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  1. #1
    Forum Member 1OLDTIMER's Avatar
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    Default Fire Crews Endangered By "new" Radios:

    NOTE:
    I posted this in another thread...however I think it deserves attention here. If not...ask the WEBTEAM to remove it.
    Thanks.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Here is yet ANOTHER example of why the "latest, greatest, costly 800Mhz systems" are NOT RELIABLE. The tried 'n true VHF/UHF w/repeaters hardly ever failed.

    09-23-2008 10:58:45 AM


    COUPON, PA -- While a state police fire marshal on Monday investigated the cause of a Sunday afternoon blaze that destroyed a historic church in Coupon, emergency responders say the county's new $2 million communications system hampered firefighting efforts.

    Ashville fire Chief Rick Zupon even went as far to say that firefighters' inability to communicate with each other threatened the lives of volunteers inside the structure , who narrowly escaped life-threatening injuries when a brick chimney on St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church collapsed.

    "We had no communications," Zupon said Sunday. "I couldn't communicate with 911, they couldn't communicate with me, and I couldn't communicate with my equipment coming in."

    Zupon said he tried to make contact several times with 911 to update the progress, and response was sporadic at best. Communication from the supply engines, which were pumping water from a dam about 1,000 feet away to the attack engines, was non-existent.

    But most troubling was no communication from firefighters inside the church to the outside.

    "I had two crews inside, and when we gave the order to evacuate, they couldn't get the signal inside to evacuate," Zupon said. "They couldn't hear the radios. My deputy chief did hear the word "evacuate" once at one point, and knew then they needed to get out."
    This could have very easily been another Charleston tradegy!

    here's the "rest of the troubling, sad story"

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...&sectionId =46
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  2. #2
    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Oldtimer- Where you been? Problems with 800Mhz radios is nothing new. The City of Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments have been charging for over 5 years now, that their 24 Million Dollar Trunked system is a POS. In fact, the family of a Phila FF who died in the line of Duty has filed a lawsuit against Motorola alledging that the system did not allow Incident Commanders operating at a basement fire to communicate with members inside- No one heard their cries for help, nor did the panic buttons function when they were activated.

    The PD's system goes out at least once every other week. Takes close to 45 mins to shut down the computers and re-boot. I have heard that the FOP is considering filing a federal lawsuit against Philadelphia and Motorola.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  3. #3
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    A good part of my County uses the 800 trunk system with no complaints. NJ State Police uses it as well. We are awaiting our 800mhz systems to add to our vehicles as well.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  4. #4
    Forum Member 1OLDTIMER's Avatar
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    A good part of my County uses the 800 trunk system with no complaints. NJ State Police uses it as well. We are awaiting our 800mhz systems to add to our vehicles as well.
    The only thing I can say to your post is that, you are VERY fortunate not to have had problems. If you read the critique(s) of nearly every incident/disaster, the greatest complaint is always problems with and/or lack of communiations. These systems work just fine during the business day, but for some reason fail at critical times...when [really] needed.

    Ironically, the $45 citizens-band radio, and the Amateur network never fails. I have been Fed/Licensed to operate an Amateur radio with H/S-Emergency Management for 18 years. When the 800 system goes down, the [volunteer] amateurs are notified to provide comm. until they get the high-tech mess figured out. I guess you could call that Plan-B, however you seldom read about this in the media. Many use cell-teles now...thinking they can use these as "back-up," but if the power to the towers and/or the tower itself is damaged during severe weather...they are absolutely useless as is the 800 system.
    "we will bankrupt ourselves in the vain attempt at absolute security"
    Pres. / General Dwight D. Eisenhower

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    Forum Member FIREMECH1's Avatar
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    Take this any way you want.

    All of our fire and police radios are 800. And we have not had a problem with it at all.

    But there is one thing to note though, and I can't say what or where the problem is.

    On the the portable radios, there is an orange button the FF's can hit, to say they are in need of help/assistance. A MAYDAY, if you will. If a trapped FF is to hit that orange button, it goes to a channel, that nobody is on. Not 911, not dispatch, or anybody on scene. It is a dead call for help.

    Policy now is, if you are trapped/need help, to call it on the portable. At that time, dispatch/911 will clear and move the action channel, to another. This way, they have live contact, as well as the Bat chief, has comm with said FF.

    They have no idea of what the problem is, or why it is, that way. But they are looking into it.

    This actually happened on scene. And luckily, it turned out good. But policy has changed since then.

