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  1. #1
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    Default Notification Systems

    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?
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA


  2. #2
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    We've been using alpha-numeric pagers to supplement our traditional voice pagers for about 3 years now. My Minitor II hardly ever leaves it charger!

    The service we're on is commercial, and works well for us. Normally the alphas are beepin' & buzzin' about half way through the voice dispatch. I believe what helps us is we're on an older frequency & technology (non-flex) that most other users have moved off of -- helps two ways, first the network is built up well in our rural area, and second there isn't much traffic to compete with.

    Our dispatch center (regional, serving 12 towns) is working along with the other regional dispatch centers in our area to deploy a proprietary alpha-numeric system. They've been at it over a couple budget years, and still probably have another year to go live with it.

    The future is with alpha-numeric pagers. 20 years from now the voice pagers will be as common as fire sirens on the firehouse today -- an outdated and rapidly disappearing piece of history!
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  3. #3
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Dal, I heard TN is planning on going to alphanumeric pagers. What downsides do you have? The two biggest concerns I have from people who don't have them are 1) Will they wake me up out of bed? and 2) It must be a real pain if you are driving or someother place that makes it difficult to read, do find this to be true?
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  4. #4
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    Sounds Like this would be a good thing. We had to go with the radio/repeater system instead of the alpha-pager because we respond and live in a area that the cellular phone service is good to none.

    hope the info helps

  5. #5
    Member Will24's Avatar
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    Dalmatian, we still have a house siren, it's still used on EVERY call, it basically signals the small village our station is in (we actually cover most of a township) that traffic needs to slow down, almost everyone is good about stopping at the lines painted on the road to allow FFs to come into the lot, and trucks to roll
    There are three truths in life:

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  6. #6
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    Default

    Adze: The alpha-numerics should wake you up fine. Unless you happen to leave it on vibrate. I have one from work that pages me when the power on the servers I administrate goes out. That doesn't happen too often, but one night during a lightning storm, it started chirping. It sounds just like a smoke detector, and is almost as loud. There were a few moments of sleepy panic before I realized where the sound was coming from. If you end up with the same kind I do that shouldn't be a problem.


    My alpha-numeric is easy to read. There's a little light sensor that backlights the screen in low-light situations, and the letters are big enough. I do like having the radio pager though. It's nice to be able to listen to the page, and then switch it over to 33.90 to monitor what's going on until I get to my car and the scanner.


    Unfortunately, the radio pager's sensitivity is weak in some places. It hardly ever works in the car, and never works in my office at UConn, unless I happen to be near a window. My alpha-numeric has never failed me, even when I'm down in the basement of my office.


    I also like the info the radio pager can give, vs the few lines of text an alpha-numeric could. But I've got all of a month of responding under my belt, so I probably don't have all that much experience to draw from yet.



    Andy

  7. #7
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    If your current pager provider is reliable enough that you have never missed a call, then it seems like the alpha pagers should work fine. You're used to the alert sound. I too would be concerned about a regular pager waking me up in the middle of the night. I've slept through pages before when on call for my regular job but I have never slept through the voice pager at full volume! Regular pagers don't have a volume control for the alert.

    [ 07-09-2001: Message edited by: WTFDFF10 ]
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    we don't use them, but i did hear of one dept. that did. they negotiated with the service provider to get priority over all other traffic. that way there was no delay in getting the call out if it was a busy part of the day. may be something to think about.

  9. #9
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Rittner:
    Yeah, my alpha (for work) wakes me up just fine. One of my friends (who also has one) cries that he will never be able to wake up to the pager for a fire in the middle of the night.

    Personnally, my only concern is having to read the call in the middle of heavy traffic.

    Right now, we use Motorala Keynote pagers and we have a siren on top of our firehouse.

    As of now, we're dispatched out of TN and they are looking to switch to alpha's.
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  10. #10
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    Not a lot of heavy traffic out here in Ashford, but I understand your point. And I suppose if TN is going to alpha-numeric, I'll hear about it sooner or later.



    We don't blow the siren here in Ashford anymore. I wish they did, but only for sentimental reasons. I grew up in Southington, about a block from the downtown siren, and they still blow it for pretty much every call. After 20 years of that, I had kind of come to like it.



    Andy

  11. #11
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Hey Adze...

    The bastard 152.0075 frequency was choosen specifically because it allows transmission of both voice and data on the same frequency under FCC regs. It's a bastard, 'cause it's not a normal pager frequency, and was actually intendend for "medical" use in hospital paging systems.

