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Thread: Do you hear all your other stations' dispatches?

  1. #26
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    Naegling - Thanks for putting up the link to the comtech, that looks very interesting and flexible. Sounds like it might be a bit on $$ side? Any ideas on ballpark $ estimates per station?


    I think your best bet would be to get into contact with Comtech, but I believe we spent about $5000-7800 on the system for our newest station (2009). I wasn't involved in spec'ing that station's gear, but I think those were the numbers I remember being batted around.

    I'd be happy to look up the numbers for you if you need me to. Just let me know.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    - In response to the MDTs -

    I was responsible for our MDT program, and I think their are some very big misconceptions out there about what and how MDTs should be used. When I brought MDT's into our system, they were brought in as "an addition to" and not a "replacement for" our current tools. MDT's simple have to many -for lack of a better term- moving parts to make them a be-all-end-all solution. And BoxAlarm is right about the infrastructure... It all has to be in place to make it work.

    And while AVL and CAD information is extremely helpful, there are a number of other tools that one gains simply by having a computer in the vehicle.

    -WISER
    -Google
    -Preplans
    -Email
    - Access to MSDS sheets
    -Text and voice communications
    -Video feeds and ability to record video
    -Electronic charting
    -... the list goes on.

    I agree that having a mapping program is not a replacement for knowing your area, but how many of us can name where every street drain flows into, or what size main is under the street, or if two hydrants are on the same loop? a good GIS mapping program can do that and much more. To hold to a tradition, and not look at emerging technologies such as MDTs because the infringe on traditional knowledge sources and practices is like taking tools out of your toolbox. MDTs should never replace a radio, or knowledge gained through experience, but don't discount them just because they are new. The cost is getting cheaper ever day. I can put a MDT system in an engine for less than $2200 now, and that cost just keeps going down as hardware gets cheaper.

    Also - I've got a site I'm working on to help defray the cost of MDT's for those of us that don't have multi-million dollar IT budgets. It might be worth a look for some of you that are looking to get into MDTs on the cheap. I hope you don't mind the plug, it doesn't make a dime for me - just trying to share what I've picked up over the years.
    Last edited by Naegling; 06-21-2010 at 03:36 AM.

  2. #27
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    There is no reason to hear all the calls going out in the city. Our houses are set to "nightwatch" on a constant basis. When your station or apparatus gets a run, only the apparatus responding are alerted on station. Lights come on and radio system opens up to hear the dispatch. Everything resets after 3 min. We still use a watch person, but they sleep. They answer the doorbell or phones if needed. More tradition than anything. We can shift the radio to "daywatch" if instructed to do so for various reasons. There was a study done here a couple years ago that measured the physiological functions of firefighters during the time they are on shift and the findings support this type of dispatch system. We still hear all the runs on the apparatus and portable radios while not on station.

  3. #28
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    Firefuss - Excellent point! Anything we can do to get there faster is a plus in my book.

    Years ago, our stations had a speaker wired into the main room that came directly from our dispatch center's phone system. Whenever our 911 center got a call for us, they would switch on our speaker and we could hear the entire 911 call as it went down. It was an excellent system, but after going to EMD, we lost that ability.

    This type of system is starting to make it's way back in to the stations as more stations have VOIP available and the dispatchers can simply run everything through the computer systems now. It's definitely something worth looking into if your 911 center can handle it (and the increased workload on the dispatchers).

  4. #29
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    I envy all of you. We have five stations and only about 2300 calls per year. We have no station alerting so almost nightly 20 firefighters are waking up when only four need to. In addition the heart palpatations and chest pain that goes along with a screaming dispatcher...I am sorry to say that our first LODD may be a heart attack caused by another engine's call.

    In addition, our dispatch's CAD is not even set up to choose the correct station. All they announce is the department, what we are goung on, and where it is. It is up to us to remember if the neighboring company is on a call or not. It is terrible.

    We have MDT's on all engines, however there is no GPS attached. All the MDT is good for is reading CAD notes and looking at the map. The best part? They still announce ALL information over the radio that they just sent to your MDT. The $5,000 MDT has done nothing to reduce radio traffic or "closest unit dispatching."

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    Quote Originally Posted by toddnwen View Post
    I envy all of you. We have five stations and only about 2300 calls per year. We have no station alerting so almost nightly 20 firefighters are waking up when only four need to. In addition the heart palpatations and chest pain that goes along with a screaming dispatcher...I am sorry to say that our first LODD may be a heart attack caused by another engine's call.

