Metro Area ARMER System
The region-wide radio system governed by the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board is a shared radio system covering nine counties, including Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington, and is now part of the larger state radio system known as ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response). The system is largely software based and operates in the 800 MHz band.
By contract and statute, MnDOT owns and operates the radio system. The MESB does not own any infrastructure or equipment associated with the radio system except for a few subscriber units. The backbone of the system was built to provide 95% portable on the belt coverage. If local units of government desire additional coverage, in-building coverage for example, they are responsible for adding infrastructure. MnDOT maintains all regional sites and equipment; locals are responsible for their own equipment and infrastructure.
The ARMER system is a digital, trunked radio system based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP). A digital system produces truer voice communications without the static often heard on older, analog systems. The trunking allows for more efficient use of frequencies and creates a system with more capacity than non-trunked systems. Trunking means that a computer selects one of a number of pooled frequencies for a user to talk on. Once that user releases his talk button, that frequency is immediately available for use by another user. The computer keeps track of how to route communications so conversations occurring on a given talkgroup can be heard by all radios which have that talkgroup selected.
The MESB maintains an extensive set of Standards, Protocols and Procedures. These standards cover a large range of topics from technician training to proper uses for pool talkgroups referred to as A-TACs and P-TACs, to a non-compliance policy. These standards have been used as models for other systems across the country and have largely been adopted as ARMER standards, with minor modifications.
Before radio-related issues come before the MESB they go through a process of committees. Any requests to join the system, operational or technical standards or technical changes to the system are sent to the Radio Technical Operations Committee for review and recommendation. The Radio TOC is composed of technicians and operational users from the nine parties to the JPA (one each) plus one representative each from the Metropolitan Council, Metropolitan Airports Commission, Metro Region EMS, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association and one at-large member appointed by the MESB. The committee reviews requests and issues from a technical and operational standpoint and makes recommendations to the MESB Executive Committee for action.
Current metro area users include: Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington Counties; the Cities of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and White Bear Lake; Allina, Health East, North Memorial and Ridgeview Ambulance Services; the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Metro Transit, and the University of Minnesota; there are numerous state and federal agencies on the ARMER system as well, including MnDOT and Minnesota State Patrol.