1. #1
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    Default Regional Comms grants

    As if I needed anything else on my plate, I volunteered to serve on a committee within our county fire chiefs organization to address issues we're having with our 911 system. This is a system that's been up-and-running for less than a year in a county that's 20 years behind the times. On top of this committee, I'm also running for a spot on the board. Both are due to the theory that to effect change, you have to be in the position to effect change.

    I've been wanting to do something towards a regional comms grant to get all of us FD's on the same page and system for a while now, but haven't been able to get the fire chiefs on board. Now, I may be in the position to do just that.

    From my understanding, 911 has already done propogation (sp?) studies to find the dead spots and some other issues, so part of the work may already be done for me.

    What I'm looking at is the means to get up at least two repeaters (I know our county SO gets by with two), one for the north half and the other for the south half, as well as the radios and other equipment for each FD. If it's at all possible, I'd like to be able to get the MDTs and GPS location equipment for at least the primary apparatus for each department, if not all apparatus.

    I'd love any information or input you guys might have on taking on something like this. I know it takes a lot of work and a lot of time, and I probably won't be able to get it lined out before next years grant cycle. But, I'd like to get a head start on the 2010 cycle.

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    Catch are you going to be able to use existing freqencys(sp) or are you going to have to license new band with?
    We are building out a new narrow band (450) trunked system and getting the freqs and tower approvals have taken forever.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WJVaughn View Post
    Catch are you going to be able to use existing freqencys(sp) or are you going to have to license new band with?
    We are building out a new narrow band (450) trunked system and getting the freqs and tower approvals have taken forever.
    To pull off what I'm envisioning, it's going to take a couple new frequencies. Right now everyone in the county is on the 150-range and everyone is dispatched on their own frequency.

    What I want to do is eliminate using individual agency's frequencies and establish two dispatch frequencies and use the individuals as talk-groups for fireground operations. Anything for dispatch goes over the dispatch frequency, anything not for them is on the fireground.

    One of the problems we're having right now is the lack of frequencies for my department (and others, for that matter) to get a repeater pair. The ohter is using the individual frequencies for dispatching. Our situation is a perfect example. There are at least 4 other agencies using the same frequency as my department (one for school buses, the other three FD's) that bleed over. The solution at dispatch is to turn down our frequency on their console. When they do this, we can't communicate because they can't here us. My thinking is having two frequencies to listen to will eleviate this problem.

    The same goes for trying to get LE and EMS to do the same. Have them on a dispatch frequency and a tactical channel. The tornado that hit us on May 10th brought this issue to light. Dispatch was so inundated with nonessential LE traffic that wasn't for them that they couldn't even hear me when I called for emergency traffic. While it's not really tied into the grant, it's part of what we're encountering.

    I'd almost like to look into the move to a different frequency set, but I dont' know how well it'd work in our rural area and how much it would take to change over the numerous radios and pagers in the county. Getting into the frequency bands is like trying to read Greek for me.

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    Catch you might want to hook up with Mike McNeill(Mike you out there?) He has had some experience in his pass life with this sort of thing and he not too far from you.

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    Mike,

    In order to do a regional AFG grant you will have to comply with the statewide SIEC plan. Pretty much calls for VHF P25.

    Now, the state has taken bids on the new statewide system, and is looking at those now. At this point, it will be a P25 system, on VHF except in the
    KC, STL, and SPGFLD areas, where the interoperabilty VHF channels will be
    bridged to the 800 mhz systems.

    There will be NO user access charges, NO fees, etc for local agencies to use this system, and it will be OPEN to p25 standards.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LVFD301 View Post
    Mike,

    In order to do a regional AFG grant you will have to comply with the statewide SIEC plan. Pretty much calls for VHF P25.

    Now, the state has taken bids on the new statewide system, and is looking at those now. At this point, it will be a P25 system, on VHF except in the
    KC, STL, and SPGFLD areas, where the interoperabilty VHF channels will be
    bridged to the 800 mhz systems.

    There will be NO user access charges, NO fees, etc for local agencies to use this system, and it will be OPEN to p25 standards.
    I figured you'd have some input! I appreciate it.

    So, by my deciphering of Greek, we would have to upgrade to the 400-range to pull off a grant and be compliant with the statewide plan? Not that I'm opposed to doing that, I'll just have to work with our 911 director to find out what they're cabable of.

