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Ontario's Public Safety Radio Network

Backgrounder

Ontario's Public Safety Radio Network

Ministry of the Solicitor General

Ontario's Public Safety Radio Network (PSRN) provides more than 38,000 front-line and emergency responders with radio communications technology and resources they need to keep Ontarians safe. Responders use this technology to communicate with their dispatchers and one another when responding to emergencies

Ontario's PSRN is one of the largest and geographically complex public safety radio networks in North America, covering approximately 750,000 kmand directly supports:

  • The Ontario Provincial Police's (OPP) front-line officers and dispatchers
  • Ambulance bases, communications centres, paramedics, hospitals and support staff 
  • Fire services and aviation emergency services 
  • Provincial highway maintenance staff
  • Correctional officers, bailiff and transportation staff
  • Enforcement officers
  • Ontario Parks staff 

What is the PSRN used for?

The PSRN supports the work of the province's front-line and emergency responders which can include:

  • Coordination of OPP high speed pursuits
  • Communications between intelligence agencies to coordinate surveillance/anti-terrorism activities
  • Dispatch of an ambulance in response to a call from a member of the public suffering from a heart attack and communication of patient condition en route to a hospital
  • Communications between forest firefighters in Northern Ontario to coordinate fire suppression and water-bombing efforts
  • Dispatch of backup support to an enforcement or OPP officer in trouble
  • Communications in support of carrier safety, conservation, environment and tax law enforcement
  • Coordination of multi-agency response to large-scale accidents/weather disasters 
  • Coordination of communications within correctional facilities and between corrections and police officers during client transport to and from detention centre, court or hospital.

Infrastructure includes:

  • Four master sites
  • 193 radio network towers which serve as the network's main infrastructure
  • 282 additional towers supporting forest firefighters, Ontario parks and Far North communities

Equipment is installed in:

  • 22 central ambulance, five OPP and Ministry of Transportation's (MTO) communications centres 
  • 350 ambulance bases
  • 167 hospitals and 2,200 emergency health vehicles
  • 170 boats
  • 172 OPP detachments and 4,000 policing vehicles
  • 2,700 MTO maintenance vehicles and 161 patrol yards
  • 114 bailiff and transport vehicles
  • 23 adult and six youth correctional facilities run by the province
  • Provincial parks
  • Far North communities

Why radio and not cell phones?

Radio allows direct communication from individual to individual or from an individual to groups at the push of a single button. This capability is vital in coordinating the types of emergency responses faced by police, ambulance, fire services and other users and is a critical part of their daily operations.

Radio communications technology also allows for significantly more coverage and communications across the province of Ontario than is available through cellular services. Our emergency services are able to operate in a large portion of the province where no cellular service is available thanks to the provincial network. No emergency service organization uses cellular services for primary voice communications. 

Why does the PSRN need replacement?

  • Frequent service outages

The current network is aging and susceptible to frequent service outages impacting the ability of front-line and emergency responders to communicate via radio, impacting their ability to respond to emergencies, which can, in turn, compromise public safety.

  • Lack of interoperability with other networks

Virtually all public safety organizations in North America operate a radio system compliant with P25  the North American open standard for public safety radio set in 2001. Despite being the largest on the continent, Ontario's PSRN is one of the last not to comply with P25.

The lack of compatibility with the P25 standard makes it difficult to connect the provincial network to other networks that comply with the standard, such as local police and fire services, or major municipalities like Ottawa, Toronto, York, Durham, Peel or Niagara. 

It also prevents the network from being connected to other emergency partners in other jurisdictions in Canada and abroad, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. For example, when forest firefighters in British Columbia, Alberta or Quebec partner with Ontario forest firefighters, they cannot use their own radio equipment.

  • Does not protect personal information

The current network does not provide capabilities expected in a modern public safety radio network, including encryption. Critical information on police activity and personal health information is broadcast over radio unencrypted.

  • Obsolete equipment

The radios used by front-line and emergency responders are at the end of their supportable life, are no longer produced and the province's stocks are depleting. The new radios available on the market today will not function with the aging towers and technology of the current network.

What is the procurement process?

Infrastructure, user equipment and services required to set up and maintain the new network will be acquired through an open and transparent competitive, multi-vendor procurement process. A total of six different procurements will be carried out. 


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