6 Reasons Blended Connectivity Is Crucial for Public Safety Agencies

solve public safety communication challenges with blended communication

Communications are vital for public safety teams operating in the field. Individuals and smaller groups would be unaware of evolving scenarios without access to a live information network. Not only do downed communications systems threaten the success of response efforts, but they also endanger the first responders and those they’re helping.

Unfortunately, communications are often needed most when they’re down. Implementing a blended connectivity solution is one of the best ways to avoid lapses in critical situations.

Blended connectivity and flexible service delivery help teams navigate public safety communication challenges by ensuring networks remain active. 

In this article, we’ll explore some common connectivity issues they face and six specific reasons why blended connectivity is so crucial.

Public Safety and First Responders’ Communication Challenges

Public safety professionals and first responders (like firefighters, EMTs, and police) place themselves and anyone they’re helping at greater risk if communication networks struggle to maintain connection. Even high-end technology can’t help if network connections are down.

Per a joint survey conducted by SAFECOM (the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council) and the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, 35% of respondents stated their communication abilities and equipment suffered from circumstances outside their control.

But these connectivity challenges are best framed by those who experience them first-hand.

For example, in a National Institute for Standards and Technology survey of first responders, reliability was cited as a top concern consistent across all reported challenges. Responses to the survey included remarks such as:

  • “We see enough cell phone failure, especially at the large events. We don’t trust them yet to be reliable enough. We think that especially when we really, really need them is when they’re going to go down.”
  • “The big issues with our communications are the dead zones and kind of holes in our communications.”
  • “Well, apparently one of the main fiber optic lines, a squirrel chewed through it, and the whole system shut down. There were supposed to be backups to the backups to the backups, and we just laughed because we don’t understand the details, but apparently this squirrel hit something and chewed through something that bypassed the backup to the backups to the– I don’t know that much about it.” 

When connections are that essential, they can’t fail for public safety officials and first responders regardless of the complexities involved. 

A squirrel can’t be the reason why you’re unable to reach the people or information you need when assisting in life and death situations. You need robust networks with multiple levels of redundancy to support you and prevent connectivity interruptions.

Why is Blended Connectivity the Answer?

Two different aspects come together in blended connectivity solutions.

First, blended connectivity solutions refer to communication network solutions that leverage multiple service delivery methods to keep information flowing through crises or interruptions (like severe weather). For example, maintaining connections via the internet, cellular network and satellite infrastructure creates three layers of redundancy in case any of their availability suffers.

Second, blended connectivity comprises multiple providers for each connection method. This prevents connectivity gaps in case any of their networks are unavailable. Connectivity issues with a single provider can happen due to:

  • Normal coverage limitations
  • Emergency circumstances
  • Being overburdened with other network activity

With both blends involved, public safety professionals and first responders can ensure sufficiently redundant infrastructure that guarantees connectivity.

6 Benefits of Blended Connectivity Solutions for Public Safety and First Responders

The specific challenges that public safety officials and first responders face are addressed directly through the different benefits blended connectivity solutions provide.

1. Maximum Coverage

Network connections can be spotty at best, particularly in rural areas. “Dead zones” leave public safety officials and first responders without access to their communications channels. 

Although radio may still work in some instances, too many additional technologies are now in use for it to fully support communication needs. For example, information like GPS and health data aren’t provided over radio waves. Instead, internet, cellular and satellite connections are required.

By combining multiple service delivery methods and providers’ overlapping coverage areas, blended connectivity solutions can eliminate dead zones as a public safety communication challenge.

2. Dependability in Adverse Scenarios

Even if public safety officials or first responders aren’t in an area normally considered a dead zone, uncontrollable factors can’t be allowed to create one.

Again, squirrels chewing through wires can’t be why your communication network fails, but neither can hurricanes and severe weather. After all, it’s precisely in situations threatening normal connectivity where communications are often more crucial.

If internet networks aren’t operating properly, cellular networks provide a backup. If both are experiencing complications, always-reliable two-way satellite communications ensure connections remain unbroken and necessary information reaches relevant parties.

3. Access to Advanced Technologies

Blended connectivity solution providers help public safety or first responder teams access advanced communication technologies like VSAT (very small aperture terminal) for two-way satellite connection or SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) boxes.

The cost of independently adopting these technologies may be difficult for some teams to fit into their budgets. However, a blended connectivity solution provider makes world-class infrastructure accessible to any public safety official or first responder.

4. Ease of Use

The switches between the various infrastructures and providers included with blended connectivity solutions occur automatically. 

And that’s how communication infrastructure should operate: as a “set-and-forget” solution that remains reliable, especially when needed most. Should any issue arise, your blended connectivity provider should provide comprehensive, 24/7 support to begin troubleshooting immediately.

5. Security

Today, the importance and sensitivity of data have become a top priority. Securing communications infrastructure is one aspect of that effort.

For example, EMTs responding to medical emergencies require access to sensitive health records covered under HIPAA compliance. If access to that medical information isn’t secure, there’s the risk of costly regulatory fines.

Similarly, law enforcement can’t have malicious actors intercepting their communications, particularly during a crisis scenario.

But assembling a SOC (“security operations center) team with the technical know-how to protect your data in transit can be challenging. 

With a blended connectivity provider securing and encrypting data in transit, public safety officials and first responders can remain confident that information is always protected and available. 

6. Cost

Given the importance of public safety professionals and first responders’ jobs, the cost of accessing robust network infrastructure tends to be less of a priority if reliability is ensured. However, fiscal responsibility and transparency remain essential as a public expense reliant on tax dollars.

By bundling the different service deliveries and providers through a single solution, blended connectivity reduces costs and streamlines required financial reporting. The solution provider handles the blending.

Bundling also saves public officials the time and effort of evaluating services, hardware and other considerations across different delivery methods. As a result, they can concentrate on other impactful community actions instead of lengthy processes like reviewing the numerous submitted requests for proposals.

Public officials and taxpayers concerned with budgets will appreciate the billing consolidation and transparency from partnering with a single provider.

Choose IP Access For Public Safety Connectivity Solutions

When choosing a blended connectivity solution provider, IP Access International will help you achieve the best results for your communications network. With over 20 years of experience, 1,000 agency customers and 1,700 unique endpoints, we offer the nation’s largest satellite network dedicated to public safety communications.

In addition, we’ve built First Responder Net—which integrates all available cellular (e.g., Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, FirstNet) and satellite networks and is optimized specifically for public safety and first responder customers.

Contact us today to learn more about First Responder Net and how we can help you retain network integrity, especially when you need it most.