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    very interesting. I have been invited to our states ema that is holding a regional communications grant workshop next tuesday. as they only sent me the particulars yesterday i cannot elaborate anymore except that the invite seems to suggest that they want my assistance in writing the grant. i may be contacting you catch22 conerning your progress. (there seems to be alot of activity about these radio/communications interoperability of late. it makes me wonder what's going on.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    I figured you'd have some input! I appreciate it.

    So, by my deciphering of Greek, we would have to upgrade to the 400-range to pull off a grant and be compliant with the statewide plan? Not that I'm opposed to doing that, I'll just have to work with our 911 director to find out what they're cabable of.
    Nope - you would either go VHF, (150 to 170) or possibly go 800 if you
    decide to get included in the Springfield/Joplin system.

    I don't know if they will go for the 800 part.

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    VHF = 150 MHz range, so the frequency range wouldn't change. However, it sounds like the statewide system will be P25, which is digital (your current system is analog), so that would mean new radios in order to be able to work on the new system.

    I don't know what MO's SIEC plan looks like, but it in most cases you're considered compliant with the plan as long as you can operate on the interoperability system and/or channels. If that's true, you could build out an analog VHF repeater system as long as subscriber units are P25 capable for operation on the statewide interop system. Or you could ask for funding to add additional towers to the statewide system in your county to meet your coverage needs (many state interop systems are built for "mobile radio" coverage, not "portable radio" coverage). One thing to be careful of is using P25 on the fireground. There are known problems with doing this. If you do migrate to P25 digital, it would be wise to continue to use analog for fireground communications until the digital vocoder problems have been worked out.

    A good route is to develop a Request for Proposals document that outlines exactly what you want to accomplish and let vendors propose solutions. The danger in this is that they tend to spec something very high dollar that's overkill or not suited to your needs. An independent consultant that understands your needs might be valuable, but it's a chicken and the egg thing there....where does the money for the consultant come from without a grant, and how do you justify a grant without a plan? Maybe this years grant would be consultant funding, and then a future year for the actual system. I'm not sure if that's been done before, but I don't see why it wouldn't be acceptable.

    Andy

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    Good comments. The P25 should without a doubt be kept away from fireground ops until the issues are fixed.

    The SIEC plan here is in a bit of flux, some are wanting the radios to be fully complaint with the new system, some are wanting the radios to be just meeting the basic requirements set forth in the past, ie, VHF, 48 or more channels, display, P25, etc.

    I think a lot will be worked out before Catch puts in his aplication.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LVFD301 View Post
    Nope - you would either go VHF, (150 to 170) or possibly go 800 if you
    decide to get included in the Springfield/Joplin system.

    I don't know if they will go for the 800 part.
    I told you, that stuff's Greek to me! LOL

    We're supposed to have a committee meeting on the 8th to start hashing some of this out. From my understanding, the radio guy that 911 is working with might be there to answer questions about the system's capabilities.

    I have serious doubts 800 is going to fly. Dare I assume that they're also going digital on the 150, 170 frequencies?

    One of these days I'm going to have to hook up some kind of hardline between us so you can transfer that information to my brain. Maybe Bill Gates has something worked out that'll do that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pelican631 View Post
    VHF = 150 MHz range, so the frequency range wouldn't change. However, it sounds like the statewide system will be P25, which is digital (your current system is analog), so that would mean new radios in order to be able to work on the new system.

    I don't know what MO's SIEC plan looks like, but it in most cases you're considered compliant with the plan as long as you can operate on the interoperability system and/or channels. If that's true, you could build out an analog VHF repeater system as long as subscriber units are P25 capable for operation on the statewide interop system. Or you could ask for funding to add additional towers to the statewide system in your county to meet your coverage needs (many state interop systems are built for "mobile radio" coverage, not "portable radio" coverage). One thing to be careful of is using P25 on the fireground. There are known problems with doing this. If you do migrate to P25 digital, it would be wise to continue to use analog for fireground communications until the digital vocoder problems have been worked out.

    A good route is to develop a Request for Proposals document that outlines exactly what you want to accomplish and let vendors propose solutions. The danger in this is that they tend to spec something very high dollar that's overkill or not suited to your needs. An independent consultant that understands your needs might be valuable, but it's a chicken and the egg thing there....where does the money for the consultant come from without a grant, and how do you justify a grant without a plan? Maybe this years grant would be consultant funding, and then a future year for the actual system. I'm not sure if that's been done before, but I don't see why it wouldn't be acceptable.

