Podcast 7

Moving Tactical Field Operational Plans from Paper to Practice: Making a System Field Operational

Topic/Title: "Moving Tactical Field Operational Plans from Paper to Practice: Making a System Field Operational"

Description: The City of Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads Area in Virginia were one of the first regional consortiums to develop 700MHz P25 regional shared radio system, known as ORION which stands for Overlay Regional Inter Operability Network. The region developed a Tactical Interoperable Communications Plan (TICP) and Regional Field Operations Guide (RFOG) and ORION sets the backdrop for a lesson on how to move plans from paper to the field to ensure that the users know how to use the system when the time comes.

In its COPS 2007 Technology Program grant application, the City of Virginia Beach sought to improve public safety communications in the region through expansion of ORION. ORION is a cooperative venture of seven Hampton Roads cities: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Suffolk, Portsmouth, and Newport News. ORION’s function is to act as a voice and data network overlaying compatible systems maintained individually by the partners for routine operations and to provide supplemental interagency and incident management communications. The first phase of the network was funded earlier in large part by a 2004 COPS Interoperable Communications Technology Program (ICTP) grant. The proposed second phase targeted improvements in coverage, extension of the data system, addition of further voice and data user radios, and addition of a backup master controller site.

Participant: Sgt. Bob Christman, Virginia Beach (Virginia) Police Department and Chairman, ORION Advisory Group

  Listen to Full Interview (duration time: 20:00:00)

  1. Hampton Roads, led by the City of Virginia Beach, received a COPS grant in 2004 and 2007 to build out the Hampton Roads Overlay Regional Interoperability Network, also known as ORION. Can you give us some background on the ORION Regional Radio System Network, more specifically:
    1. We know that ORION is a radio system, but from the public safety practitioner perspective, what is ORION?
    2. Who are some of the partners, agencies, and other cities jurisdictions participating in ORION?
    3. ORION has its foundations in the Incident Command System structure; can you please elaborate further on the role of the system during a regional emergency?
  2. Hampton Roads was one of the early pioneers with the development a 700 MHz P25 regional overlay radio system using a Tactical Interoperable Communication Plan, sometimes referred as a TICP. SEARCH helped facilitate the development of this plan with stakeholders from the region.
    1. What is the TICP and how does this benefit ORION?
    2. What were some of the challenges you experienced in developing and implementing the TICP?
  3. You currently serve as chairman of the ORION Advisory Group. This group was formed to facilitate the opportunity to garner operational input for ORION and is a key stakeholder group for the development of ORION and ultimately to the operational success of the system.
    1. Can you please provide some history and background of this group and why this is important to ORION?
    2. Are there obstacles or barriers this group faces when working from an operational perspective with the technical representatives that created the tactical interoperable communications plan?
  4. As you know, ensuring a technically capable system based on tactical needs is just one element of a public safety project. Taking the system from technical to operational where users can operate in the field is certainly as, or more, difficult than the installation of the system – wouldn’t you agree?
    1. With that understanding, what do you consider to be the elements necessary to take a system to an operational state?
    2. Can you expand on the role of these operational elements in brining ORION to a field-ready operational system?
  5. OK, so now we know that a tactical plan is important for the basic foundations of a system and that the operational elements are just as key to the success or failure of a system. A technically sound system is only as good as the first responder’s ability to use the system.
    1. Can you talk about how the ORION Advisory Group is working to take ORION from a technically sound system with a solid tactical plan, to one that is fully operational for field personnel?
    2. What role does an exercise and training play in this transition from technically operational to field operational?
  6. The TICP was developed to be all encompassing of the elements of ORION and the Hampton Roads regional emergency communication assets – from 800 MHz Channel Plans to individual agency trunked radio talkgroups. It has proven to be a very large document. Compressing the TICP into a regional field operations guide (RFOG) is the next step for Hampton Roads.
    1. What do you perceive to be the role of the RFOG for Hampton Roads and ORION?
    2. We know that most of this TICP was never directly relevant to the field personnel – trained first responders focus on their specific radio requirements and execute their mission based on their training. How does the RFOG help the everyday first responder?
    3. Also, when a large-scale regional emergency does take place, the larger base of emergency first responders provide assistance. How is the RFOG going to help during a large scale multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency response?
  7. Once the RFOG is developed, it will be an additional tool for the Hampton Roads first responders as well as those responding to the region.
    1. How do you propose to educate the Hampton Roads first responder community on the use and availability of the RFOG?
    2. How does the RFOG fit in with the other elements of your goal to operationalize ORION?
  8. You have gone from ORION inception, to ORION installation, to TICP development, to ORION expansion, to table top exercises, to RFOG all with the idea of having a fully operational system that the users know how to use when the time comes.
    1. What have been some of the key challenges?
    2. Looking back, what would you do differently that other grantees could benefit from when they are starting a new project similar to ORION?
    3. When ORION is fully realized and taken from paper to practice, what do you see as the key benefits of the system?
  9. In closing, what are your take-away messages for the success of others in transitioning from a tactical plan to actual system operations?

  Written transcript of interview