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Thread: 700 MHz & Volunteer Fire Dispatch: How Do You Replace Tones?

  1. #1
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    Default 700 MHz & Volunteer Fire Dispatch: How Do You Replace Tones?

    Good evening,

    Our county (Baldwin, AL) is switching to the state's 700 MHz P25 system for police, fire, and EMS. In our county there are 39 fire departments, almost all of which are volunteer or volunteer combination. One of the issues that has come up with the new system is that there doesn't seem to be any simple way to utilize strictly the 700 MHz system to alert volunteer departments of calls. There is a way to digitally alert each radio to a call, but we were advised that this could cause up to a 40 second delay from time of alert activation to the time that all radios have been alerted (because each radio has to be individually alerted and acknowledge the alert - 50 radios can take a long time when this is done). What we would like to find is something that works a lot quicker, much like our old VHF alert tones (QuickCall II) used to work.

    Does anyone have any experience in dealing with 700 MHz P25 systems and volunteer departments? If so, how have you solved the alerting issue?

    Thanks for your help!
    -Will
    Last edited by wradar; 09-16-2012 at 11:08 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by wradar View Post
    Good evening,

    Our county (Baldwin, AL) is switching to the state's 700 MHz P25 system for police, fire, and EMS. In our county there are 39 fire departments, almost all of which are volunteer or volunteer combination. One of the issues that has come up with the new system is that there doesn't seem to be any simple way to utilize strictly the 700 MHz system to alert volunteer departments of calls. There is a way to digitally alert each radio to a call, but we were advised that this could cause up to a 40 second delay from time of alert activation to the time that all radios have been alerted (because each radio has to be individually alerted and acknowledge the alert - 50 radios can take a long time when this is done). What we would like to find is something that works a lot quicker, much like our old VHF alert tones (QuickCall II) used to work.

    Does anyone have any experience in dealing with 700 MHz P25 systems and volunteer departments? If so, how have you solved the alerting issue?

    Thanks for your help!
    -Will
    I'm sure that somebody else will chime in, but I don't know of any pagers that operate on the 700 or 800 MHz bands. Our county uses 800MHz radio systems, but simucasts on the pager frequencies in order to alert stations. I'm not sure anybody has come up with a way around that. We also have the capability to send text alerts, but these are delayed.

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    Thanks for the response. I can't remember the technical info detailing why, but I remember someone explaining once that pager tones were not compatible with P25 systems. Putting the tones on a simulcasted conventional VHF or UHF network is a good option. Has anyone else seen any others?

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    Good Evening,

    There are two answers to the question as you posed it.

    The first I don't think fits your need, but it is a station alerting system using IP based or P25 Data based solutions like Zetron, Locution, and many others.

    The second is as suggested you need a VHF or UHF paging system with Simulcast link capabilities and coverage for the area you need to alert. The Simucast capability from the 700Mhz consoles / system allows you to broadcast once, and have it go out over both infrastructure as well as have responding units monitor situational updates.

    Now you mentioned a solution that you tested but it took to long to alert each radio, could you blend a couple of options together. Maybe, Station Alert + Pre-Alert Voice, plus the data message alert. So that each step get's more and more of the total potential response group.

    You might also consider adding a system such as ours (www.dapage.net) that supports direct CAD to Alpha Pager / Cellular SMS messaging as well. You will find a number of discussion here about our and some of our competitions capability.

    The Issue at hand get's down to the ability of a data stream to encode transmit and reproduce a Dual Tone Modulated Frequency (DTMF) stream that most traditional pagers require, the limited (none that I am aware of) availability of receive only pagers that can also do all the magic of P25 trunking so it would know what it was listening to, and the weak abilities of P25 base systems to do data group messages.

    Feel free to reach out if you want to talk "sales at dapage dot net".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_calling

    ======

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    Firebuff, thanks for the response. As you mentioned, I think the simulcast (on the 700 system along with our legacy VHF system) will be the best and most cost-effective method of alerting volunteers of calls. I, too, cannot think of any 700 MHz P25 trunked voice pagers that exist. And even if they did, they'd probably cost a skragillion dollars.

    Thanks, again, everyone!
    -Will

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    I think the simulcasting is your best bet too. In reality, while the digital 700/800 MHz systems are great for building penetration and good quality signals, they have no distance to them. It would be better to have a VHF or UHF frequency for paging out only, and then simulcast that over the primary FD dispatch channel on the digital system. We do that here in Hamilton County, OH and it works great.

    The only additional suggestion that comes to mind also would be the Alpha paging. There are a bunch of options to this. Here we actually have a VHF POCSAG system owned by county dispatch, and with different CAP codes for each department, I can control under what conditions our pagers activate.

    If the county has the ability to send a text dispatch out to an email address, Active911 might be of interest to you as well. http://www.active911.com We are currently testing this as an additional notification on top of the alpha pagers. This service actually takes your dispatch information received via email, and within about 10 seconds of the dispatcher talking, dumps it to either the Active911 software for iOS or the CADPage software for Android Smartphones. It also includes the ability to mark whether or not personnel are responding from within the software/service, and you can also see whom all got the call and is paying attention to what is going on. That might be an option for you as well. If there is anything else that comes to mind, I will try to remember to post it here.
    Aaron
    Firefighter/Paramedic

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    Spotted Dog Technologies' (www.spotteddogtech.com) Rover solution is a reliable and flexible mechanism for notification via cell phone and alpha pager. Supported channels for contact include SMS and e-mail. Responders have the ability to reply to the sent messages to indicate intent to respond.

