Public Safety Lessons Learned at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival Public Safety 2018

The Issue: Every year people make the pilgrimage to picturesque Telluride in the San Juan Mountains for the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival. This year, the 45th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival took place June 21-24, 2018 and attracted 12,000-15,000 participants over the four days.

When this many people are assembled in such a remote area, the need for reliable communications, situational awareness, and live video streaming are a necessity to keep the public safe and ensure operational effectiveness for public safety agencies.

The Telluride Marshal’s Office (TMO) in conjunction with the Mountain View Police Department (MVPD), requested that the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) facilitate access to network providers, device manufacturers, and application vendors to provide first responders with technologies in support of the event.

The Response: The objective of the CBO was to ensure that during the event public safety agencies had the necessary devices with high-bandwidth network connections to allow their personnel to send and receive data and phone calls, especially during times of heavy network congestion. The CBO was able to understand the first responder needs in their daily operations and during special events in geographically diverse environments. We documented these requirements and, as a result, provided a set of technologies to be tested at the event.

Technology Solutions: During the festival, the CBO used several public safety technologies to provide first responders with smart devices paired with priority service on two different networks. We once again used the Team Awareness Kit (TAK), tested the week before at Country Jam. We also used the ESChat application (push-to-talk [PTT] Voice over Internet Protocol [VoIP]) and Kyocera devices paired with Visual Labs streaming video application.

The CBO supplied, in partnership with respective the network providers, twenty-five Samsung Galaxy S7 devices provisioned on the Verizon Network with Wireless Broadband Priority (WBP – data) and Wireless Priority Service (WPS – voice), and two Sonim Technologies XP8 devices provisioned on the FirstNet, Built with AT&T network.

The two XP8 devices were primarily used by the Chief and Duty Sergeant for each shift. The Sonim XP8 is a rugged smart device that was built with public safety in mind. Sonim was one of the first ruggedized smart device manufacturers to include the military’s MIL-STD-810 rigorous test method and use it to generate confidence in the environmental worthiness and overall durability of their smart design.

Lessons Learned: The opportunity to support multiple public safety agencies during the 45th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival increased our understanding of the capabilities of LTE communications and data technologies during large events. Some of our key takeaways were:

  1. Due to the unforeseen performance issues with a particular set of devices the week before at Country Jam, we decided to only deploy the Samsung Galaxy S7s. Our decision was based on the suspicion that the issues we had experienced with TAK were caused by a specific operating system (OS), and we knew that the Android “Nougat” OS running on the Samsung Galaxy S7 had excellent performance with the TAK application. The devices with Android “Oreo” OS (also known as “O”) seemed to cause issues when paired with the TAK application. It appeared that the OS would turn off the GPS when the phone was locked or when using another application and TAK was in the background. In these instances, TAK was still running but not recording information about the user’s location.

    This is a unique issue to public safety, especially in the use of situational awareness applications. In reaching out to application and device providers since Country Jam and the Telluride Annual Bluegrass Festival, they have confirmed our suspicion that the OS intentionally throttles GPS to conserve battery life. Specifically, the OS limits background application access to GPS a few times each hour. This is a significant issue when operating situational awareness applications that rely on up-to-date GPS location of personnel. It may be as simple as making sure that an application like TAK has access the GPS at all times (which will significantly shorten battery run time), or it may require revisions to how the operating system interacts with particular background applications on a device. This would require the device or application manufacturer to work with the operating system engineers to develop a solution.

    When using situational awareness applications that require constant GPS, such as TAK, it is imperative that the device and the operating system allow GPS access at all times, including when the situational application is at the forefront, background, or when the device is locked. We must continue our efforts to educate manufacturers on the unique needs of first> 

  2. Running GPS applications all the time can deplete battery life quickly, creating the need for an external battery and/or tethering the device to a power source throughout a shift. Although results between devices and GPS application will vary, it has been our experience that most device batteries running GPS continually will drain a fully charged battery in about four to five hours. Additionally, high battery usage (resulting from constantly running GPS services and other applications) can cause the device to overheat and result in unnecessary distractions for the public safety personnel. These issues must be addressed by device manufacturers and software engineers in order to provide products that support situational awareness scenarios.
  3. The video streaming feature of the TAK application proved to be advantageous during this event. The Town of Mountain Village has video cameras situated across the community that could be accessed through the TAK application, giving responding officers and agencies a first glimpse of what is happening in a given area. It is vital in any emergency situation that trained personnel are able to see what is going on and determine the resources needed to mitigate the situation.

Concluding Thoughts: What we learned at the 45th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival is invaluable as we seek to understand how to utilize these new technologies and capabilities. It also creates a great opportunity to inform application developers, device manufacturers, and transport network operators of the specific needs of first responders.

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