Field Interoperable Communications Systems Supported by ILEAS

When most people think of ILEAS, they usually think of the Law Enforcement support services that ILEAS provides to agencies across the state. For example, Car Plans, Special Teams, Mobile Field Force, and other Law Enforcement specific functions.

One other important area that ILEAS supports is Interoperable Communications through the Illinois Strategic Technology Reserve (STR), specifically supporting the UCP (Unified Command Post Vehicles) and the ITECS (Illinois Transportable Emergency Communications Systems).

  • 16 UCP vehicles are a 40’ Command Post that provide workspace where needed at incidents & events both large and small. UCP vehicles have radio, satellite, and internet communications capabilities to quickly support the needs of incident commanders at the scene.
  • 9 ITECS systems consist of a 32’ trailer, with a Ford F550 tow vehicle, that have a 50 foot tower plus large array of satellite, radio communications, cellular, telephone, and IT equipment. This allows them to provide robust emergency communications services anywhere normal communications is inadequate or non-existent.

The STR is funded primarily through various State and Federal Grants which are provided by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.  However, a great deal of effort, human resources and money come from the host agencies that manage each of these 15 vehicles and equipment.  ILEAS provides Grant Management services to the STR, making sure that grant funds are spent to the greatest benefit to the taxpayer, and that the funding is spent wisely to make sure the STR fields the most effective Communication platforms possible. ILEAS Communications Liaisons also provide technical and management support to the STR teams.  The ITECS and UCP teams are all hosted by local and county agencies around the state. There is one ITECS in each of the 8 IEMA regions plus one in Cook County. There are 13 UCP’s located around the state, plus three in Cook County.

The host agencies do a tremendous job of supporting and maintaining the vehicles, and keeping them ready to deploy when needed. Some teams are all full-time employees of the host agencies, many others combine full-time people from multiple agencies and volunteer personnel on their teams.The host agencies provide enormous amounts of support, i.e., fuel, maintenance supplies, hardware upgrades, vehicle service, and all the other items that make this program such a success. The teams also do an outstanding job in providing technical advice & support to each other. This is truly a case where the people make the program a success.  Some of the recent grant-funded upgrades that ILEAS has managed are:

  • Replacement multi-line telephone systems on all STR vehicles. Compared to the older systems they replace, the new ones offer much improved capability, ease of reconfiguration for unusual uses, and can be used while installed in the vehicle, or they can be set up and operated independently of the vehicle where needed.
  • New radio gateway devices installed in the UCP vehicles. These allow the UCP’s to provide a basic level of radio patching between different radio systems or frequency bands where required. This buys time until an ITECS can arrive to provide more advanced patching capability.
  • Several agencies, most notably the Illinois State Police, have identified difficulties with the use of portable radios inside the UCP vehicles. The aluminum body of these vehicles makes use of a portable radio inside the UCP difficult or impossible. During incidents, events, and exercises, state and local agencies require reliable access to their agency radio channels, and it is not possible to provide for every agency channel in the existing UCP communications suite. In order to address this problem, the ILEAS Communications Team met with representatives from the Illinois State Police and the UCP teams to develop a solution. Thirteen Vehicular Adaptors have been purchased and supplied to the host agencies for installation in UCPs. These units accept the popular Motorola APX 6000 and 8000 series portable radios, and provides the radio with continuous power, external antenna, microphone, and speaker. This relatively inexpensive solution allows any agency with at least one of those model of radio to have access to their local channels equaling a mobile radio installation while operating in the UCP.

The ITECS and UCP’s are a remarkable resource, and can enhance and improve the communications at any event or incident. For more information on locations and capabilities of the STR vehicles, please contact ILEAS.