How Cities Can Share Crucial Information During Emergencies

Critical information – such as encrypted live videos, files, alerts, and other data – can be sent securely, in real time via public television broadcast spectrum to unlimited numbers of public safety recipients.

Drew Coffman / unsplash

Drew Coffman / unsplash

This is a guest post by Kate Riley and Stacey Karp.

When severe storms caused serious flooding in the City of Houston this past April, first responders relied on an expert in communications – Houston Public Media, KUHT and TV8 – for new, critical information sharing capabilities.

The Houston Fire Department and Houston Police Department used Houston Public Media datacasting technology to deliver live video of the flooding on the ground from a mobile phone in a helicopter to the Emergency Operations Center and city leaders on the ground. They used a mobile app called GoCoder, which sent live images from a mobile device to Houston Public Media’s encoder, which delivered the video to the Harris County Sheriff’s Department command vehicle and other city officials over the public television broadcast spectrum. This technology allowed first responders and emergency management agencies to communicate with each other to assess the damage to the city and determine the best response to the emergency situation.

“Datacasting made it possible in less than an hour to stream live video from a helicopter that did not have that capability, into the EOC and then into a conference room that was without a video workstation or any other connection capability,” said Jack Hanagriff, City of Houston, Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security. “This software is giving us the ability to accommodate needs and fill capability gaps in ways we never thought possible.”

What is datacasting?

Datacasting is the process of delivering internet protocol (IP) data over a traditional broadcast television signal. Critical information – such as encrypted live videos, files, alerts, and other data – can be sent securely, in real time via public television broadcast spectrum to unlimited numbers of public safety recipients to enhance preparedness and response efforts and help keep Americans safe during emergencies.

This capability essentially turns public television stations into a new wireless data network. The data is invisible to traditional television viewers. And additionally, all datacasting content is encrypted so that access is restricted to authorized users.

Television’s native one-to-many delivery architecture uses bandwidth very efficiently. The same spectrum that delivers public television service to millions of Americans every day also allows a large number of public safety users to be served with a small amount of bandwidth. One Megabit per second (1/20th of a station’s capacity) can deliver multiple live video streams, large files, alerts and other data to an unlimited number of users.

Public Television: Partners in Public Safety

For decades, public broadcasters have quietly embraced their public safety mission and their commitment to using their broadcasting spectrum for the public good. This work has been most visible in broadcasters’ efforts to keep the public informed during emergencies.

However, across the country, public television stations like Houston Public Media are partnering with local law enforcement and emergency management organizations, connecting first responders to one another and providing enhanced communications and data-sharing capabilities via the public television broadcast spectrum and datacasting. And America’s Public Television Stations have already committed 1 Mbps of their spectrum for eventual use in the federal FirstNet public safety network.

“Public Media’s mission is to serve the community,” said Joshua B. Adams, Executive Director of Operations, Houston Public Media, KUHT and TV8. “In our case, the greater Houston community. If we can leverage our technology to make the community safer… it’s our duty to do it. We consider that part of our mission focus.”

America’s Public Television Stations is working to make datacasting available to first responders across the country. To explore how your local public television station can help provide your city with datacasting capabilities contact Kate Riley at America’s Public Television Stations.

To learn more about datacasting in Houston contact Joshua B. Adams at Houston Public Media.

About the Authors:

20151214 APTS_0026Kate Riley is Vice President,
Government and Public Affairs at America’s Public Television Stations (APTS). APTS is a nonprofit membership organization established in 1979 to conduct – in concert with member stations – strategic planning, research, communications, advocacy and other activities that foster a strong and financially sound public television system providing essential public services to all Americans. Kate manages congressional relations, state government liaison, the organization’s work with federal departments and agencies, communications, grassroots and grasstops advocacy, and strategic partnerships.

Stacey Karp is Director of Communications at America’s Public Television Stations (APTS). Stacey manages a wide range of communications, public relations and online media activities that advance public television’s legislative and regulatory objectives.

The Recipe for Economic Development

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam discusses the economic development tools that have helped fuel the city’s success.

