1. #1
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    Default What's your secondary means of notification?

    I've been reading the discussion on the residents taking the town to court on the use of a fire siren as a means of notifying personnel that there's a call. Some say that the fire siren is their secondary means of notification of alarm.

    Tell me this, and I'm interested in rural areas mainly, but I enjoy responses from all:
    What's your secondary means of notification? We use personal pagers as a primary means of notification, because radio paging is unreliable in our area right now. A fire siren wouldn't work for us, because of terrain and low population density (500 people in 16 square miles of hills). We've got the old "call list" as our backup; i.e. if the pagers go out (they have) and we get a call, dispatch starts going down a list until they reach someone. The first person contacted is responsible for contacting everyone else.

    How has the rest of the world adapted? Two neighboring departments use the same type of system that we do, for the same reasons.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    We have the radio pagers that our Dispatch center tones out. If our dispatch center goes down for whatever reason, (the way it is set up, it would take an act of god), our neighboring town on the same frequency can do our tones as well. Same for the Police Dept, too which is a nice backup. In the event that a member leaves a pager home or the battery craps out or something of that nature, the ol'e siren on the roof is loud enough that I hear it in my house with the TV on and the windows shut 2 miles away. We have no immidiate residences near the firehouse so no one complains. It does not sound after 10:00pm. Before the pagers, that was the only way of alerting the firefighters, so it still works the same now.

    Matt

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    -- Primary remains pagers on 33.80mhz
    -- Also use commercial pagers. Response time is more affected by dispatcher & how busy they are then the paging service.

    Last time we had dispatch issues (main tower was down off and on for three days) was before we had the commercial pagers.
    33.80 was fine in the evening/nights because they worked from other towers in the chargers, just not reliably on your hip. Enough people where home to make calls during those hours. (12 town regional dispatch with 5(?) towers of it's own, and access to 3(?) other towers shared with other dispatches)

    For the day, we had the Dispatch trip the siren for all calls, including medicals, and our Deputy Chief's wife would listen to the scanner, her the tones on the backup towers, then call her husband by Cell Phone then call the other members around during the day
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    We have seven repeaters that seven departments run on that hear on the same freq.. If the main dispatch goes down the the only full time dept. in the county can also alert the vollies depts. If these do not work they can also get a hold of some of us on the police and sheriff channels and the carrer depts. channel. If they can't find us by any of these they then try calling the village office on the telephone. once they have found one person then we have a telephone list with everyones home and cellular phone numbers. We also can use a fire siren behind the fire dept if the phones are down. But 99.9999% of the time they can get us on one of the county fire repeaters.

    D308

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    primary means is minitor II, paged out by the sherriff`s station, secondary means is paged out on the same pager and frequency by the only paid station in our county, coshocton, ohio.

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    Primary- Radio pagers activated by county

    Secondary- radio pagers activated by back-up center and radio tower

    Third- call fire chief at home who can activate the siren (which by the way rings for every call) or our nieghbor department can activate tones from thier base station
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    The situation in Victoria Australia is primary the alpha-numeric pager network through a central dispatch network and secondary the FRS phone system at individual stations setting the local fire siren. Some sirens are not necessarily situated at stations.
    Disclaimer
    These views are my own and not of either my brigade or any other organisation.

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    We have our standard radio pagers that dispatch uses to tone us out with (officers carry radios).

    Our tones set off the siren at the hall automatically. It runs for 55 seconds and is able to be activated 24/7/356.

    We can set the siren off manually should the pagers and/or radios not work.

    If dispatch goes down, we can be towned out from our station as well as all of our mutial aid all stations.

    In addition, we are the southern most fire department controled by our dispatch centre, with a different centre dispatching one of our mutial aid departments. Basically, we can be contacted via both dispatch centres.

    We have a back up system at our hall that can be used dispatching and communications if the main base radio goes down.

    There is an interconnect back-up which allows paging and communications over the telephone lines, should towers and/or repeaters go down.

    And, like most departments, there is the basic phone everyone on the list until they get a hold of someone back-up to the back-up plan.

    And finally, if I stand on my pourch, I can see get a hold of 4, maybe 5, other members by simple yelling . The extreme back-up to the back-up .

    Now that I think about it..... maybe we have to many back-ups.... Anyone want to borrow some.

    [ 07-24-2001: Message edited by: firefighter26 ]
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    Our secondary was our first, before we got pagers. About 35 years ago ( I'm told ) the then chief also worked for the phone company. He established a " Fire phone line" and the way it works is that dispatch can pick up the "HOT PHONE" and it rings at every members house at the same time with a distinct ring. When you pick up the phone it is like a party line and you can hear and talk back to dispatch our anyone else who picks up. SOP is evryone stays quiet to get the message and hanges up, but The chief or officer can speak and give direction if need be. We use both on every call. I would never give it up. It Saved our hide more that once.

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    Several area departments use the "fire phone" as their primary form of notification, then the first one to the station tones out over the radio to get the rest of firefighters on the way (remember, we're WAY out in the sticks).