    In addition, our dispatch's CAD is not even set up to choose the correct station. All they announce is the department, what we are goung on, and where it is. It is up to us to remember if the neighboring company is on a call or not. It is terrible.

    We have MDT's on all engines, however there is no GPS attached. All the MDT is good for is reading CAD notes and looking at the map. The best part? They still announce ALL information over the radio that they just sent to your MDT. The $5,000 MDT has done nothing to reduce radio traffic or "closest unit dispatching."
    I hear you on everyone getting up for one station's call. Do you guys have still/full still/general tones? Since we are combination full time and part-time, the pagers are all set up to set off on only still tones, general tones, or both. Most of our calls (Ambo request, AFA, CO detector, etc are still, target hazards full still, and Structure fires, accidents with extrication, etc are general) So people not working can set it to general should manpower be needed beyond the full timers.

    You should look into the GPS if it's available for your MDTs. We run Panasonic Toughbooks with GPS and it is great. Not always right, but can give you a quick look if you need it. It tracks your movement and shows a straight line to the incident address, no turn by turn directions or anything.

  6. #31
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    Previous department had 2 stations all dispatched on MAIN. Everyone including both medics and fire trucks would hear the dispatch, en route, on scene, en route to hospital, arrival at hospital and clearing to return to service. And, any other traffic all over the city MAIN channel...



    Department I currently work for:

    7 stations. All dispatch gets sent out to each station during the day. They are assigned a channel to respond on. Only the specific station that is responding will hear a " tone." At night starting at 9pm the dispatch center automatically only sends the dispatch to the specific stations. Works pretty good.

    So much better!

  7. #32
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    Default Do you hear all the calls

    I work in the dispatch centre for a medium sized fire department in Southern Ontario. We have nine halls (soon to be 10) with 15 front line trucks. Guidelines for dispatching the trucks are pretty clear. During the day we are encouraged to page out individual halls rather than use the all call function. The only time that the all call would be used is if have something big such as a working structure fire. It takes extra time (seconds but sometimes seconds count) to enable individual hall speakers where as the all call can be enabled with a single mouse click. The other reason for using all call during a major incident is to to provide those halls that are not responding situational awareness. If you have a major structure fire on the other side of town it is perhaps not the best time to start the Saturday morning fry up or to put the roast in the oven for Sunday dinner. We run pretty lean man power wise so a major incident involving several districts will most probably result in trucks being moved out of their halls to cover empty halls or stage at the boundary of an adjoining district.

    At night....well the earth had better have opened up and swallowed an entire city block or a chemical factory had better be going up in flames before you wake up every firefighter on shift.

    It goes double for volunteers. Paging volunteers for calls that don't directly involve them is more than just a nuisance. It disrupts their families and their places of employment. We accidently paged out a volunteer hall at o-dark-hundred and boy did we hear about it. The guys were pretty understanding...their wives however....that was another story.

  8. #33
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    We do not have multiple tones. In fact, all fire/ambulance use the same High/Low tone for all calls. In 1998 our Sheriff asked the voters to go to 800mhz. They said no. So he was able to force the issue with all users in the county and we all had to pony up. Because we are in a mountainous region of Colorado, our system needed many more towers and microwaves to clear up all the deadzones.

    Once the deadzones were clear, we went away from VHF and also the Minitor pagers. Since then, I have not been able to convince the "smarter" people that there is a problem. I have alos looked into other paging products but due to our terrain, people are hesitant.

  9. #34
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    30 firehouses, counting fire, EMS, rescue calls, alarm soundings etc.... over 100,000 runs a year. Paid dept. born Sept 1857.

    Every firehouse in the city has a watchdesk (aka jokerstand).

    Capts. and below are assigned to watch, though depending on the house if you actualy have to sit in the jokerstand.

    When in the firehouse, the only runs you will hear is if its for a company in the house over the PA (the term we use is "the audible'). The only exception is the audible is turned on at all houses if there is a multiple alarm going on or a high volume of runs.

    Who ever is assigned watch is responsible for listen to the scanner or radio in case the audible is not activate.

    No MDT, but hear something like it is coming, so if you are on the street you gotta listen to the radio where everythig is dispatched.

  10. #35
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    Bumping for any other useful experience or insight either way, as this issue is coming up once again for us. Thanks!