Located a short distance from both Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Fla., the City of Miramar was founded as a “bedroom community” in the 1950s. Since 2000, however, the city has charted a new path, doubling its population and significantly growing its economy. But like a lot of cities, the economic downturn of 2008 forced the city to think creatively about maintaining the services residents and businesses demand despite decreasing revenues. In this Big Ideas for City’s talk, Mayor Messam discusses how the community has leveraged its unique assets with economic development strategies to keep the city moving forward.

Do you have a big idea? Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

How to Grow an Inclusive Economy

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Compton, California Mayor Aja Brown discusses what it takes to ensure the benefits of economic development reach all residents.

Most people know the City of Compton, California from NWA, but there’s a lot more to the city’s story. In this Big Ideas for Cities talk, Compton Mayor Aja Brown discusses how the city reduced its homicide rate, lowered the unemployment rate and increased economic opportunity. “Economic growth—and connecting it to disadvantaged populations—is key to a community’s success,” says Mayor Brown.

Do you have a big idea? Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

How to Reinvent a Struggling Downtown

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Little Rock, Arkansas Mayor Mark Stodola discusses how creative placemaking can drive economic development in a city’s downtown.

How can a city reinvent a downtown after it’s been ‘dead’ for 30 years? In this Big Ideas for Cities talk, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola discusses what it takes to make a struggling downtown come back to life. “When the core of a downtown—when the heart a downtown—is thriving,” says Mayor Stodola, “the rest of the city is going to thrive as well.”

Do you have a big idea? Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

What It Takes to Be a Comeback City

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson discusses how pulling together the right team, the right ideas, and the right plan has set the city up for a resurgence.

When Karen Freeman-Wilson became mayor of Gary, Indiana, she faced persistent challenges such as crime and blight — but around the time she came into office, the city lost a significant portion of its revenue as well. “So much of [today’s] discussion is framed in the context of the recession of 2008,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson in her Big Ideas for Cities talk. “That didn’t really mean a whole lot for us. In 2006, the state of Indiana passed permanent property tax caps. And by 2012, they became a part of our constitution, meaning that residential tax-payers paid one percent, commercial two percent, and industrial tax-payers paid no more than three percent. The long and short of that is: on the day I took office, I lost 60 percent of my property tax budget.”

Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivers her Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson delivers her Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Do you have a big idea? Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

How the City of Chattanooga Became a Destination for Innovation

In this Big Ideas for Cities feature, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tells the story of how his city became a hotbed for entrepreneurship and innovation.

When Andy Berke became mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2013, he imagined a city where frequent interaction, intellectual and creative collisions, and knowledge spillovers would be routine. Whereas the outgoing city administration worked to revive the city’s ailing industrial sector through the recruitment of traditional manufacturing businesses, Mayor Berke believed the city’s future prosperity was tied, in part, to the innovation economy and would require a comprehensive overhaul of past economic policies.

“In Chattanooga, we know the pain of holding onto the past for too long, because we’ve done it,” says Mayor Berke. “When we talk about economic resiliency and the way mid-size cities can be a part of the future of our new economy, it has special meaning for Chattanooga.” In this talk, learn how this once struggling manufacturing town has orchestrated an economic success story, clustering talent, startups, established firms, nonprofits, research institutions and cultural assets to drive economic revitalization.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke delivers his Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Fla. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke delivers his Big Ideas talk in Miami Beach, Florida. (Jason Dixson Photography)

Do you have a big idea?

Since 2014, the National League of Cities’ Big Ideas for Cities series has featured cities and businesses that are using “big ideas” to drive communities forward. The series has quickly become a popular platform for leaders to share their success stories and describe, in detail, the steps they’ve taken to make their communities better.

We are currently accepting speaker submissions. Leaders are invited to share the best practices and innovative solutions moving their cities forward. The series is filmed year-round and open to individuals from all sectors – public, private and nonprofit. Talks are filmed at NLC’s studio in our new building on North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C.

Related resources

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Program Manager for Content and Social Media at the National League of Cities. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimMudd.