    FM1

  6. #6
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    We programmed our portables to disable the orange button.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Does anyone have any comments on M/A Com P25 system? Good, bad or indifferent. Ours is set to go on line in a couple of months and we don't know what to expect. The Chief says that the VHF system will stay in place for some time just in case.

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    Do any of the radios you guys are carrying have a NMASTA channel. The NMASTA channel turns the 800 MHz radio into basically a short range walkie talkie. We use this in Guilford County NC. I did not know if there was a similar back up system that was in use else where. We have several large manfu. and distribution facilities in my first due and we use these channels on a regular basis in these structures when we are doing the all too common walk thru on fire alarms.
    Last edited by KENNYWOOD12; 11-08-2008 at 07:10 PM. Reason: grammatical error
    Just my opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgiaEVT View Post
    Does anyone have any comments on M/A Com P25 system? Good, bad or indifferent. Ours is set to go on line in a couple of months and we don't know what to expect. The Chief says that the VHF system will stay in place for some time just in case.
    Well, 100% the worst system I have ever used. Ask anyone in PA using the way overbudget system if they like it...I'm sure the answer will me a loud NO.

    At my vol. company, we use a Motorola 800Mhz Digital Smartzone which does have a few issues, but I would fight like hell to keep it if they even thought of going to the M/A Com!!!
    A Fire Chief has ONLY 1 JOB and that's to take care of his fireman. EVERYTHING else falls under this.

  10. #10
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1OLDTIMER View Post
    NOTE:
    I posted this in another thread...however I think it deserves attention here. If not...ask the WEBTEAM to remove it.
    Thanks.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Here is yet ANOTHER example of why the "latest, greatest, costly 800Mhz systems" are NOT RELIABLE. The tried 'n true VHF/UHF w/repeaters hardly ever failed.

    09-23-2008 10:58:45 AM




    This could have very easily been another Charleston tradegy!

    here's the "rest of the troubling, sad story"

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...&sectionId =46
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  11. #11
    Forum Member 1OLDTIMER's Avatar
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    Unhappy Communication Problems:

    CaptOldTimer: -> Is there anything you like or do not complain about???
    To be frank...NO, there is very little...given the environmnet we are in today...unless you are living in denial, wearing 1960's rose-colored glasses.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/web/online/...ters-/46$61681


    Nov. 19--SALISBURY, NC...

    Faulty radios were one serious problem during a March fire at Salisbury Millwork where two firefighters were killed, according to an analysis released by the Salisbury Fire Department on Tuesday.

    As a team of firefighters worked to contain a blaze from spreading into a large manufacturing area, they could hear their commanders give them orders. But they increasingly had trouble being heard -- a problem that could have complicated any possible rescue.

    The transcript of radio calls shows the captain of Isler and Monroe's team -- known as quint 4 -- made brief radio contact two minutes before he issued a mayday call. The report said he spoke with distress.

    Parnell said if the radios were working, "it's possible things could have turned out differently."

  12. #12
    Forum Member footrat's Avatar
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    Our new digital system retains a talkaround feature. If we're on a scene where communications are not functioning well due to interference or whatever reason, everyone can switch to talkaround, which is a line-of-sight only channel. It is not recorded by our communications center, and cannot be heard by anyone not at the scene. The IC must relay information to radio, because no tac channel operator can monitor.

  13. #13
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    and to think there is talk about the Feds moving ALL Emergency services to 700 mh for a nationwide interoperability

  14. #14
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    if I understand trunked systems correctly, they use several radio frequencies to service a greater number of talk groups. It takes advantage of dead time so that say 2 frequencies can serve say 4 talk groups (just arbitrary numbers). Its like juggling, the talk groups are the balls and the hands are the radio frequencies. Well when SHTF, traffic increases system gets overloaded and the system craps out.

    Its over simplified and I wont pretend to fully understand the system, but thats part of the reason why I think trunk systems behave poorly in critical situations when the radios light up.

  15. #15
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    You very simple interpretation is correct.

    The common denominator with all of these systems is coverage. To have adequate in-building coverage on the system is EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE and nobody pays for it. To extend coverage into bad spots in town is also extremely expensive. When it comes to regional and statewide systems, they don't give a crap about individual needs and problem areas. Which means people like you guys get screwed. Of course it works fine for the cops, they aren't crawling in a basement with a portable radio. They're in a car or standing outside.

    This is why simplex non-digital non-trunked channels should always be used for interior operations. It keeps that traffic off the "system" and there is nothing in the way.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  16. #16
    Forum Member 1OLDTIMER's Avatar
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    Lightbulb New "Multi-Band" Radios:

    Posted: 08-13-2009:

    Wouldn't it be great to have a radio that supports all bands used by first responders in a given area?