    We looked into the fire phone, and I don't know the technical details, but the phone company said that all of their available trunks were being used, and the only way we could get a fire phone was if we bought our own trunk at a cost of about $5000. We don't have $5000 laying around, and since there aren't any employers in the fire district, there's only about 4-5 firefighters in the district during the weekdays.

    For $5000 though, I think we could put a repeater up and buy some radio pagers.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

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    We use radio pagers and fire bar (phones) together. Usually the Phone first, then pagers. If a medical call comes in someone will let dispatch know on the phone if they should set off pagers, otherwise we get both.
    Works well and everyone gets the call.

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    Originally posted by Silver City 4:

    Tell me this, and I'm interested in rural areas mainly, A fire siren wouldn't work for us, because of terrain and low population density (500 people in 16 square miles of hills).
    You say sirens won't work for you... why not? You can put them in areas where most of your people live. They CAN be remotely located on telephone or electric poles. We had a remote siren for years at a location away from the station. It had its own radio reciever housed in a water proof box on the top of a power pole (so it had electricity). If you put one or two in other areas with relays and timers that should do the trick, everyone will hear them!
    BTW, we took the remote siren O.O.S.because of pagers (both audio and digital) and the "house siren".
    Perhaps you could also work on improving the paging in the area... cell phone companies might be interested.
    Good luck... and if you want more input from me... E-mail!

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    Interesting to see how many rely on pagers first, and then their secondary system is still pagers. Be it voice, then alpha or be it a primary and secondary dispatch point, you still rely on radio transmissions to be the alternate form of notification. Here is some food for thought...

    We have all experienced some interference on our radios caused by sun spot activty. Unsually this is in the form of increased "skip" and static. But what if some atmospheric condition occurs that completely takes away the ability of your transmitters to effectively send out pages? What will be your THIRD means of notifcation? Those who are using sirens and phone bars will be one step ahead of you should that time ever come.
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

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

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    The ONLY means of notification I have is a bearcat handheld scanner. Which I monitor fire dispatch. If my scanner goes, IM screwed, even though my dept has a siren, hearing sometime's is difficult.

    Jeremy

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    TF, nice to see another radio guy here (KB3GOF)!


    Our primary is minitor II/IIIs, a minitor II at the station sets off our house siren with the first tones for anything but an AFA. However, if the radio goes our our chief and assistant chiefs get phone calls, they both live within 30 seconds of the station and THEY set the house siren off
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    They CAN be remotely located on telephone or electric poles

    Along with an auto-start backup generator? Not very reliable means of notification without them.

    You can buy an awful lot of pagers for the costs of installing and maintaining remote sirens and generators (after all, reliability is key, no?).

    But what if some atmospheric condition occurs that completely takes away the ability of your transmitters to effectively send out pages?

    Pray tell, like what?

    PL (Private Line or Tone Coded Squelch) reduces skip problems tremendously. May skip, but you don't have to listen to them. Unless they share a PL, but my experience on low-band is we only have 2 or 3 areas on each frequency we tend to get skip from -- just make sure you use one of the 40 PLs different from them (or what is it, 200 Digital PLs available?)

    Other than that, we've been using radios for 50 years. What kind of atmospheric or solar event would take them out? Other than Satellites and high-flying planes being affected by solar flares (and the HydroQuebec Power Grid in '89...) what have we seen from solar/weather disruptions?

    Our sirens already depend on radio trips from regional dispatches. Eliminated the leased telephone lines in the mid 70s. Hmmm, over 25 years and they still go off when their needed...

    If you're going to depend on the phone system, well Ma Bell is dead, buried, and the Baby Bells are seriously considering exhuming the corpse, cremating it, scattering the ashes, all so they can sell the grave and make some more money. Since '84 the entire telephone system has been ripped up and replaced. The mechanical switches and EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) hardened electronics are gone and melted for scrap metal. While some the seismically hardened buildings might remain (hardened against the Nuclear Blast Shock that would come along with the EMP pulse from the Bomb), no one cares about the cold war anymore. The electronics inside them are cheap and redundant. One dies, another picks up the load. One center burns/floods/etc, another center redirects. Have an event of EMP, natural or most likely man made, sufficient to disrupt radios? Telephone systems are going to be smoked. So is the electronics that control the diesel engines in your fire trucks, or for that matter your personal car's computer. Heck, if you have a fancy generator, it may not autostart either with those electronic circuits fried.
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    We recently installed civil defense sirens where I work at which are electronic and not mechanical. They do not need a back-up generator, since they have a battery back-up system. That way, you can remotely operate them and count on them to work as long as you can get a signal to them.

    As for radio interference, while PLs reduce the noise you hear on the radio, they do not reduce the radio traffic that is occupying a frequency. Push your PL disable button on your radio and you might be surprised at how much stuff is going on that you are not bothered with. TECHNICALLY, you are required to do every single time before you transmit so as to not interfere with other communications.