    Andy
    Now I do understand the digital on the fireground issue. Where I work full-time we're dealing with just that on our 800 system. It works great unless there's background noise, which is usually there since we do PPA now.

    I can't wait for this thing to progress. It sounds like some major work.

    I did manage to find out that we do have the propogation studies done already. They apparently did that when they started working on the system. They only need one more repeater location from my understanding, beyond that it would upgrading repeaters to handle traffic for LE and fire rather than just LE.

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    I've worked quite a few grants with counties in similar situations. Since AFG no longer allows funds for stationary towers most are going to a mobile repeater system. Most states don't require portables to be fully operational on the regional system as they sit, the emphasis is on the mobiles and base stations. With mobile repeaters on the apparatus that can be switched on to allow the portables to talk across everything that keeps costs down and also allows you to keep the analog (IMHO reliable) portables and also technically comply with interoperability requirements.

    Plus with AFG you're limited to $1 mil in assistance under 500k residents, which won't get you far with digital mobiles or portables. One for this year would have topped $6mil for portables and mobiles. Right around $1.3mil with just mobiles and repeaters and the end result is the same for $4.7 mil less.

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    No towers? That hurts our Regional project app.

    My county recently completed an very in depth study putting together a narrowband transition plan. A couple things that stood out for me from the ending briefing include;

    - It is ridiculous for a rural area to go with anything other that a VHF narrowband system. Unless you have nothing else to spend your limitless cash on.
    - When you go to narrow band you will need more repeaters than you've thought as license will not allow your transmitters to bleed out of your area (must site properly and with limited output power).
    - While you may want/need to realign freqencies DO NOT allow any existing licenses in your county to expire (whoever currently holds the license). If a license expires you likely will not get it back.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    I told you, that stuff's Greek to me!
    Catch,

    I've made an attempt at putting together some training materials to lay out some of the terminology and concepts of "radio stuff" for first responders. It's generic material so there's probably a lot in it that doesn't apply to your area, but feel free to take a look. The powerpoint presentation is probably what would be most useful to you, but there are a few other tidbits on the page as well:

    http://radioetcetera.googlepages.com/radiotraining

    Andy

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    Quote Originally Posted by BC79er View Post

    Plus with AFG you're limited to $1 mil in assistance under 500k residents, which won't get you far with digital mobiles or portables. One for this year would have topped $6mil for portables and mobiles. Right around $1.3mil with just mobiles and repeaters and the end result is the same for $4.7 mil less.
    Brian, although I have not see this actually excercised, I believe there is a provision to go beyond the legislative funding limits under certain circumstances. What do you think of this language from program guidance:

    DHS has the discretion to waive the legislatively established funding limits under AFG. In order to encourage interest and participation in this critical strategy to address interoperability, DHS may exercise this discretion, if the funding of a regional application is at risk of exceeding statutory funding caps, (i.e., the funding of the regional request combined with other AFG awards would cause the host applicant to exceed the legislatively established funding limits).


    Also,although you are right that towers may not be constructed , in the same paragraph in PG it also seems to exclude "mobile repeaters" in the very next line. See below:

    Grant funds may NOT be used for the following items:
    • construction of facilities, such as buildings, sheds to house communications,
    towers, or other equipment;
    repeaters that will not be installed or attached to existing infrastructure;

    I don't think I am reading this wrong but....I don't think they are considering a fire truck as a piece of infrastructure
    Last edited by ktb9780; 09-27-2008 at 10:07 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktb9780 View Post
    repeaters that will not be installed or attached to existing infrastructure;

    I don't think I am reading this wrong but....I don't think they are considering a fire truck as a piece of infrastructure
    I think what they're getting at is that they won't fund repeaters if you don't already have a tower location to put them. I don't think they're talking about mobile repeaters. Plus, to go by the strictest FCC definitions, a mobile repeater is considered a mobile relay station, not a repeater.

    Andy
    Last edited by Pelican631; 09-27-2008 at 06:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pelican631 View Post
    I think what they're getting at is that they won't fund repeaters if you don't already have a tower location to put them. I don't think they're talking about mobile repeaters. Plus, to go by the strictest FCC definitions, a mobile repeater is considered a mobile relay station, not a repeater.

