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  1. #1
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    Question Communications

    We are having a big debate over communications in our district. The dispatch center is sold on 800 Mghs and were not. The police has moved on and purchase several radios and use them now on a regular basis. However we have found no use for them in the fire service as far as "they either work or dont" there is no 1 or 2 mile wich normal radios put out. we live in a smaller city were 800mgz has alot of dead spots. Does anybody use the 800mghs and have good luck with it? I have heard nothing good, what do you guys think? To give you an idea about our station we run 22 volunteer fireman on a lowband system now "wanting highband" we run about 250 calls a year we respond with 1 engine 1 pumper tanker, 1 ladder, 1 brush truck and 1 med jeep.

    Another question also what does your entry team use for communications? do they have radios? and what kind of system do they use? lepel mics? mask mics?


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    We use a high band frequency for dispatch and fireground (155.835 Mhz). It's the same frequency for both, but our fireground channel doesn't go through the repeater. We talked about getting a couple more frequencies for multiple incidents, but it never got any further.

    The county next to us went to the 800 Mhz system. They had to build 5 towers for repeaters to get 90% coverage on their portable radios. That's fine for them, but the counties on 3 sides of them are still on high band. I'm not sure about the fourth county's radio system. They did give two of those other counties a mobile radio capable of talking to either 800 system or high band. I hope to get at least a portable radio from them soon. This makes mutual aid into their county a problem. If everyone you run mutual aid with is on the 800 system, then that's the way to go. Otherwise, I would go high band and try to get 3 to 5 frequencies for dispatch, fireground, water supply, etc.

    Hope everything goes for the best, one way or the other.
    Another lifetime volunteer proud to serve my community.

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    Forum Member RyanEMVFD's Avatar
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    we use high band VHF for dispatch and the sort. we have a repeater channel for dispatch, our own primary channel for just our dept, a state fire mutual aid channel and other channels for other depts that we can use to speak with them on.

    if mutual aid is an often occurance and they are not 800 mhz then i wouldn't go with it. but if you find that you need to speak with PD alot then you need to consider that as well.
    NREMT-P\ Reserve Volunteer Firefighter\Reserve Police Officer
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    Our communications are on the 800 Mhz band. We have no problems, other than the occasional dead spot.

    We still have the lowband frequencies, as two of our neighboring communities and the Fire District 14 also operate on them.

    There is one thing you have to consider: no radio system is perfect. Even on low band frequencies, there are going to be dead spots. The secret is a repeater system. For every new large construction project that has been developed in my community, part of the permit process is for the developer to purchase a repeater for Police/Fire/EMS communications. For example, at the Solomon Pond Mall , it not only enhances communciation from the mall to fire alarm and the apparatus, but inside of the building as well.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Thumbs down

    we've had an 800 mhz system for 10 years, great at first, but nothing but problems as of late. i would avoid it if at all possible

  6. #6
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs down 800??......AAHHHHH............ .......

    I don't know if it's 800Mhz. or trunking that causes all the problems. I am an active volunteer in 2 counties (I live on the county line, really!!)One county has a 800 trunked system and it makes life MISERABLE for the volunteers. the only bright spot is they still use 154.01 for dispatch/pagers so we still hear the calls pretty well, but for operations, no one knows what is going on, even the trunking scanners aren't that good. The other county uses 46.12 for the pager system and simulcasts both sides of the main channel which is 494.8375 there are 6 more channels on the 494/495 band that are used for operations, EMS, etc. This system, although held together with tape and chewing gum and using cannibalizing to get parts because the hardware is so old, works circles around the 800 system next door. Our main point is, with volunteers, everybody NEEDS to know what is going on. The 494 system (untrunked) does that well, where the 800 system (trunked) leaves everybody in the dark. My opinion?? Avoid trunking at all costs. Last thought. Chief Billy Goldfeder, and many forums contributors know Billy, has had some thoughts on the FDNY Digital system, (and digital radio in general) that all of you would find interesting. To answer a question from ladder 29 51 We use lapel mics on motorola HT 1000 Portables on the 494/495 system. The folks with the 800 system use lapel mics also but I don't know what type of portable they have. Best Wishes and Stay Safe....
    Last edited by hwoods; 10-06-2002 at 03:07 PM.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Default 800 DIGITAL radio systems

