Vancouver Int’l Coordinates Communication System With 9-1-1 Service

Vancouver Int’l Coordinates Communication System With 9-1-1 Service
Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Vili Antic, technical analyst at Vancouver International (YVR), sleeps well at night knowing that a cutting-edge public safety and communications system is in place at the British Columbia airport. The system helps coordinate emergency response from ambulance service, firefighters and police officers, and it receives ongoing updates to add coverage and capacity. 

For the past 22 years, Antic has been responsible for Layer 1 infrastructure for YVR’s public safety and emergency operations systems. That means he oversees every last inch of the cabling and communication rooms that handle the safe transmission of 9-1-1 service calls and subsequent first responder coordination. 

On a more technical level, Antic manages the physical layer that modulates signals transmitted over radio links and copper or optical fiber. This includes the airport’s distributed antenna system (DAS)—a component that he praises for its efficiency
and reliability.


Project: New Public Safety Communications System

Location: Vancouver Int’l Airport (BC)

System Overview: 700- & 800-megahertz equipment; distributed antenna system that supports communications for first responders & back-of-the-house communications

System Provider: Advanced RF Technologies Inc. (ADRF)

ADRF Components: Active head end unit & amplifier (with duplicate standbys of both); 4 optic expansion units; 32 remote units

Other System Components: Active donor antenna (with duplicate to connect to the standby head end equipment); 13.6 km of single-mode fiber optic cable; 9.2 km of RF Heliax cable; 128 distribution antennas

911 Service: E-Comm 

Project Timeline: Deployed in 2015, with continuing efforts to add coverage & capacity as needed; system will be extended to new gates in Pier D next summer  

The multiphase deployment of the system included a series of nodes that propagates radio waves in the airport’s DAS, which was designed by Advanced RF Technologies Inc. (ADRF). “What we did first was assess the reason why we needed to go in this direction,” recalls Antic. 

Back in 2009, YVR deployed a trunked radio system that served the airport well for a number of years, he explains. But the computer-controlled two-way radio was supplanted when E-Comm, the 9-1-1 service provider for British Columbia, opted to change its emergency radio system for the province’s primary first responders: ambulance, fire firefighters, and police. As a result, their frequencies changed bands, and YVR was brought to a technical crossroad. 

“The way we were doing things, with what we inherited back in the 2000s, was not sustainable over time,” Antic explains. “We couldn’t use it to grow, and we had to assess which direction to go.” 

Operation DAS 

After searching for a new solution, the airport ultimately opted for a DAS to enhance coverage and capacity. And Antic reports that there were no regrets about installing the state-of-the-art equipment.

ADRF Chief Operating Officer Arnold Kim says that the 700- and 800-megahertz supporting equipment of the DAS supports every single criteria requirement of E-Comm while also easing the jobs of airport staff tasked with the responsibility of public safety. 

“They needed support for the latest and greatest code-compliant public safety equipment to ensure mission-critical communication at YVR,” Kim says. “We won that RFP [request for proposals] and were able to deliver a 700- and 800-megahertz solution that provides connectivity for both the fire marshals, police and municipal folks, as well as for internal communications for airport personnel.”

Antic notes that existing infrastructure at the airport made installation of the DAS rather smooth, all things considered.

“We have the foundation to accommodate different systems with respect to how our IT architecture is set up when we venture out and look for solutions such as DAS,” Antic says of the high-profile system. “The way ADRF equipment works brought in a good blend, a good balance.”

Antic says the “plug-and-play” capabilities of the DAS have been key, with components manufactured and delivered, on average, within two weeks. This is especially important as the DAS continues to grow with the airport.

“It is kind of like adding more pieces to a Lego city or going to IKEA and adding more shelves to your BILLY bookcase collection,” says Antic. “ADRF has really fit what we were looking for when we did the RFP.”

Easy accessibility of DAS equipment will be crucial as YVR nears the end of its largest expansion project since 1996. With eight additional wide-body international gates scheduled to open in Pier D next summer, the first two quarters of 2019 will be filled with bits and pieces of additional DAS equipment being deployed in that part of the terminal.

“It is straightforward and easy-to-follow, and (ADRF) is always there to help. If you want to deal with something that is a little different or if you have a question, they’re always available,” Antic reports. “It helps us, as we don’t have to worry or think about the DAS too much. That way, we can continue to look at other aspects to make our passenger experience better and better.”

Low-Profile Improvement

In terms of the airport’s customer experience, Antic and Kim agree that the less the passengers know about the DAS, the better the system is performing.

“This system is for emergency responders as well as the back-of-the-house folks who work at the airport. So if our communication system enables high productivity, then the less you hear, the better,” says Kim. “If we are able to mitigate or obviate a crisis or malfunction and the passenger is unaware of it, that provides a comforting travel experience for the passengers.”

Clearly, the contractor values the role airport personnel played in the improvement process. “Thankfully, a lot of smart people from YVR who have been immersed in all the latest and greatest requirements that an airport security and communication system requires put all of their experience and intelligence into the pre-design,” Kim concludes. “And thankfully, the existing system didn’t require any additional changes or modifications subsequent to that.” 


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