    Andy
    You may be right there Andy, not sure myself. I'll ask TH when I tlak to him next week.
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    they won't fund repeaters in suitcases, vehicle mounted is allowed. verified it with DHS prior to submission, that paragraph is why I contacted them since they changed that and the part about not funding towers anymore for 2008.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BC79er View Post
    they won't fund repeaters in suitcases, vehicle mounted is allowed. verified it with DHS prior to submission, that paragraph is why I contacted them since they changed that and the part about not funding towers anymore for 2008.
    Thanks bc7er, saved me a call on that one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    Now I do understand the digital on the fireground issue. Where I work full-time we're dealing with just that on our 800 system. It works great unless there's background noise, which is usually there since we do PPA now.

    I can't wait for this thing to progress. It sounds like some major work.

    I did manage to find out that we do have the propogation studies done already. They apparently did that when they started working on the system. They only need one more repeater location from my understanding, beyond that it would upgrading repeaters to handle traffic for LE and fire rather than just LE.
    Mike,

    From what I heard at the SIEC meeting 2 weeks ago MHP is going ahead with their state-wide system that they "Think" they want. Just wait until they see how it works (NOT!!) in the hills we have around here.

    Even if you stick with VHF it will have to be P25 or SEMA will not sign off on it.

    During the course of the 3 Inter-OP grants from SEMA over the last few years I have gotten us 180K with 40K of that which had to be P25. I had to buy radios that cost 3 times as much as a analog VHF (which is all we need) just to make SEMA happy.
    Last edited by mmcneill; 09-28-2008 at 03:43 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmcneill View Post
    Mike,

    From what I heard at the SIEC meeting 2 weeks ago MHP is going ahead with their state-wide system that they "Think" they want. Just wait until they see how it works (NOT!!) in the hills we have around here.

    Even if you stick with VHF it will have to be P25 or SEMA will not sign off on it.

    During the course of the 3 Inter-OP grants from SEMA over the last few years I have gotten us 180K with 40K of that which had to be P25. I had to buy radios that cost 3 times as much as a analog VHF (which is all we need) just to make SEMA happy.
    I've got to hear a little bit about this state-wide network thing, as the deputy chief at my career department is involved in some fashion, or at least he's in the know.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but you can get a radio that's compatible with digital and analog and still be P25 compliant, right? I head heard of several departments looking at doing this and running their fireground channel on analog and the other traffic on digital.

    What my thinking on dispatch was is to have one or two "dispatch" channels that are digital and for traffic only for dispatch and general information with fireground operations on the talk-around/tactical frequency (whatever you want to call what we're each assigned now).

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    Not sure about the digital/analog combo, but down here we had 800 trunked for dispatch, mobiles, and also programming in portables but portables also had direct channels for fireground so they don't have to hit the repeater.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    I've got to hear a little bit about this state-wide network thing, as the deputy chief at my career department is involved in some fashion, or at least he's in the know.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but you can get a radio that's compatible with digital and analog and still be P25 compliant, right? I head heard of several departments looking at doing this and running their fireground channel on analog and the other traffic on digital.

    What my thinking on dispatch was is to have one or two "dispatch" channels that are digital and for traffic only for dispatch and general information with fireground operations on the talk-around/tactical frequency (whatever you want to call what we're each assigned now).

    Mike

    You are correct...the radios I bought will do both P25 digital and convential analog. We do not use the digital side of the radios yet. Maybe someday but not now.

    The other requirement in the State of MO (at least radios purchased on SEMA grants) is you must have the VTAC or UTAC interop channels programmed in the radios. These channels are somethng that we use for tactical channels. The State holds the license for these.
    Last edited by mmcneill; 09-28-2008 at 09:43 PM.

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    All P25-compliant radios are required to be analog capable in order to ensure reverse-compatibility. Some channels can be digital and some analog in the same radio.

    Just recently, three different companies have introduced true multi-band radios that operate in both the VHF and 700/800 MHz band, and are P25 trunking capable (the Moto radio is also capable do doing Motorola proprietary trunking protocols). These will make great radios for areas that are metro/rural interface where the metro area is 800 and the rural is VHF (if you can swallow the $5k per radio price tag).

    http://www.thalesliberty.com/

    http://business.motorola.com/publics...apx/index.html

    http://www.rfcomm.harris.com/talkasone/default.asp

    Also, if anyone is buying P25 radios make sure that they can be upgraded via firmware to P25 Phase 2 when it becomes available. The Phase 2 vocoder may help fix the background noise issue when it's implemented.

    Andy
    Last edited by Pelican631; 09-29-2008 at 12:02 AM.

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