A connected Oklahoma is a safe Oklahoma. This is certainly the case in the city of Broken Arrow, located within the Tulsa metro area. Because Broken Arrow is located in the heart of “Tornado Alley,” it is critical that when bad weather rips through, first responders are connected and able to seamlessly communicate within and across jurisdictions.

The Challenge: Lack of Interoperability

The partnership between Harris Corporation and Broken Arrow dates back to 1995, when Broken Arrow became the first public safety agency to deploy a Harris system in the state of Oklahoma. Officials in Broken Arrow made the switch following years of disconnection with neighboring networks.

“We went with Harris because of interoperability,” said Mark Ketchum, Communications System Manager at Broken Arrow. “We were interacting with so many agencies around us, but we couldn’t easily talk to them over the previous network.”

The Solution: A Partnership Approach

Since 2000, the Broken Arrow Communications Regional Network has taken an innovative path to interoperability. Instead of building out the infrastructure and charging monthly fees to subscribers, Broken Arrow and Harris saw the opportunity to create a new type of system. With a partnership approach, new agencies would build their own radio sites needed for coverage, which would then be added into the Broken Arrow Communications Regional Network.

“The partnership model we have set up offers increased interoperability, flexibility and coverage,” said Ketchum. “Each partner agency increases the coverage of the whole at no extra cost, while still having a voice in how to best fit the public safety needs of their individual area.”

The Results: Breaking New Ground

In 2011, the Broken Arrow Communications Regional Network strengthened its partnership with Harris by installing the first public safety P25 radio site in the state of Oklahoma and implementing an ISSI link—one of the very first in the country—to provide seamless IP connections with the City of Tulsa and the Department of Public Safety Oklahoma Wireless Information Network (OKWIN) system.

Broken Arrow began migrating all public safety users to a new P25 Phase 2 communications network. This 800 MHz multi-site regional communications network seamlessly connects the cities of Broken Arrow, Jenks, Bixby, Glenpool and Wagoner, as well as the larger counties of Wagoner and Rogers, which are implementing two new sites, consoles and radios for countywide communications. The P25 communications network today consists of 12 radio sites, including four Harris EDACS radio sites, and serves more than 3,000 radios.

“We are running just about every Harris product on the market,” said Ketchum. “We experienced a very smooth transition to P25, and, it has been a great experience. We look at ourselves as partners with Harris because they help us with the technology, staying on top of everything and remaining the leader in the market.”

Connected and Growing

Now Broken Arrow can effortlessly communicate with any of the partners on the network and beyond, using a gateway that can connect even if agencies are still using legacy or analog systems. With the updated system from Harris, first responders across the region can stay connected, for the mundane routine check-ins or critical situations when a tornado touches ground.

Broken Arrow looks to continue expanding its growing partnership with major cities and towns throughout Oklahoma. Eventually, it is Ketchum’s hope that the entire state can be tied together in a partnership for public safety communications. Harris is proud to lend a helping hand in the effort to connect all of Oklahoma for public safety.

The growth is not limited to Oklahoma however. “Agencies from other states have come all the way to Broken Arrow to see what we’ve done with Harris,” said Ketchum. “People are noticing the benefits of this partnership model for public safety communications.