Safety Communication Is an Olympic Event for Mason Researcher

Posted: February 22, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: February 22, 2010 at 9:24 am

By James Greif

Allan Turner. Photo courtesy of Allan Turner

With the Olympic Winter Games so close to the American border in Vancouver, British Columbia, security has become a bi-national responsibility and commitment. Mason researcher Allan Turner is one of many taking part in the effort by assuring that new communication equipment is meeting the needs of first responders.

“In preparation for this project, we have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to view Vancouver through the eyes of the emergency responders providing security for the 2010 Winter Olympics,” Turner says.

Working with the National Domestic Preparedness Coalition, a nonprofit organization that provides training and programs related to homeland security, Turner was in Washington state and Vancouver in late January to participate in field testing and assessment of a new multiband radio system developed by Thales Communications and supported by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The equipment is being used during the Olympic Winter Games by Vancouver Transit Police, as well as border security officials and police officers in Blaine, Wash., a town about 30 miles from Vancouver.

Turner is collecting feedback from emergency responders who are using the radios and analyzing the radios’ deployment performance and effectiveness. Steve Fender, a graduate research assistant in Mason’s Justice, Law and Crime Policy program, is assisting him.

A review of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, revealed major issues with current emergency communications between public safety organizations and other first responders due to the use of different radio frequency bands. The new radios are designed to combat some of the interoperability problems that occurred during that disaster by including all public safety radio bands in one device.

Vancouver Transit Police attend a training session on the multiband radios. Photo courtesy of Allan Turner

While in Vancouver, Turner and his colleagues were able to visit key security locations around the city, including one of the major communications centers controlling the security efforts during the Olympics.

“The level of preparation for the Olympics has been extraordinary,” Turner says. “Throughout the project, I have been extremely impressed with the professionalism of the Vancouver Transit Police and their willingness to contribute to this effort even though they have an extremely heavy workload.”

Turner has a long history of developing and conducting operational assessments of law enforcement and homeland security technology. Currently, he serves as associate director of Mason’s Center for Justice Leadership and Management, which conducts research and provides training for justice-related organizations. He also teaches courses in corrections and homeland security as a faculty member in the Department of Administration of Justice and has served on assignment from Mason as a visiting scientist at the National Institute of Justice, where he developed and managed security technology projects.

Before joining Mason, Turner held several positions with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, including jail superintendent, warden and senior deputy assistant director.

While the recent snow storms in the Washington, D.C., region kept Turner from attending the Olympics’ opening ceremonies, he is returning to Vancouver this week to shadow police officers using the radios to get a better sense of how they are working.

“The key element of the assessment process is the candid feedback from emergency responders who use the equipment under local operational conditions,” says Turner.

“Ultimately, the information from this project will help policy makers make informed decisions on the investment of millions of dollars in homeland security communications technology.”

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