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Public Safety

How Verizon mission-critical push-to-talk connects first responder teams

As the senior manager for Crisis Response and Critical Communication at Verizon, Earle Struble’s job is to lead his team to the center of major public safety crises — like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires — and ensure the first responders on the ground are able to communicate effectively. “At the end of the day,” Struble explained, “if they can’t communicate, they can’t fight the battle down range.”

This is time-critical work. “Our philosophy,” said Struble, “is every second counts.” Their work is also resource-critical. Scenes are often still developing, chaotic and dangerous, and coordinating across agencies is crucial.

In the past, first-responders relied on Land Mobile Radio (LMR) to enable communications during emergencies, but limitations in LMR’s capacity, coverage and interoperability hindered the flow of critical information. Today, Struble and his team help ensure communications get to the right people through Verizon’s mission critical push to talk (MCPTT) solution, Push to Talk Responder, which allows responders using rugged smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy XCover Pro to quickly establish group communications over a 4G LTE network.

The power of MCPTT priority and preemption

Verizon’s Push to Talk Responder is built on the 3GPP’s MCPTT standards, and helps responders across multiple agencies communicate with priority and preemption. In addition to PTT voice communications, they can share texts, data and video using MCPTT-enabled smartphones.

Verizon MCPTT makes instant communication easier than ever, according to Greg Hauser, interoperability coordinator at North Carolina Emergency Management. “Mission-critical push-to-talk adds a new layer,” he explained. “You can use every technology available to you to get that message from Point A to Point B. From my perspective, in an emergency operations center, mission-critical push-to-talk is very important technology.”

The Galaxy XCover Pro: Rugged out of the box

If a robust network is one side of the MCPTT equation, a rugged, field-ready mobile device is the other. To that end, Samsung’s Galaxy XCover Pro offers a unique combination of durability and convenience for first responders using Verizon Push to Talk Responder.

“The Samsung XCover Pro is an amazing device,” said Struble. “Rarely do you get a device out of the box that’s already rugged.”

The XCover Pro’s rugged credentials are well established, having been put through 21 MIL-STD-810 durability tests, including repeated drops from 5 feet up and hours of continuous vibration. It’s also IP68 rated for ingress resistance, so dirt, dust and water don’t interfere with disaster response.

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Equally important for first responders who are accustomed to traditional radios is the large, physical PTT key on the left side of the XCover Pro. First responders can use the XCover Pro to connect with preset teams and individuals at the push of a button — even while they’re wearing gloves or working in the rain.

But Verizon Push to Talk Responder is about more than just voice communications. Responders can also quickly send group messages and share video footage. Other enhanced capabilities include viewing layered maps in real time. First responders can mark the map by circling certain areas, which are instantly communicated to anyone working there.

“We’re really excited about the performance on the network that we’ve seen, over and above the traditional PTT devices,” said Nick Nilan, Verizon’s director of public sector product development. “Verizon is providing quality of service on your connection, so you’re not going to have any buffering issues, any lag or jitter. You’re getting the best possible experience for mission-critical or push-to-talk-type services on a handset, which we couldn’t ever do with push-to-talk as an over-the-top application. So this will be the best push-to talk experience that anyone’s had.”

“You know you’re going to communicate effectively and in a timely manner with instant communications that can make a difference,” Nilan added.

Dependable connectivity in the field

MCPTT also allows first responders in the field to share video feeds with each other and their command staff. “If I’m working on something and I need some help and I can’t really explain what’s going on,” says Struble, “what’s my view is their view. They are almost with me in the field, supporting me so I can complete the mission.”

And that mission truly is a critical one for emergency management agencies. “When a life is in danger, failure is not in our vocabulary,” says Hauser. “You do what it takes to complete the mission. Period.”

As you consider implementing new technology at your agency, consult our free guide for insider tips on transforming fire and EMS with mobile. And learn more about what makes the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro perfect for first responders.

Posts By

Crawford Coates

Crawford Coates, MPPA, is a writer, editor, and publisher with more than 15 years experience working with public safety. He has edited Wildland Firefighter, FireRescue, and Law Officer, and served as publisher at Calibre Press. He is a co-founder of Below 100, a national officer safety initiative, and author of the book Mindful Responder.

View more posts by Crawford Coates