ASTRID, the telecom operator for emergency and security services in Belgium, registered major peaks in radio traffic during the opening day of Mons European Capital of Culture. During large-scale events, radio communication constitutes an indispensable aid for the police and emergency services. Because of the scope of the security deployed last weekend, radio traffic registered extraordinary peaks on the ASTRID base stations covering the centre of Mons.
The festivities that were held this past weekend in Mons signified a major challenge for the police and all emergency and security services. The presence of the royal couple, ministers and 100,000 visitors made exceptional security measures necessary.
Hundreds of agents of the local and federal police, volunteers, military, firefighters, Red Cross aid workers, public transport agents as well as organising and safety personnel were deployed. To manage the event, all of these elements of the security system made full use of their ASTRID radios, generating far more traffic on the ASTRID network than on a normal weekend.
Peaks of radio traffic on the ASTRID base stations
The ASTRID systems played their supporting role flawlessly. Police radio communications went without a hitch, despite an overall radio traffic volume five times greater than normal between Saturday noon and Sunday morning on the base stations covering the centre of Mons.
Communications follow the programme of the festivities
On Saturday, radio traffic rose steadily from 12 noon to 3 p.m., at which time it was 9 times greater than an ordinary Saturday (413 minutes of communication/hour). The process of closing off the city to normal vehicle traffic undoubtedly generated numerous radio communications. A second peak was then registered towards 6 p.m., corresponding to the arrival of thousands of visitors in the city centre. Two other peaks were seen at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. The traffic remained exceptionally high until midnight, and it was only around 6 a.m. Sunday morning that the communications of the police and emergency services returned to normal.
Consultation with the field
ASTRID prepared for the events in consultation with the authorities. Coverage and capacity measurements were conducted in the months preceding the big day. Useful lessons were drawn from the experience with the “ducasse of Mons”, a popular festival held each year on Trinity Sunday. The mobile base station (truck) was kept on stand-by so as to be able to handle any incident. ASTRID also installed a dispatching tool in the command centre for the benefit of the medical corps. Co-ordination between motorcyclists, foot teams, helicopters, patrol vehicles, the command centre and the provincial control room requires good radio discipline and structured communication.
24/7 capacity management
The ASTRID radio network is able to handle large communication peaks. Day after day, ASTRID systematically monitors the network traffic in order to identify and address potential problems well in advance, so that the capacity can continue to meet the needs of the radio users in the field. ASTRID’s particularly dense radio network has 77 base stations distributed throughout the province of Hainaut and 520 across the entire territory of Belgium.
The provincial control room (CIC Hainaut) hosted the command post integrated within the framework of the security management of the Mons 2015 opening. All of the disciplines are represented there. Computer-assisted dispatching makes it possible to receive emergency calls, forward them to the competent service and assist the teams in the field.
Philippe Borza, Security Director, Local police of Mons :
« The ASTRID communications are indispensable for our teams. Their effectiveness made it possible to ensure the safety of both the field teams themselves and the large number of visitors ».
Claude Jacquard, Director of the CIC Hainaut (Control Room 101) :
« Everything functioned perfectly on the level of the ASTRID communications. ASTRID offers a serious advantage for the operational coordination of large-scale multidisciplinary events. The team localisation function makes it possible to react immediately and deploy the resources in the field in an ideal manner.»
Daniel Haché, Director External Relations ASTRID :
«The ASTRID systems prove their added value for the management of large-scale events. Despite an exceptional network load last Saturday, the infrastructure was able to handle traffic peaks, thanks notably to a constant capacity management and monitoring, but above all to the excellent planning of the communications and to the consultation with the services in the field.»
A few advantages of TETRA communication in the context of major events
ASTRID’s 100% digital network guarantees excellent availability, an optimal communication quality and a high degree of security. The network is multidisciplinary: the field teams can communicate with all of the members of their team, as well as colleagues or other safety organizations. This function is essential for effective collaboration amongst the intervening parties. Digital technology filters out the background noise, which increases the listening comfort of users in noisy environments such as demonstrations. Finally, the ASTRID network is reserved for the exclusive use of the emergency and security services, which ensures a capacity margin in crisis situations.