The City of Coral Gables is redefining public safety communications interoperability, using technology as the connective element to keep the city’s multiple departments operating more effectively and efficiently.

A coastal community in southeast Florida and home to the University of Miami, the City of Coral Gables has a population of 50,000 and is a regional partner in the tri-county area that serves more than 9 million residents and visitors. With an aging public safety radio system, Coral Gables faced the challenge of replacing its legacy technology with a new system able to seamlessly interoperate with all of its agencies and surrounding communities.

The Challenge: An Aging Analog Network

Prior to upgrading its communications technology, Coral Gables was faced with a host of problems associated with aging radio systems. These included reliability issues and sporadically limited in-building radio signal penetration as a result of modern advancements such as LEED buildings, which are built to higher standards and often hinder analog radio transmissions.

Coral Gables radio operators, including the city’s police and fire departments, had limited communications interoperability with departments from neighboring cities in the tri-county area. With the city’s last system upgrade having been completed in 1999, Coral Gables’ radio network was in need of an upgrade that would address these issues and provide for area-wide interoperability.

The Solution: Digital Interoperability

Coral Gables chose a digital communications system from Harris Corporation that was Project-25 (P25) compliant and offered the coverage, reliability and seamless interoperability needed by the city’s multiple departments.

Following a six-month implementation process that methodically transitioned Coral Gables from the analog network to a new state-of-the-art digital network, a three-site, 10-channel simulcast system that runs both P25 Phase I and Phase II. The city successfully partnered with Communications International for implementation of this system.

The Results: A Connected Community

Now five months since the transition project, the new P25 digital communications system has more than lived up to its promise of seamlessly connecting Coral Gables and its surrounding communities. The new P25 system enables many different departments to use the network, including engaging in group exchanges with other agencies and municipalities. The system’s ease of interoperability is a key feature that Coral Gables Fire Chief Marcos De La Rosa describes as “paramount to our effective response whether local or throughout the state.”

The system’s interoperability is especially useful for the University of Miami Police Department, which heavily relies on neighboring agencies for assistance. The Harris system is capable of seamlessly talking with P25 compliant radios and products by other manufacturers, ensuring that all communications are received.

Coral Gables Police Chief Edward Hudak Jr. expressed great relief due to the newfound interoperability. “Now we’ve finally gotten to the point where I can sleep better at night,” said Police Chief Hudak. “I know with the new system, not just for the police department, but the fire department, sanitation, public works and everybody else in our system, I’m going to be able to talk.”

The overarching goal of the new P25 digital communications system was to ensure that all agencies in Coral Gables and beyond can communicate no matter the situation. “When you press the button, we want to make sure that communication is effectively transmitted whether we’re on a roof, inside a building or basement, or outside,” said Fire Chief De La Rosa. With the new system, Harris and Coral Gables have overcome previous challenges of limited coverage, reliability and interoperability, connecting Coral Gables to surrounding communities to ensure public safety.

In describing the long-term potential of the new system, Coral Gables Radio Technician Supervisor Jason Swift noted that, “with the implementation of the new P25 network, there’s definitely a roadmap for us to move into interoperability in the future.” As new digital technologies emerge, such as devices and applications, the Coral Gables system can incorporate these additions without major changes to the network.