    All the information is available via a secured web portal that can be accessed directly from a smart phone, tablet or other device with a web browser.

    My department and many other departments utilize this solution as a secondary notification mechanism. None of these solutions should be used as a primary notification mechanism. Simply, alpha pagers and cell phones are 'best effort' services provided by the cell / pager carriers.


    Geoffrey Giordano
    Spotted Dog Technologies

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    All of the above data centric systems require 100% reliable cellular or internet connectivity.
    Unfortunately there are still many areas of this country that don't have reliable cell coverage.
    Basically you are spending a ton of money to jump on a high priced countywide or statewide system that can't do what your existing low cost vhf/uhf system has now.
    In order to work around the deficiencies of this "new technology, you will have to maintain your existing dinosaur network to operate the pagers. Thus you are spending more money to maintain dual systems.

    Text messages are only good if your operating your own system, same with alpha pagers. Cant rely on commercial services to be timely in transferring the dispatch info.

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    They did a test up here with the alpha numerics and it took over 2 minutes between sending the page and receiving them. That was too long. We are currently on our state's 800 MHz P25 and we are keeping our legacy VHF to simulcast for tone outs and I know other departments in Michigan are doing the same. I am surprised that Motorola, Apollo, Swissphone or the other manufactures have not embrased digital tone paging. Especially for us in Michigan because Motorola has the contract for the entire state.
    wradar likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by islandfire03 View Post
    All of the above data centric systems require 100% reliable cellular or internet connectivity.
    Unfortunately there are still many areas of this country that don't have reliable cell coverage.
    Basically you are spending a ton of money to jump on a high priced countywide or statewide system that can't do what your existing low cost vhf/uhf system has now.
    In order to work around the deficiencies of this "new technology, you will have to maintain your existing dinosaur network to operate the pagers. Thus you are spending more money to maintain dual systems.

    Text messages are only good if your operating your own system, same with alpha pagers. Cant rely on commercial services to be timely in transferring the dispatch info.
    We don't seem to have that problem here. We are getting dispatches through Active911 5-10 seconds after the tones go off. It also helps having a private POCSAG paging system on a VHF channel. These systems will only rely on cellular paging data if you let them. The problem with most of the current commercial paging systems, is that they use that system where the pager first has to be located before sending the message, instead of sending the message to all sites.
    Aaron
    Firefighter/Paramedic

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    I would imagine that Cincinnati Ohio has pretty much 100% cell & data coverage on 3g or 4g networks from multiple carriers.
    Here in a 20 mile trip to the hospital there are 3 or 4 places where if the weather is clear and the moon is not full , you MIGHT get a cell signal long enough to make a quick call. We know where the few hot spots are and if we need to talk to the doc we stop right in the middle of the road.
    Same goes for data networks. Of the 4 carriers on the nearest tower only one even tries to claim
    3g service. It has about a 35% coverage reliability.
    I know we were given an aircard for our toughbook and finally figured it wasn't worth the hassle of trying to find just the right spot where it worked long enough to send an ECG or other info to the hospital.
    All these new modern technologies rely heavily on lots of towers & infrastructure to work effectively.
    It's not happening in a lot of rural areas yet, in many places in this country.

    As you are maintaining a private POSAG VHF channel that you are paying to maintain ,in addition to paying your fees for the 700/800 trunked system.

    Our dispatch center has text paging available , but due to low service coverage you might get the text within a minute or two ::: or 20-30 minutes later when you move into a hot spot.
    One of our folks got one the other day two hours after the call was over and the ambulance was retuning from the hospital.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianB35 View Post
    They did a test up here with the alpha numerics and it took over 2 minutes between sending the page and receiving them. That was too long. We are currently on our state's 800 MHz P25 and we are keeping our legacy VHF to simulcast for tone outs and I know other departments in Michigan are doing the same. I am surprised that Motorola, Apollo, Swissphone or the other manufactures have not embrased digital tone paging. Especially for us in Michigan because Motorola has the contract for the entire state.
    Brain,

    We support many departments, including some that just went through Issac in Louisiana. While commercial SMS messaging should not be a primary dispatch. We have many 911 centers that use it very effectively and often see the message from CAD to the Cell Phones, before the dispatcher can drop the tones.

    We have a demo program and I would be interested in working with you to see how messages via our systems compare with the tests you ran...

    Contact me off line if you can find the time to run this test..
    jms at dapage dot net

    =======

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    Remember also - a system based on cellular, commercial paging, etc is NOT NFPA or ISO compliant. The cost savings over going to such a system can be really destroyed with the possible raise in the ISO rates.

    Your own digital paging system can be put up CHEAPLY and provide a very reliable system, and with small easy to carry pagers, that cost a quarter to a third of what tone/voice pager costs.

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    There is a company down south that sells a low cost system that connects digital and VHF radio systems together. It sends page tones still used by the older radios. www.wcdielectronics.com
    Last edited by RadioHound; 12-12-2012 at 04:28 PM.

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    Why can't all 50 of your radios be programmed with the same code which would be alerted as an "all call" with one activation?

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