1. #1
    CFD TruckLt
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Need info on new radio system low-vs-high

    My department is in the market for a new radio system. We currently operate on low band (very congested) and are considering a high band or uhf system. I need opinon's from people who have switched. The current county system is very congested and a few other dept's have already switched to high and uhf. Thank you brothers and stay safe.


  2. #2
    Jim M.
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We switched from low band (33.7 mh) to UHF (450.XX) last year at this time. The difference is amazing. For the first time we can actually talk to one anohter and understand each other. We have a repeater at our station and one in neighboring Town. Between us we were able to license 4 channels, so multiple calls can be going at without any conflict. Very satisfied. Let me know if you want more details. 33.7 used to be very crowded with skip from your State (something like Cat-guts County dispatch).

    Remember, it IS as bad as you think and they ARE out to get you!

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Low-band sucks big time!!! My volunteer department shares one frequency with 17 other departments...to me, it's just glorified CB traffic. We were supposed to get hooked up on the county/city's 800 system as soon as the City FD/PD was finished, but they decided to give the radios intended for us to the golf course maintenance crews and animal control. I guess we know how we rate...hope nobody gets killed.

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We currently opperate on low band (33.80) We are in the prcess of going to 150.xx repeater system. 150 because of our terrain(60 sq miles and very hilly) also money was a big issue. the higher the frequency the higher the cost involved. You should also look at your mutaul aid, will you need to maintain your old system to talk to neighboring depts? Also low band is a thing of the past it will soon be tough to get parts, and new equipment for low band. The money is in the higher frequncys.Good luck hope this helps.

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our county uses low band (33.86) for our fire/ems. 35 companies share the main frequency. we utilize 4 tactical channels (1 for hagerstown fire department operations [6 companies], 1 for special operations, and 2 for fireground/major incidents) the main channel is used for dispatch and operations for ambulance calls and fire calls that don't use much radio traffic. it isn't all that bad even though all 35 companies are dispatched on 1 channel. We use low band because our county goes mountain, hill, flat, hill, flat, mountian, flat, hill.... you get the idea. I hope this helped a little bit.

    Deputy Chief James Ulrich
    Hagerstown Fire Department Explorer Post 321

    The opinions expressed here are my own and may not be those of my department.

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    VHF Highband is very congested, as well. The local fire operation here on 154 MHz operates in carrier squelch (because most of the older equipment is not retrofitted with tone "PL" encoders and to do so would be laborious) and as a result can hear 12 states under normal conditions. Even if the system were in "PL" there are still stations over 120 miles away that would break through under certain conditions.

    Your decision to change frequencies should be made after consulting with your local frequency advisor and will probably be dictated by what frequencies are open. Of the things you should consider are placing your department on a CTCSS, or tone squelch system. Some areas may have all of these tones in use and you may have to use a digital squelch system rather than tones. You should not invest in a system that is built to perform in carrier squelch. You should also consider multiple receivers throughout your jurisdiction. It is impossible for one site to cover 100% of what you need. Likewise, if you operate within a substantial area, you should investigate the possibility of installing a repeater system in conjunction with the multiple receivers so that everything your dispatcher hears is heard by all of the vehicles and portables throughout your area.

    Get a second frequency that you will use exclusively for fireground. You do not want fireground operations to occur on a repeater, nor do you want your critical traffic being interrupted by paging.

    You may even want to consider using 800 MHz (and this suggestion is bound to get bombarded with anecdotal stories of how 800 "doesn't work") if all other bands are congested. The fact is that in conventional (NON-trunked) mode, 800 MHz works the same as VHF or UHF. If you change from lowband to any other frequency band, you will most likely have to use more sites as propagation characteristics vary for each band. Indeed, you will need more sites for UHF and 800 if your cchoice is to implement a solution on these bands.

    What you will find is that there are other users everywhere, but techniques such as CTCSS/ CDCSS, antenna coverage patterns that are meant to only cover your area and careful site placement will minimize co-channel and adjacent channel interference.

    Good luck,

    Steve Makky, Sr., ENP
    SCCG/ EMA/ 9-1-1

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I work for a 2-way radio communications business, and can give you some more insite on prices and technical specs of some different brands and models if you wish, and how the system would auctually work. Email me and I will be glad to offer any advice that I can. If the system is properly built, you won't hear any congestion from other users. Don't take some of the horror stories out there too seriously. I've been involved in building at least 8 major communication systems for some very large departments, and if it is done right, everything is a piece of cake. High band or UHF will work just fine for you. jpwirelessretail@aol.com Take Care and Play Safe!

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Being that I'm right next door to you, we both know what the problems are. Anyway, being involved in Radio Communications, I would recommend an UHF system. Now before we go any further, I will also tell you that, a regular VHF High-Band system can work well for the fire service. I've operated on one for fire and ems. However I'm not familiar with your dept. or county. But UHF 400 and 800 Mhz can also be upgraded later to trunked systems, and also to carry data transmissions reduce voice communications. The real secret is to have good repeaters, that are high, and that you can reach 2 at one time. Then you can buy the signal device that whichever repeater receives the strongest signal, that is the one that continues to broadcast the transmission through the duplex system. The final thing I would recommend is using Motorola, I have never had a major problem with one and have given a few of my radios a licking and they took everything I threw at it. Sit down with a rep from a communication company and explain what you're looking for. And when all else fails as well as the budget, look long term and set up a 3 year plan if you have to. Get the repeaters and mobile radios to talk to dispatch for IC purposes and then do portables if you have to. Or the reverse if you are in a compact area that you can hit the 2 or 3 repeaters you will have with a 1 to 3 watt portable. In fact CFD if you want post a message on here and I will email you with the name of a Firefighter who works for a company who is setting up ours and a couple other systems in my area. You can call him and he can either help you or give you the name of a reliable salesman. I have seen a couple who don't know half of what the newer radios on the market can do.

    The above is my opinion and experiences only, they do not reflect those of any dept./agency I work for, deal with, or am a member of.

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We used to operate on low band (39.50) and switched over to UHF. Our county has several repeaters due to the terrain (mountains) but it also helps keep the conjestion down of the 15+ Fire departments on the frequency since we have 3 channels to utilize and our town has an amplified ant. that we can communicate on as well since disp is located in our backyard. Our Dept. comm to dispatch on the county frequency and go truck to truck on our TAC channel which is radio to radio. We can communicate all over town with 4 watt portables. Seriously consider getting a Fireground channel so you can stay off the repeater and out of everyone else's way, as well as everyone staying out of your way. Rescue in our county uses VHF and has a few more problems communicating at times than Fire. I dispatch at 911 so I see the difference in the two. But from experience, anything beats low band!!!!!!!

    Big or small, we rescue em all!!!
    GOD bless!

    [This message has been edited by HOTDOG (edited 01-07-2001).]

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