I’ve written on this subject before, but we had a recent incident in which the radio system did not work when they went to back it up. When we build these radio systems, unless not budgeted for, we put in some type of backup system to allow for the continued radio operation in case of a failure. Granted, the backup system may be as simple as a mobile radio with a power supply, but it is something to communicate to the end users that there is a problem with the system. Not only is the backup radio essential but some type of plan or Standard Operating Procedure should be written and followed. During a crisis or emergency, the last thing you need to be thinking about is “What do I do now!”. Instead, having a documented plan in a place is key to a good emergency plan.
Although I am not an emergency management expert, here are some thoughts on implementation of a backup communications system:
1) Assess your current radio systems. Typically, Chicago Communications can advise on what you have an how it works. For those of you in charge of your systems, if you don’t know or understand your radio system, you are leaving yourself open to questions later as to why don’t you know how it works. We typically like to document the system in simple diagram.
2) After understanding what you have, you need to determine how the failure scenarios will cause a problem. This is key to aiding in a solution to quickly resolve a problem. If you understand your system well enough, then knowing where the failure MAY BE may aid in troubleshooting and may allow you, the person responsible, to effectively provide a backup solution to remedy the problem. If you don’t understand your system, you will have to rely on the response time of your repair vendor to arrive on site and assess the situation.
3) Once you realize the problem, and understand how the failure is affecting you, you can then implement the appropriate backup system. Failures can vary from radio system to radio system. Partial failures may require a different method of operation versus a total failure. You need to verify that your plan is sound and can be understood in an easy and logical step by step implementation.
4) Document, Document, Document! Put a plan in place involving the failure type and the remedy proposed to allow for the most immediate response in repair. Whether that is you or the radio shop, the goal is to establish communications as quickly as possible.
5) Finally, practice utilizing your plan and running a weekly or monthly test. Just as most generators are cycled on a weekly basis, testing your system or systems should be a routine program. This not only involves something as simple as switching from a main transmitter to a standby transmitter, but it also involves a routine visual inspection of your systems. The red light on the unit does not always mean the power is on, it may mean a failure. Reviewing your equipment on a weekly basis, may sound boring, but one day when you see the light on that wasn’t there before may be leading you to a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach.
This article was written by Tom Treichler, Director of Sales & Service at Chicago Communications. Tom has over 30 years of experience in the industry with a background in engineering, system integration, and wireless broadband. If you have any questions for Tom, or another representative at ChiComm, please contact us.