1. #1
    Chief 50
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Who can talk to who, and how ?

    Our company is located in a small rural mountains terrain area. We run about 1200 calls per year. We currently have three radios in our ambo's. 1) Low Band 33mhz range. This is the system used by the Fire Dept's. in the county. 2) VHF High band. 155mhz. range. This is used by ambulances. 3) UHF Ultra High Band. Also, used by ambulances. Here is our dilema.........
    - If we use the UHF radio, we can talk great to dispatch, but can't talk at all to other mobile or portable units.
    - If we use VHF, we can talk unit to unit great, but half the time, dispatch can't hear us, or we can't recieve them.
    - If we use the Low Band, it works great. We can talk to Dispatch with not trouble because they have multiple towers. We can also talk unit to unit which is great for coordinating on calls with the FD.
    - The powers to be don't want "EMS" using the sacred "Fire" Frequencies. Their reasoning is that it will tie up the channel to much, with things like clearing the hospital, receiving patient info. from dispatch, etc.

    I am interested in hearing how other jurisdictions handle communications. Do Fire & EMS go enroute, on scene, etc. on the same channel, do they have separate channels, and if that is the case, how do you handle coordination under the Incident Command System ?

    I hope toe develop some information that will either change my mind about how I think it should be. Or give me some ammunition to take to the county meeting to fight for better communications.

    Our county has 25 Fire Dept's, some with Ambulances, and 4 independent EMS only services. Everyone runs EMS Calls, 1st resp. or ambulance.

    Thanks a bunch for your input....

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In addition to being a firefighter, I am also a HAM radio operator. The problem with the VHF and UHF equipment is the limited range you will get with line of sight. This is the same reason that the only FM radio stations you canget are local while AM brodcasts will reach larger areas.


    1. Apply to the FCC and get your own LF frequency.

    2. Install repeaters throght the service area. Repeaters work by receving on one frequency and simultaeously brocasting back on another. By placing repeaters and your higher peaks you should be able to reach anywhere.

    Not too long ago our station was out in jumbo woods on a brush fire. The guys in the field could not rach dispatch with the VHF radios. One of them happened to also be a HAM and had his VHF ham radio. He was able to hit the local repeater and dial up dispatch with on the phone patch the radio club had put into the repeater. Worked like a charm :-)

    John LaBounty
    Captain CFD 4

  3. #3
    Bob Snyder
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I agree that repeaters are the way to go for increased and more effective coverage. I'm a fan of VHF-high band, as VHF-low band just doesn't generally have the penetrating power, at comparable wattages, especially in areas with thick walls or electrical/RF interference or for below-grade operations. I do occasionally experience the problems with VHF-high when out of line-of-sight, but these can be mostly overcome with a sufficient repeater network.

    My county has EMS on its own county-wide VHF-high dispatch and ops frequencies (with a repeater system) and PD on a similar, separate county-wide VHF-high system. Fire is split between VHF-high and VHF-low, depending on where you are (an artifact from the days before the county-wide 911 center). My station is in the part of the county covered by VHF-high band for fire. All we do is give the EMS squads (and PD units) operating in our area the right to put the high-band fire frequencies in their radios. If they are deployed on a fire scene or need to talk to fire units, they simply switch over to our frequencies for the time period that they need to. Procedurally, it works the same way in the areas covered by VHF-low, but the EMS units need two radios in those areas.

    Actually, we rarely find the need to talk directly between fire & EMS, and direct fire/PD communications are almost non-existent. This was a much bigger issue when there was a patchwork of dispatch centers spread across the county. Now that everybody's dispatchers are sitting at consoles right next to each other at County Communications, it's usually sufficient to relay through them.

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