01-14-2001, 09:19 PM #1chief14Firehouse.com Guest
Alphanumeric Pagers vs. Voice Pagers
Our company is considering switching over to alpahnumeric pagers. We are currently using Minitor II's and III's. What benefits, drawbacks, advantages,...have you experienced?
Thanks for your input.
01-14-2001, 10:34 PM #2lumpy649Firehouse.com Guest
Our department does not utilize any home response, but officers (Sgt. and above) are issued alphapagers to be able to be in contact with the stations should they need to be found. They work fine most of the time, few missed pages, but when the system goes down, either on our computers or the paging company, you're SOL. You then have to resort to hittng the membership directory to locate people, and if you need them immediately, well... good luck! If you can find a reliable service provider, it's probably a safe bet. They are very handy as they can be utilized for department, dispatch, or personal pages, and you can use a computer based paging system to send messages. Very handy... Good luck with whichever you go with.
01-15-2001, 08:09 AM #3Koch.Ch-3Firehouse.com Guest
My County is using Alpha-pagers for approx. 2-3 yrs. Some of the 21 departments are still using the voice pagers also. We had alot of problems with the alpha pagers. I believe do to equipment (pagers)not receiving the pages, Other department believe it is coverage. Central disp. had to have the paging company (private)priortize our pages, and send dual pages 60 seconds apart.
Pros-I can page administative messages thru my personnal computer.
You can have the pager on in Church, or at the movies-switching to vibrate.
The address, scene info, F-tac channel, is right on the pager, and you do not have to ask Central for the info. you forgot.
Cons-You have to read the page, even when your driving to the incident.
Slower response time.
Updated scene info, takes approx. 2:00 minutes to receive.
They are not made for public safety use.
They do wake all my FF's up in the middle of the night.
I would advise you to contact alot of other Departments using this alpha system.
01-15-2001, 11:35 AM #4Dalmatian90Firehouse.com Guest
We've been using Alpha-pagers for approximately 1-1/2 years.
The pagers are non-Flex technology thru PageNet. The reason I mention they're non-Flex is that is an older system. It's built out better in our rural area, and doesn't have the volume of traffic the new systems get -- so we typically get pages within 30 seconds of their hand-off to PageNet.
They do have dead spots -- but no more problematically than the voice pagers do. For administrative messages like "such and such is out-of-service" or "We need a driver to take the rescue to the fire academy on Sunday" they work well to reach members like me who work way outside of voice pager range.
Since we share a common voice pager dispatch frequency with two and half counties, administrative messages like those are strongly discouraged since they occassionally delay a 911 dispatch.
When we have a call, the dispatcher at the Regional Dispatch center typically types in the brief Alpha message and hits send. While the computer is dialing PageNet, they blow our tones and give the voice dispatch. Our system is tones-message-repeat message. 90% of the time, the alpha pagers are going off between the message and repeat the message part.
Although not cost-effective for our single department (out of 30 from our dispatch center)...if more departments went to this system we could invest in a direct data line to PageNet, which would keep us from having to use dial up modems. This would mean the instant the dispatch hit "send" the alpha message would be in their system.
We also went with a common-cap code system. Each pager has it's own CAP and phone number. But they're all equipped with a second, common CAP. This allows us to send one page to the common CAP that triggers all the alpha-pagers simultaneously. That saves a lot of time over having to send individual pages to our 60 alpha pagers.
Our regional dispatch center is slowly moving forward with plans for a proprietary alpha-dispatch system...but like the voice pagers, they'll have limited range.
01-15-2001, 12:58 PM #5MetalMedicFirehouse.com Guest
Better look for some gaurantees in writing. Around here, if there is a lot of pager traffic, they will hold alpha pages in a buffer and it can be several minutes before the message gets sent to the pager. Not a good plan when the house is burning down.
Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.
01-15-2001, 01:22 PM #6SFD-129-3Firehouse.com Guest
In PA, I don't think the Firemen's relief funds can be used for alpha pagers. The main contention being, they cannot receive a voice message instantaneously. For example, most of our guys take their pager into a structure, they can hear the orders given out by ic over the fg channel. Alpha pagers cannot. Co's around us have had the alpha pagers, and gotten rid of them. Terrain seems to play more of a role than with the voice pagers. Also, you are limited to the keyboarding ability of the person doing the paging. Here the spelling isn't as critical, but if I were typing a dispatch, transposing numbers or even letters sends units to entirely different ends of town. Also a problem was the time delay from when the paging service sends the page to the time it actually goes out.
We run with the motorola's and have no desire to change them. Hope this helps.
01-15-2001, 01:27 PM #7AdzeFirehouse.com Guest
I am a member of two FD's in Connecticut...Broad Brook and Blue Hills. Blue Hills is going to be switching to alphanumeric pagers sometime down the road (I think this year). I'm waiting to see how good it actually is...
