Currently, our fire department utilizes numeric pagers to notify our personnel of fire calls. They're just standard personal pagers with two numbers: one for personal use and one "all call" number.
The reason we use this system is because:
1)All 911 calls in our district ring into the PD of the town 10 miles east of us, and radio paging is unreliable from that distance with our terrain (hills and such). So they page our emergency number, put in "911", we respond to the station and contact them by radio or telephone to find out the nature of our call, location, etc.
2) The pagers are cheap, easy to carry and easy to replace...verses a radio pager or two-way pager capable radio that we would need a repeater to strengthen the signal (we don't have that kind of money and probably won't for a long while).
3)Even a "fire phone" with multiple homes hooked up to one emergency number isn't available from our phone company unless we buy the trunk, and if we had that money, we'd spend it on radios and a repeater.
4) There are no employers in our fire district, so everybody that's not retired leaves the district for work. So even if we had a fire phone or radio pagers, we need the range offered from personal pagers.
We cover 16 square miles of rural Oklahoma and run about 40 fire calls a year. We're about to double the size of our district, and figure that we'll probably double our fire runs. We also plan to start responding to MVCs and LZ assists in the near future, with a full blown First Responder program up and running within 12 months (if everything goes okay). The ambulance service that serves our area is all for our department responding with them, and since they're dispatches from the building next to the PD that dispatches us, calling us won't be a problem. From the information we can gather, we estimate our total call volume (fire and medical) when we expand our district and start our first responder prgram will probably be around 160 calls a year (quite a little increase for us).
Here's the reason for the rambling: short of dishing out the money for radio pagers, which I don't feel is an adequate solution in our situation yet, I'm thinking alpha-numeric pagers so we can get text messages. That way, we're not dragging every single member of the fire department in for a sick call at 0400 when all we need are the First Responders, or having someone try to leave work early to help set up an LZ.
Anybody use this method successfully? Unsuccessfully? Any other ideas?