Critical Communications for Secure Utility Facilities
National, regional, and local power, gas, and water utilities have special security needs and a myriad of regulations to which they must adhere. The temporary or permanent loss of a single facility can cause a significant disruption to our nations critical infrastructure – effecting vital commerce, industry, and public health concerns. Understandably, these facilities are built with security and longevity in mind. However, their sturdy construction has been known to impede communications signals, bringing a host of new concerns to the table.
Current Challenge | Zero Radio Coverage at Secure Utility Facility
A critical Michigan-based utility is home to two sites that are heavily fortified to provide reliable and constant security. These bunker-like locations, a collective 40,000 square feet, lacked both public safety radio coverage and wireless coverage. According to MCA Technician Dan Dugan, “our measurements revealed that there was literally no coverage anywhere in these buildings.”
During a recent renovation process, the local fire marshal noticed the sites’ nonexistent public safety coverage, specifically noting it was in violation of local mandates. Additionally, the utility wanted to be proactive and address these significant coverage and communication issues.
Solutions Overview | Industrial DAS Solutions Enhance Coverage
With an initial focus on public safety, a long-time utility client turned to MCA for an Industrial-Grade Distributed Antenna System (iDAS) — MCA then designed and installed a 700/800MHz public safety radio solution for both of the utility’s Michigan locations. This included a bi-directional amplifier (BDA) to increase coverage, battery back-up, below-ceiling coverage antennas, and more to protect first responders and provide highly reliable in-building coverage.
In addition, MCA worked with major cellular carriers to enhance wireless coverage throughout the buildings. Using iBwave design software, the MCA data solutions team collaborated internally to implement a comprehensive in-building connectivity solution.
We set up their DAS as a redundant system to provide a continuity plan. Both systems in both locations can function as a primary or a back-up system, ensuring constant connectivity and coverage. They are also scalable – allowing the utility to add additional carriers or units as their future needs may demand.
The Results | From No Coverage to Complete Coverage
“Police, fire, and EMS teams now have the peace of mind that they can easily communicate with both external units and central dispatch” said Account Manager Mike Wriggelsworth. “Where there was once no link to the external world beyond a landline — the coverage in both buildings is now exceptional. Our client is ecstatic.”
The utility went from zero to 100 percent coverage in a few days, with the fire marshal noting consistent, reliable coverage across each building. This enhanced connectivity was especially important as the company brings more of its employees back to the office, where they can now readily communicate with each other both inside and outside their buildings.
With satellite phones, bi-directional amplifiers and more, this critical utility continues to expand its connection with MCA through a variety of communications and wireless services.