01-15-2001, 01:38 PM #8Scottie SchmidtFirehouse.com Guest
at my station and other near by stations we use alpha and minitors. they have there problems but not many.
01-15-2001, 02:25 PM #9Dalmatian90Firehouse.com Guest
Little bit of trivia Adze...
The odd-ball 152.0075mhz frequency which my dispatch (QV) and your's (TN) simulcast 33.80 voice dispatch on was choosen to a large degree...because it is also acceptable to run alpha-numeric paging on that frequency too.
The eventual proprietary alpha-numeric system will mutlicast over both the QV and TN towers for extended coverage...not as good as PageNet for New England wide coverage...but should saturate CT from the Connecticut River to Rhode Island.
01-29-2003, 05:08 PM #10
we have minitor 2 and alpha pagers i like them but there are those times when they forget to send out the page with the run. also there helpful incase you forget some info like the exact address and which firegroundRyan
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt
Lets not forget those lost on 9-11-01
01-29-2003, 05:43 PM #11
Wow, this one get resurrected from the Dead!
The eventual proprietary alpha-numeric system will mutlicast over both the QV and TN towers for extended coverage...
Is now in operation. We dropped Page-Net and went back to only voice pagers for about 9 months until the propreitary system was on line.
Since this summer we've been on the proprietary system, to the extent that when members are now issued alphas, their voice pagers are taken back to be assigned to new members. Potentially looking at in a year or two the "tones" becoming merely a backup system blown if the alpha system is down.
Coverage is very good -- I even sometimes even get them in my office in Worcester -- a downtown office building about 30 miles north of my town.
01-29-2003, 11:44 PM #12
- Join Date
- Apr 2002
- Austin, TX
At my department, we are having a few communication issues...
The department is rural, but adjacent to a medium-sized city (about 135,000). That city runs dispatch for the city's EMS provider (hospital-based) and fire department. About 2 years ago, the fire department switched to 800 MHz. This meant that EMS could not talk to fire or my dept. and vice versa w/o relaying through dispatch. The solution to this problem has been to have everyone switch to 800 MHz. It is not feasible or practical for us to switch to 800 MHz, but the city is implementing a new dispatch system (in the next month or two). This system is so high tech that they will no longer be able to send a two-tone alarm. The only alarm they will be able to send is through the Z-tron, which we will not be able to implement until about November.
Our response system is through Minitor III pagers. The tones go out, and members drive to the station (unless they are on shift, which is usually only one or two members, the program is still developing).
The solution that we are currently loooking into is using both voice and text pagers. We want to get the pagers anyway for non-emergency communication. We want to simultaneously have the dispatch info paged to us and the message on the voice pagers.
The EMS service (we are just a first responder, non transporting dept.) will still be able to talk with us, in case you're wondering.
Does anyone else use a similar system?
01-30-2003, 01:24 AM #13
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
- Kearney, Nebraska USA
We have been using alpha pagers for two years and found that it takes longer for the 911 center to send the alpha page than it takes to send a voice page, even with county owning the system for alpha paging there where delays. We have gone back to voice pager for paging call's and use the alpha pager for general messages.
02-01-2003, 09:11 PM #14
- Join Date
- Dec 2001
There have been discussions about that around here, but if you are responding from home during all hours, what wakes you UP?
We have people that cannot wake up to voice pagers Minitor II & III's turned full up.Remember,
If you don't respond.....who will
IACOJ EMS Bureau Member
02-03-2003, 04:25 PM #15
- Join Date
- Apr 2002
- Austin, TX
Thanks for the info so far. Anyone else have any input?
02-03-2003, 05:43 PM #16
What wakes you up at night is all relative.
Most nights my Alpha wakes me up. Other mornings I get up, look at the light tripped on my Minitor II AMPLIFIED charger*, and then check the alpha to see what I slept through.
I'm also on call 24x7 with work. Usually I'm up on the first ring of the Nextel, but I've also had the mornings when it's my boss' voice on the answering machine that wakes me up (to find 7 new messages on the Nextel!)
Bottom line: The alpha wakes me up, 'cause if I sleep through it, I'll sleep through anything.
* Which interestingly I can't use anymore. About six months ago one of my Dalmatians came down with seizures, triggered by of all things him howling back at the ambulance tone on the pager. Since I've kept it turned down low, he doesn't howl, and hasn't had a seizure.
02-20-2003, 06:27 PM #17
- Join Date
- Oct 1999
- Why? It's not like you're going to visit me! But I'm near Waco, Texas
This Post Left Intentionally Blank.NREMT-P\ Reserve Volunteer Firefighter\Reserve Police Officer
Experts built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.
