Exceptional security measures for British royal family and VIPs
ASTRID, the Belgian TETRA network operator for emergency and security services, registered significant peaks in radio traffic during the Great War commemorations that were held last Monday (4th August). 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 Monday, there was more than double the radio traffic on over twenty ASTRID base stations in Liège, Leuven and Mons.
The commemorations that were held last Monday in several Belgian cities signified a major challenge for the police and all emergency and security services. The presence of numerous royals (Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, Prince William and Duchess Kate, Prince Harry, King Felipe VI of Spain), government leaders, ministers and high representatives made exceptional security measures necessary.
Hundreds of agents of the local and federal police, Defence, staff from town and province councils, the fire brigades, the Civil Defence, the medical services, national and international security personnel were deployed. The provincial control rooms (CIC) and the crisis and command centres were veritable beehives of activity. Management of the events by all of these components of the security system generated far more radio traffic on the ASTRID network than on a normal day.
Twice as much radio traffic on 20 ASTRID base stations
The ASTRID systems played their supporting role flawlessly. Police radio communications went without a hitch, despite a doubling of the communication on 10 base stations in the Liège area, on 9 base stations in Mons and on 2 base stations in the centre of Leuven.
On the air-ground-air base station in Liège that is reserved for the communication of helicopters, there was 9 times more radio traffic than normal. The base station of Lantin (Liège) processed up to 105% more communication than on a normal day. ASTRID registered a traffic peak of 2000 minutes of communication between 3 and 4 p.m. on the involved base stations in Liège, and a peak of 800 minutes of communication between 5 and 6 p.m. on the involved base stations in Mons.
Moving VIPs, moving communication
With each movement of the delegations from one site to another, the ASTRID network clearly registered the corresponding communication peaks. For example, on the base stations in the centre of Mons there was a substantial increase in the radio traffic as of 4 p.m., just prior to the arrival of members of the British royal family, and this continued until 8 p.m.
Radio location in the control rooms
In the 3 involved provincial control rooms (provincial CIC in Mons, Liège and Leuven) an interactive map tracks the movements of field agents in real time. The position of the teams is determined via the GPS built into their ASTRID radios, and they can be dispatched in another direction at any moment. The helicopters transmit live video images, so that the teams can react immediately.
Consultation with the site
ASTRID prepared the events in consultation with the organising bodies. Coverage and capacity measurements were performed in the preceding weeks. With a view to greater use comfort for the radios, ASTRID provided for a temporary strengthening of the capacity. One carrier was added on the base station in Cointe (Liège) which covers the Inter-Allied Memorial. The mobile base station (MTU lorry) was also set up near the St Symphorien cemetery. Finally, a reinforced on-call technical team was also arranged for in order to be able to handle any incident.
Daniel Haché, Director External Relations – ASTRID:
”As has already been frequently demonstrated at large-scale events, TETRA proves its added value in critical situations. Despite an exceptional network load, the infrastructure was able to handle the traffic peaks thanks to constant network monitoring, but above all thanks to the excellent cooperation between all the security services.”
Thierry Brasseur, liaison officer for the governor of the province of Liège in charge of public order:
“Fortunately we registered zero incidents on the memorial day, so the interventions of the police forces remained limited. As far as the ASTRID communication is concerned, everything worked perfectly. ASTRID offers a huge advantage for the operational coordination of large-scale events. Our teams strictly observed the radio fleet map”.
A communication plan that was strictly observed
For events of this size, good radio discipline is an absolutely necessity: avoiding individual calls and scanning, using DMO on short distances, keeping the PTT button pressed, keeping calls short and to the point,…
For the memorial ceremonies, the different security services made clear agreements about the communication structure, and the talk groups were optimally used. Co-ordination between motorcyclists, foot teams, mounted police units, helicopters, vehicles, command centres and provincial control rooms requires structured radio communication.
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 any problems in good time, so that the capacity can continue to meet the needs of the radio users in the field. The ASTRID radio network currently has around 520 base stations located throughout the Belgian territory.