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Complete Emergency Communications Overhaul for Hawaii Emergency Warning System

Date: 2013-07-02
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Federal Signal Alerting & Notification Systems, a leader in mass notification solutions for communities and facilities around the world, has completed the first phase of a statewide emergency warning system upgrade in Hawaii.  The project replaces existing VHF and trunked radio networks with redundant satellite and cellular communications for controlling and monitoring the sirens throughout the state, and replaces aging siren equipment.  The first fully integrated statewide siren network, Hawaii’s new emergency warning and communications system covers the largest geographical area of any U.S. system.

“Working with a state like Hawaii poses unique geographical and logistical challenges,” said John Von Thaden, vice president and general manager for Federal Signal.  “The system will cover four counties and six islands spanning over 300 miles and provide the state with a common communications infrastructure.  The new system provides the state with the ability to monitor every siren from a centralized location. Our job was to integrate the islands through an efficient and redundant method using connected, streamlined technologies.”

For more than 60 years, Federal Signal has worked with Hawaii to provide alerting systems across the state.  Through this project, Federal Signal will simplify maintenance of the warning system, create a single, statewide communication infrastructure for integrated monitoring and control, and allow for a backup activation network, should one ever fail.

“The existing sirens in Hawaii are comprised of a variety of product ages and versions, with varying capabilities. This coupled with the vast communications distances and varying terrain and heavy foliage poses a number of integration problems.  We knew that we needed to create a modern, hybrid system that didn’t just rely on a singular network,” said Scott Cassidy, director of engineering for Federal Signal.  “The new system takes existing warning sirens and updates them with an activation network that allows customized communication — from statewide alerts to local community notifications — at the touch of a button.”

Previous warning systems in Hawaii relied on radio transmissions, most of which didn’t allow for two-way communications or error messaging when a siren or communications path failed.  Federal Signal’s satellite and cellular hybrid system includes an array of speakers made up of drivers that can communicate through voice, text-to-speech and pre-recorded audio.  Electronic controllers can manage messages, continually monitor readiness of the sirens, quickly confirm activation, and alert operators about system operational status.

“Given the geographic complexity and diversity of existing warning equipment in our state, we needed a partner who could pull a mission critical system together and manage the integration of software, communications, and siren equipment for a mission critical system,” said Tom Simon, Systems Engineer for the State of Hawaii.  “After working together for many years with Federal Signal, we knew we shared the common goal of establishing an outdoor siren warning system to support our residents and visitors for years to come.”

The first phase of the Hawaii project included the rollout of a new system on the island of Oahu and consisted of 144 siren upgrades. Federal Signal plans to complete a second island upgrade during summer 2013, with the other islands coming soon after.

For more information on Federal Signal, visit: http://www.federalsignal.com.

- Corporate News/9-1-1magazine.com (via Federal Signal, 6/25/13)

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