3 Reasons Why Infrastructure Needed to Be Addressed in the GOP Debate

Last night, Republican presidential hopefuls again stood before the nation vying to be their party’s nominee. One issue was sorely missing from the debate.

16837601306_92fbdc7017_kA view of the podium bearing the presidential seal at NLC’s Congressional City Conference. (Jason Dixson)

For three hours last night at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., 11 Republican presidential hopefuls went back-and-forth on issues ranging from immigration, the nuclear deal with Iran and gay marriage. While the pundits engage in their own debate over who will next challenge frontrunner Donald Trump in the polls, issues of critical importance to the nation’s cities continue to go without the national spotlight they deserve.

Over the course of the election process, the National League of Cities (NLC) is helping city officials engage directly with the men and women hoping to be the next President as part of our Cities Lead 2016 campaign. We want to make sure the candidates know that city issues are America’s issues. One of those issues, infrastructure, hasn’t been mentioned once in the two debates. Here are three reasons why that’s a problem:

1. The Sad State of American Infrastructure is Becoming a Public Safety Issue

Many bridges and structures throughout the country, such as this damaged overpass in Pennsylvania, are in desperate need of repair. (Getty Images)

One in nine of our nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient; 240,000 water main breaks happen each year; the number of deficient dams is estimated at more than 4,000 — these stats are just a snapshot of the poor state of America’s infrastructure. On a recent trip to Concord, N.H., as part of our Cities Lead 2016 campaign, we heard directly from local officials on the precarious conditions poor infrastructure has created for the community.

In this city of over 40,000, local officials recently had to close a bridge on which it was no longer deemed safe for fire trucks to travel. The difficult decision to close the bridge has forced first responders to go on a detour through two cities, causing delays in response times. Due to the lack of adequate funding for infrastructure, local officials across the country are making difficult decisions like those made in Concord that impact the safety and well-being of residents — when they shouldn’t have to do so. The next President must tackle the unacceptable state of our nation’s critical infrastructure.

2. Climate Change is Exacerbating Existing Infrastructure Challenges

ThinkstockPhotos-525078077This flooded underpass in New York City illustrates the need for infrastructure improvements that reflect an awareness of the negative effects of climate change. (Getty Images) 

Adding to the concern about aging infrastructure is the impact of extreme weather events. Heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours, floods and hurricanes are straining existing infrastructure challenges, and introducing new ones. With climate change and higher temperatures, extreme weather storms are arriving with greater frequency and intensity. Cities like Dubuque, Iowa, face chronic and severe flooding as a result and are adopting solutions to managing an increasing amount of stormwater runoff.

Extreme weather events, sea level rise, shifting precipitation patterns and temperature variability — all intensified by climate change — have significant implications for water quality and availability, roads, rail and airports, energy infrastructure and our cities’ building stock. These trends have real, everyday consequences for local governments, which are on the front lines when it comes to mitigation and adaptation efforts and making sure their community is resilient. We ask that the candidates give climate change, and the impact it has on local infrastructure, the attention it deserves.

3. The World Has Changed. Our Infrastructure Must Too.

As greater numbers of city residents access data using mobile phones, more cities are finding that apps are an ideal way to share public transport information. (Getty Images)

Together with a series of rapid technological advancements, recent demographic trends are changing the nature of transportation and mobility in cities. Over the last several years, Americans of all demographic groups have embraced new modes of transportation. Active transportation has seen a significant surge — from 2000-2012, the number of people who primarily bike to work increased 60 percent nationwide.

Better technology is also creating greater demand for public transit. There are currently 99 transit expansion projects and 23 major system renovations underway throughout the country, in addition to almost 100 other projects in the pipeline at some stage of the planning, finance and review process. In the very near future even our roads will need to adapt to new technologies, including support for self-driving cars.

We must reexamine how federal infrastructure dollars are supporting 21st century trends. Since 1992, roughly 80 percent of all federal transportation funding has been reserved for the highway system, at the expense of alternative modes. Cities ask that the candidates discuss their vision for the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 8.58.14 AMAbout the author: Tim Mudd is the Senior Associate for Strategic Communications at the National League of Cities. Contact Tim at mudd@nlc.org.