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wet on Red View Post
    Bumping for any other useful experience or insight either way, as this issue is coming up once again for us. Thanks!
    You with Missoula Rural or City?

  12. #37
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    Volunteer/w daytime staff dept. one station; 2 engines, 1 quint, 1 utility. Appx 300+ calls/yr. County still uses a VHF high band radio system. We also cover parts of 2 other counties- and they use UHF (low band)...

    Our dispatch works thus:

    1) All members are issued a voice pager. County dispatch can open all pagers and the village siren; or open just the pagers; ( for announcements, etc)
    2) line officers are also issued alpha-numeric pagers. Dispatch can then contact them individually, or as a group. These pagers also get all dispatches when they are sent to the MDT. This works nicely during natural disasters to keep the main county dispatch channel free for emergency traffic, by routing all service calls to just the MDT and data pagers. The Daytime paid staff also have these pagers.

    Firehouse has two radio base stations ( one high band for monroe country, and a low band for Livingston and Ontario counties), and a county owned MDT. Calls hit the mdt as soon as the telecommunicator sends them to the dispatcher's terminal. They then put out the appropriate tones, and voice dispatch the call ( to the members pagers and the base radio.) We also have a pager from the ambulance, which has a separate dispatch channel.

    All 911 calls are routed to the county 911 center.

    Typically, our base station is in scan mode, with speakers in the radio room, the chief's office and the truck bays. We have no bunk room.

    MDT automatically prints out hard copies of the dispatch, as well as any updates. It also logs times, as they are called in. ( no MDT's in the rigs- we have to manually call in route/ on location, and back in service.)

    Our dispatch is a general dept alarm, we determine in house what apparatus is sent. OR, if a specific (type of ) unit is requested, the dispatcher will state that. Otherwise, they just tell us we have a call, what, where, etc.

    Upon dispatch, we have X amount of time to answer the base (acknowledge), otherwise, the tones will be re-sent. Tones are also re-sent when a working fire is announced ( or other major event). After answering up, we normally switch to the "working" channel- which is also monitored by county dispatch.

    In our county:

    ch1 City fire dispatch
    ch2 city fire alternate
    ch3 county west working
    ch 4 county east working
    ch 5 county fire dispatch
    ch 6 alternate (unmonitored. officially, it's the haz mat channel, but it's mostly used for portable to portable non urgent traffic by whomever.)
    ch .295 county EMS dispatch
    ch .175 county EMS alternate
    County to county dispatch frequency. ( we can sometimes catch calls from our neighbors before the tones go out this way, for ex, when livingston calls monroe to request a resonse from us to a call in livingston county.)

    We also have in our radios:

    weather channel
    town highway dept
    village DPW
    Village admin
    school district central maintenance
    school dist transportation dept.

    We need to carry 2 mobile radios, and an extra low band portable on all apparatus, so we can communicate with our neighbors.

  13. #38
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    We hear all tones for our department only between 7am-9pm outside those hours it's our station only. We don't rely on dispatch to correctly dispatch (they're idiots) so it's nice hearing what's going on in other parts of the city. We often have to self dispatch when they make a mistake.

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickIF View Post
    We hear all tones for our department only between 7am-9pm outside those hours it's our station only. We don't rely on dispatch to correctly dispatch (they're idiots) so it's nice hearing what's going on in other parts of the city. We often have to self dispatch when they make a mistake.
    Same here on all fronts. I run on our department's only heavy rescue. If it sounds like anything good, we'll start rolling that way too.
    ~Drew
    Firefighter/EMT/Technical Rescue
    USAR TF Rescue Specialist

  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by FiremanLyman View Post
    Same here on all fronts. I run on our department's only heavy rescue. If it sounds like anything good, we'll start rolling that way too.
    My department is an Air Force Base Fire Department. We have 5 stations, 4 of which are manned 24/7. 2 strictly structural stations, 1 strictly crash/rescue station, 1 crash/structural station and another helo operations station (only manned during helo ops at the auxiliary field). I work at the strictly crash station. We get the tones for all stations on our PA but our primary dispatch is the crash phone intercom that goes from the air traffic control tower to our dispatch. We are usually out the doors by the time dispatch is toning out the other stations on in flight emergencies.. We have dispatchers that sit at one of the stations and tone out to all other stations.

