Technology from Motorola Solutions is enabling community volunteers working on flood response initiatives in the UK to talk to each using both cellular smart phones and professional mobile two-way radios.
Motorola’s WAVE Work Group Communications is being used by community resilience and emergency response teams in the flood threatened village of Shipton Bellinger in England. The community is the most at risk for flooding in the county of Hampshire.
Like much of Southern England during the winter of 2013/2014, the village suffered from extensive flooding when the local river broke its banks. With renewed threats of flooding this winter, the community is rolling out a new resilience programme that it hopes will become a benchmark for community response and be widely adopted across the country.
As a recognised location for flooding, the Environment Agency (EA) has invested in improving property level protection (PLP) for residents most at risk. To counter more extreme flood events, which frequently strike the village, the investment provides for a variety of protective measures, such as floodgates to block property driveways and doorways, as well as pumps to rapidly clear flood water and reduce property damage.
The most recent flood response exercise, using guidelines established by CERT for first response and local community training, has combined the Wessex and Hampshire EA, Test Valley Borough Council, Shipton Bellinger Parish Council and a small local military presence tasked with civil contingency.
A critical element in the community’s response to threat of flood is communications. Shipton Bellinger, with support from Motorola Solutions, has deployed a WAVE system to link resilience team members on Mototrbo digital mobile radios (DMR) with other agencies using smartphones.
This has created an extremely flexible, robust and cost-effective real-time communications system with push-to-talk (PTT) capability for managing wider teams in an emergency. It also allows team members who may be out of the area to stay in touch during critical times.
“The benefit of having WAVE in the mix is interoperability,” said Steve Bluff, local parish councillor, and Shipton Bellinger, community resilience response team leader. “We can dynamically set up talk groups over DMR, TETRA radios and connected smart devices. If people come into the area and do not have radio handsets, they can be given a smartphone with WAVE Communicator downloaded from the app store. We can set up a new talk group, and they can securely speak over our network.”
“We are building confidence, not just in us, but also in the sort of equipment that we use,” says Councillor Philip Lashbrook, Penton Bellinger ward and Test Valley Borough Council. “WAVE gives that added edge. With a push of a button we can send out messages in one transmission to wider groups of people. This technology is really what we need and if we can get other agencies to adopt the same platform it will give us and them greater ability to respond to any incident.”
“The highly professional approach shown by Shipton Bellinger’s volunteer resilience teams is to be commended,” says Andrew Gill, vice president, growth and alliances, Motorola Solutions. “They instantly recognised the value of WAVE to deliver broadband PTT in a very flexible, cost-effective way that met the demands for communications interoperability within their community and critically with outside agencies.
“The most recent flood response exercise should be held up as a shining example of how communities can work together with public sector organisations to better protect property and lives.”
Looking forward, Shipton Bellinger’s hope is for its incident response model to be rolled out to other local communities until a countywide resilience program is in place. Councillors Bluff and Lashbrook are also in discussion with the Borough and County to use WAVE to secure interoperability at Gold and Silver Command. That would provide a direct link for liaison with local police and fire services to better deploy valuable resources when and where needed most.
WAVE is available to UK government and public safety organisations from the G-Cloud marketplace.