    So far, we have not had an atmospheric event that totally disrupted our communications. We have had a couple incidents where a base station malfunctioned and sent out a dead air carrier that effectively shut down the paging systems until the problem was located. If, Heaven forbid, you were to experience some type of nuclear explosion in your area (don't laugh, terrorist can have them in a package the size of a suit case), the result could be an electrical disruption in the atmospher that could eliminate radio communications. Of course, that may be the least of your problems at that time, but this disruption could spread along with the fallout so you need to consider the possibility since you will want to be notifed of the emergency if that time comes.
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

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

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    The sirens on Poles for the most part do NOT need a backup generator. Whelen is not that stupid. They thought of that a long time ago with Battery backups. Those big boxes on the poles have the controllers and the batteries in case the power goes out. They are mostly triggered by radio with a DTMF sequence. Usually the radio system has some kind of redundencey, at least ours does. If the power goes out, dipatch has a generator and UPS system so the conosole doesn't even blink. If the radio goes down, we have redundant ways of triggering it. It can even be triggered by a portable or mobile radio with a DTMF mic.

    Now, to address this other issue- If there was ever a Nuclear Attack in my little town, what good is a siren going to do? "Quick, hide under the desk and it will protect you!" By the time the sirens go off, if they are still there, everything else would be leveled anyway. And if not, what are you going to do, out run the blast?

    On the subject of PL codes and skip. PL does not "filter out" the skip or anything of that nature. It only makes it so only your transmisions will open the reciever's squelch. Once someone with your PL is transmitting, anything else on the frequency will still come in and interfere with what is being said. We have this exact problem where I work as a dispatcher at a State Park. The skip from Florida actually walks over our 50 watt mobile units that are less than a mile from the antenna. PL would not do didly here and it doesn't. If you get a bad skip day, it is quite possible that everything you say on the radio will be garbled and walked on. PL will keep t quiete when no one from your group is talking, but once they key up, it is open game again.

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    It can even be triggered by a portable or mobile radio with a DTMF mic

    Oh what fun one can have with a tape recorder. Or even a computer if you know the tones (I shouldn't say much...you could set our siren off the same way)

    At least with voice-pagers, you'd have to hear a voice, and I bet most people recognize their local dispatchers. Alpha-Numerics can be broken too, but it takes a considerable amount more skill and technology than just a radio and tape recorder.

    The skip from Florida actually walks over our 50 watt mobile units that are less than a mile from the antenna

    1) Yes, PLs filter out transmissions -- anything not using that PL will not open the receiver.

    2) So the dispatchers at CO (Connecticut DEP Communications Office) no longer will have to continually listen to other state's traffic.

    3) The dispatchers will know when the speaker opens up, it's either for them, or between DEP units so the can monitor and relay if neccessary. I don't think much has changed in the days since I worked for the State Parks, and it wasn't unusual for us to use a portable relaying through a mobile relaying through the dispatcher at CO to get a message to the unit manager who was 2 towns away!

    4) You can get into problems when the radio power of PL'd and non or differently PL'd radios are about the same. But I doubt it will be the case 90% or better with Skip. Ya, sometimes you get walked over by skip...usually you just get lost IN it.

    The biggest problem with low-band skip for dispatchers is the pure volume of it -- not that they can't hear your radio, but they don't recognize the transmission was intended for THEM. PL so they don't have to hear everything else, they do a better job hearing what is needed.
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    Our primary is one of the last remaining operational party line systems in the state. The calls are forwarded to us from DSO , direct or from 911 and they ring through on 30+ phones. Our secondary is Alpha-Numeric pagers done by DSO or from computer at various dispatch locations. We are trying to make sure we use both methods when possible to catch those in the area but away from the house. We have been evaluating various methods in case the phones go away as 'ma bell' has indicated they might. They are currently grandfathered at a set rate as determined by the legislature a long time ago.

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    Originally posted by MetalMedic:
    Interesting to see how many rely on pagers first, and then their secondary system is still pagers...

    What will be your THIRD means of notifcation? Those who are using sirens and phone bars will be one step ahead of you should that time ever come.

    MM... GREAT point... our primary/secondary notification systems are pager and siren. Wanna guess what normally trips the siren?
    A radio signal!

    Also, for Silver City 4 again... I see you're in "tornado alley". Sirens would be a BIG plus!

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    CO Does NOT have PL decode and neither does the base at the park I work at. This is because the state is slow and not all the radios have PL encoders on them. Therefore, if someone without a PL encoder is being shot at or chasing a speeding boat, they will still be heard by CO or myself. I have no problem distinguisher seperate transmissions. But when they both come in at the same time (ie- Anestasia State Park in Florida keys up at the same time as our Game Warden that is a mile from the tower), most of time, the whole transmission is completely unreadable. They are using a PL and if I turn the PL decode on, it doesn't help. The DEP unit here has opened the squelch and now, as long as he is transmitting, anything will come through. PL makes the radio less annoying when no one from your group is talking, but beyond that, it is not usually a help, esspecially with low band.

    Matt

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