    Most of the QV and TN towers now have capability to simulcast on 33.80 from one tower and 152.0075 from multiple towers.

    152.0075 for voice works OK -- not great, as it's not in perfect synch tower to tower so if your in a marginal area picking up two towers, it tends to garble.

    However, for alpha paging being out of synch is a benefit -- in a marginal area, the pager compares the two signals and picks up the best from each giving a better chance of a complete, or at least readable message.

    Once complete and in operation, it should saturate the TN-QV-KX-WW dispatch area pretty effectively.

    What you won't have is what we currently have with the commercial system -- Southern New England wide coverage, which is nice for sending out administrative messages especially when a lot of our members work or shop in Massachussets, Hartford, Rhode Island, etc -- can get out messages of what's out for service, need help doing xxx job on Saturday morning, has anyone seen the ___________. Currently 50 of our 75 members are assigned alphas, all also have voice pagers -- but we haven't bought any new voice pagers in a few years and they'll eventually in another decade or two be phased out.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    I might add for waking up at night...

    It's what you get used to.

    We used to have members living miles away from the station who used to wake up to the siren's distant wail. That's not awful loud once your a little ways away, inside a house with the windows closed in winter!

    I have an amplified base on my minitor -- and can still sleep through calls when tired. But at least on the alpha I can always read what the call was when I do gain conciousness!
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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  13. #13
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    If your alpha-numeric paging system is reliable go for it. Ours is intermittent. Sometimes it works great, sometimes 1/2 to none of our members gets a page...sometimes we get it an hour later...

    Also I have no problem waking to the alpha even on vibrate (light sleeper) but we have several members that don't wake up to a radio pager unless it's in an amplified charger so you'll have to judge that one individually.
    Susan Lounsbury
    Winston-Salem Rescue Squad
    Griffith Volunteer FD

  14. #14
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Dal, let's not go into the area of TN's towers...ever since they started messing around with them, the pages have never been totally right. Many times we have to deal with the tones not setting off our pagers at all, or they set off some people's pagers but not others. Thank God we still have our siren.
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  15. #15
    Forum Member MetalMedic's Avatar
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    I will add my concern that you make sure the paging service can give you paging priority. I know with the paging service I have, it is not unusual to have a long delay (once it was 3 hours!!!) before receiving a page. I would also caution you about becoming too reliant on such pagers. A couple years ago, a satalite went out of commission which resulted in our paging service being non-existant for 3 days
    ... so you should consider some kind of a back-up system just in case...
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

  16. #16
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    MetalMedic:

    I share your concern about having a back up, and the situation you mention happened with our pagers once (only it was just one day).

    Fortunately, there were no calls in that timeframe. Our backup plan is (cringes) that the PD has a list of all firefighters, and they start at the top. As soon as they contact one of us, it's up to us to call the rest of the people. Hardly foolproof, I know, but our options are limited.

    In all actuallity, if the PD got down to number three or four on the list with no success, they would respond another FD
    to respond while the worked on notifying us. The problem there is that two of the FDs adjacent to us are paged the same way, just with a different company. The potentional is a little frightening.

    As a side note, I'm new to posting but I'm read these forums pretty religiously for about 10 monthes. I thought you'd left us, MetalMedic.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

  17. #17
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    FYI Adze...

    Just found out today that the 35(?) Chief-of-the-Departments out of QV have had alpha pagers on the 152.0075 proprietary system since this spring as part of the testing!
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  18. #18
    Forum Member MetalMedic's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Silver City 4:

    As a side note, I'm new to posting but I'm read these forums pretty religiously for about 10 monthes. I thought you'd left us, MetalMedic.
    To be honest... I had given up on Firehouse over some problems that are best left to rest. But since I am now able to post again... I will give it another shot and see what happens... Thanks for remembering me!
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

  19. #19
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Dal, are QV, TN, WW, KX (refresh my memory on who that one is please) planning on trying to make this switch all around the same time?

    As far as that bastard child frequency, we switched to 33.80 for dispatch a few years back (went off of 33.94 because of various reasons, mainly Simsbury using it as their personal paging service). We are simulcasted over 152.0075, which is what our pagers are tuned to.
    IACOJ Agitator
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  20. #20
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    [ 07-10-2001: Message edited by: Adze ]
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