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New radio system for CERN emergency communications

Starting in January, the CERN Fire Brigade will use TETRA - a new digital radio communication system designed to meet emergency communication needs


New radio system for CERN emergency communications

A delicate operation: one of the three radio antennas of the TETRA communication system is installed on top of the water tower on the Meyrin site (Image: Anthony Grossir)

TETRA is a digital radio communication system already in service in many fire brigades across Europe. It will soon be used by the CERN Fire Brigade, as well as by hundreds of CERN personnel and contractors' staff working in the tunnels. "This new redundant radio system is operated and monitored internally at CERN, with round-the-clock support, guaranteeing us maximum reliability," says TETRA project leader Aurélie Pascal (IT/CS/CS). "This is a great improvement on the Very High Frequency systems we've been using up to now."

TETRA radio systems are designed for emergency communications but also allow users to send messages of the type "Arrived at destination" or "Taking charge of the patient" so that the progress of call-outs can be monitored by the command post in real time. "This feature will be a big help in optimizing the firemen's work in the field," says Yann Lechevin, the project coordinator for the Fire Brigade. TETRA radios are also equipped with a "lone worker" alarm, which alerts the fire station if anyone working in isolation is prone and no sign of movement is detectable for an extended period; or in the event of a crash or bump or other such impact. This could be supplemented with a geolocation system that even works in the tunnels: the installation of 5000 underground position indicators from 2013 is under study.

The system, which entered the test phase a few days ago, is being deployed across the whole CERN site. Three radio antennas were installed: one on the water tower on the Meyrin site, one on the Prévessin site and one at Point 4 of the LHC. The radio coverage stretches as far as the Saint Julien hospital in France and should be extended to include the route to the Geneva University Hospital next year; discussions on the subject are currently underway with the Swiss authorities. These antennae will also benefit the French and Swiss fire brigades, allowing them to use their communication equipment in CERN's underground infrastructures.

"The CERN Fire Brigade will start using the TETRA network next January. We'll be deploying almost 500 radios to meet the communication needs of CERN's different groups, services and experiments," says Sascha Schmeling of the PH Department, who coordinates the project for users other than firefighters and guards. These radios will be reachable by the Fire Brigade 24 hours a day and "visible" on a map (in the event of an accident only).

Need a TETRA radio? Click here for more information.