    The DHS is currently working toward that goal -- lending a hand in developing what would become the first multi-band radio designed specifically for first responders. In order to complete its research, responders from various agencies across the U.S. are being involved in the process.
    This sounds like a "neon-light" idea, however I doubt if it will be less confusing, easier to use and any better than what is already out here. Communications is and will continue to be the "weakest link in the chain" at every major incident. The more complex they attempt to make it...I feel that it will only get worse.

    The ole fail-safe "AM low band" still works just fine for many depts. in PA and elsewhere...with no PC or repeater to failures to complicate things.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=64935

  17. #17
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Multi-band radio are still way to expensive and way to cumbersome for widespread replacement of the normal single band radios. They have their place for command interoperability or specific functions requiring it. But to just get everyone to use multi-band portable radios will not happen any time in the forseeable future.

    I can build an interconnect box with a Low, High, UHF, and 800 link radio for about $3,000 including the antennas and power sources. That is less than the cost of one multi-band portable and it will link up all the existing ones in one shot.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  18. #18
    MembersZone Subscriber LVFD301's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1OLDTIMER View Post
    The only thing I can say to your post is that, you are VERY fortunate not to have had problems. If you read the critique(s) of nearly every incident/disaster, the greatest complaint is always problems with and/or lack of communiations. These systems work just fine during the business day, but for some reason fail at critical times...when [really] needed.

    Ironically, the $45 citizens-band radio, and the Amateur network never fails. I have been Fed/Licensed to operate an Amateur radio with H/S-Emergency Management for 18 years. When the 800 system goes down, the [volunteer] amateurs are notified to provide comm. until they get the high-tech mess figured out. I guess you could call that Plan-B, however you seldom read about this in the media. Many use cell-teles now...thinking they can use these as "back-up," but if the power to the towers and/or the tower itself is damaged during severe weather...they are absolutely useless as is the 800 system.
    Chuckle. I have been doing public safety radio since the late 70's, while also being involved with all facets of public safety in various positions. Got too many t shirts to give a damn about anymore.

    I also play around with AMATEUR (HAM) radio, as a hobby.

    I find your statement about 800 mhz to be hilarious.

    A properly designed 700/800 mhz system IS just as reliable, if not more so, than a conventional repeater system. Add to that the various reasons where channel overloading is so severe that you have to look at other options than a bunch of conventional repeaters.

    Penetration into buildings is better on 800 than on VHF.

    And the amateur network never fails? What fantasy land are you living in? The local ham club has their VHF repeater on my bench as I type - so it can be fixed.

    The biggest question - when are we going to start using the assets we already have, perhaps some limited use of "interop" boxes for crossbanding as well? Lots of interop frequencies out there that are NEVER used. When are we going to get fireground ops off of any kind of repeaters? When are we going to not forget the basics, and as well as calling evacuate on the radio, hitting that damn air horn? When are we going to start using NIMS for an incident command?

    Multi band radios for everyone? Who are these people kidding? More to get people confused with. Command staff only.

    Amateur network never fails. You slay me...

  19. #19
    MembersZone Subscriber LVFD301's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1OLDTIMER View Post
    Posted: 08-13-2009:

    The ole fail-safe "AM low band" still works just fine for many depts. in PA and elsewhere...with no PC or repeater to failures to complicate things.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=64935

    AM low band? AM? Did you learn that in your HAM class?

    The low band in use by PA departments is FM, not AM.

    No PC? Most all county dispatch centers are using computer based
    consoles. Most all the radios are microprocessor based.

    No repeater? Most all counties are using remoted base stations, often
    times by RF links or microwave, which would technically be used as a repeater. Some use phone lines of course.

    Many of the counties now using low band, are planning going to new systems, and many who used to be low band have gone to newer systems and other bands.

    Low band, while I love it, has lots of issues, even before you look at the limited availability of equipment.

    Of course, I am talking FM low band, not that AM low band! LOL

  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber LVFD301's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Y
    This is why simplex non-digital non-trunked channels should always be used for interior operations. It keeps that traffic off the "system" and there is nothing in the way.
    Good points on both issues. In building coverage is often being laid in the lap of building owners, at least new buildings and remodels. It is the next hot item in the DAS field, as tower companies are building out in building systems to support cellular providers. Hopefully we can figure out how to make them incorporate public safety in those systems.

    And the simplex non-digital for interior, or even fireground should be everywhere. Depending on a repeater is nuts in that situation.

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