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PACE planning prepares first responders for effective communication

Aaron Maben

Incident response needs include multiple layers of backup connectivity 

The continued digital transformation among first responder organizations is presenting new networking challenges that restrict agencies’ ability to communicate and leverage important technologies at critical times.

Regardless of the politics and opinions involved, this type of situation underscores the importance of proper planning for incident response — specifically, PACE (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency) planning. As a former special operator and tactical communicator, I was introduced to, trained in, and implemented PACE into all my communications plans. It is a concept for mitigating single points of failure in communications systems.

When it comes to incident response, first responders must be able to report critical information quickly and efficiently to provide a common operating picture and ensure coordination and deconfliction. Often this is accomplished by leveraging LTE networks.

PACE planning ensures that, regardless of the reason for connection degradation (throttling, tower outage, hardware failure, etc.), there are backup systems that can be implemented to restore connectivity. In a first responder deployment, a proper PACE plan would look something like this:

Primary:  Carrier 1

Alternate:  Carrier 2

Contingency:  Satellite Communications (SATCOM)

Emergency:  Land Mobile Radio (LMR)

Notice that this example solution doesn’t include any individual first responders’ personal cellular devices. Relying on systems that the agency has no control over is a recipe for disaster. Yes, you could include that as the emergency option, but having two carriers would negate the need unless cell towers were down, which the contingency and emergency options above are able to address.

PACE planning is baked into every cloud-managed Cradlepoint router. Leveraging a dual-modem solution, you can have two carriers active at the same time and seamlessly transition from the primary link to the alternate link in the event of failure or degradation. In addition to the dual carriers, you can connect a SATCOM modem/antenna and/or IP-based LMR radio to the WAN ethernet ports to act as wired connections and order your connections by priority, enabling hassle-free transitions across your entire PACE plan.

Naturally, one of the challenges related to PACE planning is cost. How can first responder organizations be expected to apply cost-prohibitive PACE planning when they are constrained by real-world budgets and resources, not to mention the bureaucracy tied to allocating these resources in a timely manner? The answer is organizational understanding and risk planning.

You don’t have to apply PACE to all your communications systems, just the most critical ones. Some of the most critical assets during incident response are command centers/trailers. Placing two routers (for hardware redundancy) with dual modems/carriers and a SATCOM and/or LMR connection in every command center/trailer is expensive, but it is well worth the investment to ensure connectivity during incident response, mitigate risk, and safeguard life and property.

Explore First Responder Success Stories

During a live webinar on Sept. 25, join Dale Rolfson, Battalion Chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department, and Kevin Gona, Chief of Logistics for Indianapolis EMS, to explore how Cradlepoint’s easy-to-use and best-in-class solutions are helping first responders to act and communicate faster.