    -Damien

  16. #41
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    Just another option - I currently work for a department with 5 stations all manned full time. I believe we use the Phoenix Station alerting or something along those lines, we call it "Barbara". Only the station(s) that are due get an escalating tone and the speakers light up with red light ring, and there are scrolling screens that show units due, address, map pg, etc. It goes off twice and if not reset manually then another two times. After the escalating tone there is an electronic female voice reading the dispatch...much easier to understand than real human dispatchers. You do not hear any radio traffic on the overhead speakers, only through the base radios in the stations.

  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by FiremanLyman View Post
    Same here on all fronts. I run on our department's only heavy rescue. If it sounds like anything good, we'll start rolling that way too.
    Same here... Except our night tones start at 11pm we have some sort of supervisor (someone who rides in a Tahoe haha. Batt chiefs, ems capt,) who rotate 6 hour watches.. 0700-1300, 1300-1900, 1900-0100, 0100-0700.. And have to clear on all calls. So they normally are good at starting additional units if something sounds iffy..

    Metro dept.. 130 sq miles.. 350,000 population.. Running about 60-70k a year
    "....train as if your life depends on it, because one day it could.."
    .....Leather Head N6A
    Tillerman..... The best job in the FD!!!

  18. #43
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    Work for a career department with 16 stations that runs about 30,000 calls/year. We hear all 30,000 of those dispatches. For every dispatch, every station across the city hears the pre alert tones drop, the initial dispatch, and then the full dispatch. If the call is for an apparatus assigned to your station, the zetron will activate in between the initial dispatch and the full dispatch.

    While it is useful to know what is going on around the city at all times, it does make it hard to sleep, given that tones are going off literally all night long for calls that are not yours. We have "desk watch" until 10pm each night, but that has nothing to do with dispatch. Whoever has desk watch simply has to man his or her station's main office until 10pm to answer the phones and the doorbell, if needed.

    There is talk of perhaps going to "night radio" sometime in the future, in which you will only hear your own dispatches (and not the entire city's) at night, but you know how rumors are in the fire service…only about five percent have any truth to them.

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    I'm with a metropolitan department with 32 staffed stations not to include airport running upwards to 70,000 calls a year. Initially during my first year during the day all stations would here city wide dispatch. And each individual station would be notified by a call using a 3tone system. Tones were uniform for each station with 3 tones signifying a medical or general call and double tones for a working fire or alarm bell. This heart safe method of dispatch was integrated a few years before I joined the department. The system is set up with dispatch to the mdts on each apparatus as well. After 8pm in all stations there is silent watch where the radio system only notifies the station when an apparatus there receives a call for service. The dispatch is made in the same fashion as it is in the daytime with the tones dropped, a computer voice notification of territory *box 14-1* and brief description of call ie. *heart attack or chest pain* and the apparatus or apparatuses on the call being dispatched by the call center.
    Just recently my station and a group of others city wide were setup for a complete silent watch testing where no city wide radio traffic was heard throughout the day, unless you have your portable radio on to scan in order to pick up a call incorrectly dispatched. All in all the system is great and at newer stations lighting and digital display is also integrated. The double beep as we like to call it or *fire tones* seem to be no safer just based off the premise that you train your mind to recognize the tones and know that when the double beep drops then it's an all out race to the apparatus to get dressed and respond to the call. The tones are considered heart safe and have a strange way of waking you from the deepest of sleep.

  20. #45
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    I am not a department radio guy but ours work in a similar fashion to a lot of the previous posters. Each station has a watch room which has all the transmitting equipment, receivers, computer tied to the comm office, etc. If you are in that room or in the engine bay you can hear all the dispatches city-wide. You will also be able to hear the fireground communications channels as long as a dispatch isn't happening simultaneously (the dispatch channel has priority on the station speakers). Depending on the station and how old and dismal it is there will be a different sounds/alerts. We have 10 houses (10 E's, 5 Trucks, A Rescue Co, and HazMat Company, department wide about 32,000 runs a year). My house is one of the older active houses, built circa 1896, remodeled in 1961 and forgot about since. When the dispatcher puts us on the card and sends the alert the bell "gongs" in cycles of "3". You have to manually shut the bell down or it will just keep going and going and going and going, if its a 3 am BS repeat run and only the engine is going out while the truck continues to sleep peacefully in bed, I will have to admit I have ignored the gong reset button and left them with that little birdie chirping in there ears.........

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