a single structure, the isolated two-way radio communications enhancement operates in a similar capability, except with wireless rather than wired communications.

For an Isolated System to operate, the system requires the following components:

  • Dedicated Radio Console – To control and monitor the health of the Isolated Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement System.

  • Radio Amplification Unit – A repeater or base station to provide the RF signal and logic that drives the Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement System.

  • Cabling and Antenna Plant – A series of coaxial cables, RF power dividers and antennas to installed to fire alarm standards to distribute signal throughout the building.

  • Fire Alarm System Integration – For both power and monitoring of the Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement System.

Typical Sequence of Operations

Most Isolated Systems require activation from the incident commander. When onsite, the incident commander will locate a Dedicated Radio Console and initiate system activation via a local elevator recall key switch. At this point the Isolated System is now energized and providing Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement on its programmed channels. As responders enter the building, they will select one of the programmed channels on their radio, confident they have complete coverage in the building.

Cost and Benefit Analysis of Isolated Operations

As with all operational choices, you will need to consider what is best for your team. TowerIQ is prepared to provide you with the major costs and benefits of utilizing an isolated system to help you make an informed decision.


No Contagion Effect

If a critical fault should occur in an isolated Two-Way Radio Emergency Communications System, the fault will not be repeated or rebroadcasted to the larger emergency responder network. Because each isolated system is functionally designed to be in quarantined to the structure it serves, only that structure will be affected, and the interference will not be re-transmitted to other structures or to the city, county, state, dispatch system.

Greater Operational Capacity

By keeping your Two-Way Radio Emergency Communications System operationally isolated, every installation provides additional communications capacity to your emergency responders. For example, suppose that emergency responders are responding to an in-building incident on the east side of town and a separate team of emergency responders are operating in a structure on the west side of town, with isolated systems, both responders will be able to operate simultaneously on the same channel while causing no interference or cross talk to one another’s operations. This is because the radio signal from the east side building, will not reach the west side building.

Cheaper Installation Costs

Isolated systems benefit from a dedicated and reliable source of RF signal, because the system in not “boosting” signal from a far-away transmission site. As a result, the designing engineer of the Two-Way Radio Communications Enhancement System has reliable and consistent signal to provide coverage to the facility. The reliable, consistent, and on-premise RF source enables a system design engineer to utilize less antennas, resulting in a lower material, installation and maintenance cost for your property owners while providing more reliable coverage for your responders.

Single Point of Responsibility

Isolated systems have a single point of responsibility for insuring continued functionality; the property owner. As the system is self-contained to the building, any outage of this critical life-safety system is the sole responsibility of the building owner. The isolated system will still have coverage when a large condominium is built across the street. Isolated systems clearly assign responsibility for upkeep and uptime, with very few excuses.


Isolated Communications

As the name implies, operationally, an isolated system is isolated. If your emergency responders are required to transit between locations, such as from the incident location to a local hospital, they will be required to switch operational channels as they migrate from the operational channel for the building and the channel for their dispatch. To maintain isolation, the two channels do not have interoperability. It is a huge operational cost.

TowerIQ's Recommendation

If your community is expected to have multiple in-structure incidents at any given time, we highly recommend the isolated system for your local Fire Fighters. Commonly referred to “fireground” channels, these channels parallel the operations of yesterday’s firefighter phones, enabling the incident commander to communicate to the emergency response personnel operating in the structure and take command of an incident revolving around that structure.

TowerIQ does not recommend that Police and Emergency Medical Technicians rely upon isolated systems. Police and EMTs are more likely to face “transitory” incidents, an incident that spans multiple structures throughout the service area covered by their wide area dispatch systems. However, the Integrated System type poses its own set of risks with high severity, requiring specific health monitoring requirements must be enforced.