Working for Public Safety

Sep 15, 2008

Have you ever found yourself, in an emergency, a few hundred yards away from a public safety colleague – police officer, fire fighter, or paramedic – yet unable to transmit vital information to him or her? It happens all too often. Radio systems, cell phones, PDAs, and other devices are not always configured, aligned or even designed to allow inter-agency communication. Often the communications are seriously limited by the available technology. At other times, the agencies lack the proper protocols, governance or knowledge of how to communicate with each other. Thankfully, that is changing. A new partnership is putting the spotlight on improving communications interoperability within the Canadian public safety sector An effective national interoperability plan for Canada is sure to improve matters in this domain for first responders from coast to coast.

The Canadian Interoperability Tech­nology Interest Group (CITIG) brings together representatives from public safety, industry, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to shape the future of Canadian public safety interoperability. Launched in April 2007, the CITIG has evolved into a partnership between the Government of Canada’s Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC), the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada (EMSCC). Key federal partners such as Public Safety Canada, Industry Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also support CITIG’s role, direction and efforts.

National Forums Bringing People Together
Since its inception, CITIG has focused on bringing the right people together to get things done. One major step was the progress made on a national voice interoperability plan and other related initiatives. These began at the very successful Canadian Voice Interoperability Work­shop: A CITIG National Forum that took place in Ottawa, Ontario on March 27 and 28, 2008. That workshop marked the culmination of CITIG’s first year in existence. The work done there helped solidify the ‘business case’ for moving forward with a more cooperative approach to improve interoperability among public safety providers in Canada.

Building on this success, delegates will congregate again for Second National Voice Interoperability Workshop scheduled for December 7 to 10 at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto (see for details). The preliminary agenda has been set; it includes speakers from Canada, the United States and Israel and an expanded technology exposition with many industry partners, and receptions on at least two of the evenings.

CITIG also continues its important information-sharing mission at the regional level. There have been six regional CITIG Forums – held in Toronto, St. John’s, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Saskatchewan. Next up is the CITIG Maritime Forum scheduled for October 16 in Moncton and a CITIG Forum set for November 25 in Montreal (for details and up-to-date information, consult

Building a National Voice Interoperability Plan
Public Safety Canada (PS) is now working with CITIG on developing the Canadian Voice Interoperability Plan. With the help of PS and CPRC funding, a series of conference calls and facilitated sessions are being held with public safety practitioners across Canada to create the first “draft” of such a Canadian Plan. That draft Plan will be one of the main features to be presented at the Second National Voice Interoperability Workshop in December. Event delegates, expected to number approximately 200, will have an excellent opportunity to revise, refine, enhance and, hopefully, endorse the overall scope and direction of this Canadian Plan.

After the National Workshop, the Canadian Plan will be presented to the Executive of the main public safety ­associations for their comments and consideration. The goal is to have this unique draft plan – almost exclusively developed from the “bottom up” – presented to the Government of Canada by March 31, 2009. The intent would then be to send the Plan to provincial counterparts and other federal departments for their input and ­consultation.

Research Funding Hits the Mark
There’s been a lot of talk, but there has also been a lot of action. In fiscal year 2007-2008, the CITIG consulted broadly, and through the CPRC, supported a number of research projects. A call for proposals ran between September and October 31, 2007. Twenty-one proposals were received with a total value of funds requested at over $1.6 million. In the end, eight projects were funded to the tune of over $300,000. Each of the following projects responded to a clear need for research and development in the proposed area, was deemed to have a potentially significant impact on the state of interoperability in the public safety sector, and delivered specific interoperability outcomes – governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training & exercise and usage.

  • City of Ottawa Five-Year Interoperability Strategic Plan, Ottawa Police Service.
  • Creation of Radio Communications Interoperability Committee for the Province of Quebec, Sûreté du Québec.
  • Engineering and Planning of VHF Interoperability Pilot Programs, Emerg­ency Management BC.
  • Evaluation of the Interoperability Capabilities between the Montreal Police Service’s Centre de commandement et de traitement de l’information (CCTI) and the City of Montreal’s Centre de coordination des mesures d’urgence (CCMU), Service de police de la Ville de Montréal.
  • First-Responder Interoperability Study – Governance, Standard Operating Procedures and Technical Requirements, London Police Service.
  • North East Avalon Interoperability Study, Newfoundland and Labrador Fire & Emergency Services.
  • Public Safety Spectrum Requirement Study, York Regional Police.
  • Radio Interoperability Governance: Best Practice in Canada, York Regional Police.

This fiscal year will feature another call for proposals. The call will be specifically focused this time on the need to improve voice interoperability in Canada. The Canadian Police Research Centre initiated a new approval process for this year, vetted through a “Science and Technology Advisory Committee.” This Committee, with representatives from across public safety, government and academia, reviews project submissions and approves those deemed appropriate and required. The new submission forms and information packages will be available in the next few months.

May the Best Succeed
With the recent migration of the CPRC (and thus the CITIG) to the Centre for Security Science, research efforts are sure to be ­bolstered. The Centre is a joint endeavour between Defence Research and Dev­elop­ment Canada (DRDC) and Public Safety Canada. It provides science and technology services in support of national public safety and security objectives. It is part of the Government of Canada’s approach to public security science and technology and is one of seven research centres within DRDC, an agency of the Department of National Defence (DND). The CITIG surely stands to benefit.

Moving Forward
In April 2008, one year after its inception, CITIG won the national award for public safety from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA).

The award was made by CWTA, together with host sponsors Bell Canada, MTS Allstream, Motorola Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and TELUS. This award is presented to outstanding orga­nizations that, in partnership with Canada’s wireless industry, make a significant contribution to public safety in their communities.

The CITIG is now an organization of over 300 members from the responder community, all orders of government, associations, academia, international organizations and industry. The CITIG has made major strides in raising awareness about one of the single most important issues facing first responders today – public safety provider interoperability. Most importantly, interoperability stakeholders from across Canada will benefit directly, and soon, from a National Voice Interoperability Plan. CITIG is alive, well, and most pertinent to the safety of all Canadians.

The CITIG (Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group) was created to raise awareness about communications interoperability for first responders in Canada. The CITIG aims to:

  • create forums for the exchange of information and ideas;
  • facilitate communications amongst Canadian public safety interoperability stakeholders;
  • bring together the collective wisdom of public safety and communications leaders and experts (best and brightest);
  • respond to regulatory issues that impact public safety communications;
  • provide a test bed where aspects of the five elements of SAFECOM®’s interoperability continuum (governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training & exercise and usage) can be understood, designed, tested, negotiated, implemented, trained, exercised, standardized or shared.

Suggestions, questions or concerns can be e-mailed to Visit

Lance Valcour, an Inspector with the Ottawa Police Service, is currently seconded to the CPRC as the Project Manager for CITIG. In addition to his long-time participation as a member of the CACP Informatics Committee, he has compiled over 32 years experience working in operational roles and led many technology-related projects both with the Ottawa Police and in the private sector.
© FrontLine Security 2008