02-20-2003, 07:56 PM #18
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
- Loxley, AL
We use voice pagers for emergency dispatching purposes. The officers are issued alpha pagers for administrative purposes. This system works well for us.
Why can't we just go back to the days of setting off the old air raid siren???
02-20-2003, 08:09 PM #19
I'm from Syracuse, New York. My County Fire Service which is made up of 57 volunteer fire departments just started using Alpha Pagers as a SECONDARY MEANS OF NOTIFICATION a few years ago.
Alpha paging is great, however DO NOT RELY ON ALPHA NUMERIC AS YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF ALERTING! I do not care what City you are in, or what paging company you are going to use, it is not made for emergency services. Keep the Motorola Minitor 3's & 4's and use the Alpha Paging as a secondary means of notification.
For more information or questions, e-mail me.
Lieutenant / EMT
East Syracuse Fire Dept
Onondaga County, NY
02-20-2003, 09:04 PM #20
DO NOT RELY ON ALPHA NUMERIC AS YOUR PRIMARY SOURCE OF ALERTING!
It's important today to differentiate between commercial & proprietary alpha systems.
Commercial systems may have delays (though that was not our experience with them for the two years we used them -- the delays invariably where human dispatcher issues). But as others mentioned, they're not the same as a public-safety dedicated system.
Proprietary alpha-numeric systems are starting to pop up, and those have the same reliability/speed as any other public safety communications system.
In some ways, they can be more reliable than voice -- pagers can go over multiple, inexpensive transmitters simultaneously so you're less likely to be affected by "blind spots" or single-tower failures than on most voice systems. Voice paging over multiple towers is expensive, as it requires transmitters tuned ten times tighter than normal specifications to get adequate voice quality; pagers actually use the slight differences in transmitter tuning for "error correction" when they receive multiple signals.
02-22-2003, 02:24 PM #21
- Join Date
- Mar 2000
My dept. borders Dalmation90's and we use the same alph-dispatch system. We also use the alphas as our primary means of dispatch and the voice pagers are issued to probies and for backup. We have been using the alpha's for about 2 yrs., and they have proved themselves more reliable than the voice. Even with the best minitor on the market, our area is so hilly, vallies etc. that the voice would not always open up, or if it did you could not hear it in some places. we have not missed an alarm with the alpha's yet, and they open anywhere in town, and for miles outside of town, probably half the state, into RI and MA. I love them, the only prob, it does not always wake me up, so I have to leave my minitor 4 on at night....Stay Safe...Jay"WAS THAT BEFORE OR AFTER YOU REALIZED YOU WERE STANDING IN A $#@%*&% PUDDLE OF GASOLINE?"
02-23-2003, 12:10 AM #22
- Join Date
- Nov 2001
My company utilizes both alpha-numeric and the Minitor II voice pagers. Our county communication center dispatches us on both. The alphas are good for holding information about a response (e.g. time dispatched, exact location). The alphas are also good for company only dispatches regarding training and other important messages. We can also send pages from the scene from the rear of our rescue squad.
One drawback to alpha pagers is that you can't read them if they alert while you're operating a vehicle. Another is that in my opinion, they aren't very durable. Everyone in my company has had some sort of reliability problem at one time or another.
02-23-2003, 06:41 PM #23
- Join Date
- Feb 2003
- Wenatchee, WA
The last 14 years have seen a large migration to alpha paging. Most of the transition has been motivated by frequency spectrum usage. In our area, tone & voice reaches better in the community and the responders can monitor the radio traffic enroute to the incident, so everyone knows whats going on - first hand. The alpha system being used is very slow. It is maintained by a private company with 100's of customers, so pages are buffered. Up to 5 minutes from text message sent from the office until the pager receives it. If we had 911 answering times of 5 minutes, the community would have tossed out the administration 20 years ago. If the radio channel(s) are not over-crowded then I'm all for the old tone/voice/monitor pages like Minitor IV. If you go alpha for paging, then make sure the system is under your control and pager notification is less than 30 seconds from pushing send at the dispatch console.
02-24-2003, 05:59 AM #24
I don't know what sort of info you get on your pagers (Or will get), but the problem I found is that too many members pick and choose what jobs they go to, becasue all the details are there when using alphanumerics.
You can guarantee on the calls with the potential to be big, juicy or interesting, there'd be loads of members respond.
Boring jobs- we'd be lucky to turn a truck out some times....Luke
02-24-2003, 01:58 PM #25
One drawback to alpha pagers is that you can't read them if they alert while you're operating a vehicle.
Sure you can.
I've only been pulled over once for it, by an off-duty State Trooper who thought he had himself a drunk driver.
Remember to always look for Crown Vic headlights in the rearview mirror before doing swerving between lanes on an interstate
(OK, and pay more attention to driving than the pager...)
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