Many fire and EMS services across the United States still rely on analog VHF paging technology to communicate emergency incident information to responders. The infrastructure for these paging systems is typically owned, operated, and maintained by the local government or agency to ensure coverage includes as close to 100% of the jurisdiction as possible. This paper proposes the use of datacasting technology to provide a redundant method for critical data distribution over a wide area to serve the paging needs of public safety and uses North Carolina as a test case. This concept could lead to cost-sharing, higher reliability, greater collaboration across jurisdictions, and reduced response times. The public deserve the best possible response from the public safety sector and therefore, public safety deserves the best technology available to achieve their mission.
PBS North Carolina, with the North Carolina Department of Information Technology First Responder Emerging Technologies Program (FirstTech), presented this concept at the 2019 NAB Broadcast Engineering and Information Technology Conference. Much progress has been made since then. Through a United State Department of Homeland Security Small Business Innovation Research contract, starting early 2020, a prototype broadcast system has been developed including custom ATSC 3.0 paging receiver and miniature antenna and will soon begin live broadcast testing in eastern North Carolina on PBS North Carolina’s WUNK-TV, ATSC 3.0 transmission facility. This document will talk about the overall concept and current progress using ATSC 3.0 to address a critical emergency communications need.