    Hey All..
    Due to time, I don't get to these FORUMS as much as I would like but here are some thoughts...just some comments regarding 800 digital as well as FDNY's system. Note: Digital...not analog!
    I appreciate the fact that NO radio system is 100%, 100% of the time. However, today-the FF's radio IS their lifeline (especially with crappy stffing levels etc) and the systems need to work at PEAK-BEFORE they are placed in service. It's a VERY in-depth subject and process that can't all be posted here...however, here are a few thought ya may or may not agree with.
    To start, below is an updated article on the current state of affairs regarding FDNY's radio system. It's pretty clear the system hasn't work and won't work for a long time. If you have read any of my stuff for any period of time, you know my deep concerns with digital (Digital!)radio technology. As we have said before, no one spends more money than cellular telephone companies...and how well does YOUR digital cellular telephone work? (Can ya hear me now???).....Does it fade? Do you "lose" calls" Does it sound garbled and goofy when someone talks to you? The answer is probably yes. If the cellular companies systems are fair at best...is it fair to expect that digital fire radio systems will work any better? You can add all the towers and sites you want and it will improve-but today's digital is still digital. Think of it from a profit standpoint. Cellular companies exist for only one reason. As hard as the mfgs try, digital radios are not, in my opinion, firefighting radios...at least not yet. There are too many inherit problems that should have been tested out on public works employees, bus drivers and other non-critical radio users...but some "silly" reason....FD's ended up on these systems as well. I was recently told my a rep that "digital radio systems are still new...they are a work in progress"....that's fine-work the progress off the fireground.
    There are really two issues that should wake people up....
    Issue 1-The "new" radio system. That's the digital radios (that can be switched to analog...but) that the mfg offers as their "premier" system of "today." We'll keep saying this-current DIGITAL technology is dangerous when it comes to fire communications....until we are proven wrong. Somewhere between the engineers, the sales folks, the profit liners and those in the purchasing department, ya end up w/radios that don't work under FIREFIGHTING conditions. Now, I am not trying to get dramatic-we spend most of our time in NON-FIREFIGHTING conditions...but if the radios don't work when you use them to radio the EMS unit to tell them that your patient will walk to the front door to meet them...then it's pretty clear that it won't work under the DRAMATIC conditions when you and your crew have one chance to clearly state that you have a MAYDAY. Can ya hear me now?
    Now-some will say, you don't need to transmit when you are in trouble...you can just hit the "emergency button".....thats bs. You have to first FIND the radio (under your bunker gear), then find the emergency button...then you have to take off your glove to push it. And then what--ok, we now a radio user (a/k/a FF) is in trouble. And that's it. The emergency button is a a "kinda nice" feature for whatever...but you need to SAY who you are and where you are...if the opportunity exists....in the microphone that's where you can reach it. Now, they are building in PASS devices to the radios...again, that's kind of an "automatic" emergency button...not a bad idea...but until FF's can talk clearly on their radios, under "life threatening conditions"...all the rest of this isn't important.
    Issue 2-The issue in FDNY is not much different from most fire departments. Lets see if this formula matches ANYTHING REMOTELY CLOSE to what you may have experienced in the past:
    The CRISIS SYSTEM
    (Can't Respond In Simplistic Immediate Seriousness)
    1-A serious problem occurs-and often after there were warnings that "it" might occur. Previous concerns ignored due to low magnitude or importance of the issue to those in-charge....problem usually pointed out by an "hourly" employee, wearing (as Jeff Foxworthy says) a "blue shirt w/their name on it."
    2-BUT NOW the problem is SERIOUS! (That means it has PERSONALLY effected someone in authority, their family, their income or their career) ...so now...everyone AND THEIR BROTHER (I love that term) jump on the "this is horrible...we'll fix it for OUR firefighters" bandwagon.
    3-Committees, Taskforces and related groups are quickly formed....elected officials provide press releases assuring the fix. Numerous photo op's are convened.
    4-Everyone has the optimistic feeling that they WILL fix the problem....sort of.
    5-Time goes on...the issue is no longer important due to "other priorities"...expenses, budgets etc. Politicians have "new" CRISIS issues, bosses & managers are glad "thats over with" and go back in hiding...usually near Puxatawney, PA.
    6-Life goes on...the problem is forgotten about...until the next time.
    7-See step #2. Can ya hear me now?
    Sound familiar? It happens almost EVERYWHERE. Time marches on and the important issues are "put on the back burner".....until the next time.
    So what's the answer. Here are some thoughts.....
    At the risk of sounding like I am repeating myself, the system MUST be designed with critical and realistic input BY THOSE WHO USE IT! The following are some thoughts from a piece I did almost two years ago entitled "Preventing Dead Firefighters...for those of you who may not have read it....here are a few paragraphs:
    "Honestly, we are talking about "preventing" dead firefighters.....and that ties into personal ACCOUNTABILITY!
    When it comes to new radio systems it is ESSENTIAL that the FF's, Unions, the Chiefs (who should "spec" the system...NOT radio techs!) and others hold the "radio" and "budget" people accountable by making sure the specified system is tested...making sure that it fully works...months and months prior to the system being accepted. Consider it like an airpack or bunker gear......FOR EXAMPLE:
    "Hiya fellows-Here are your new AIRPAKS...they are light weight, comfortable and usually deliver air in the proper fashion...of course, it can't always work ALL of the time but other than a few times where it may fail...you'll love your new airpacks...and by the way-the low air alarms work very well except on the occasion of low air where it should normally work 90-95% of the time"
    OR
    "Hiya fellows-Here is your new TURNOUT gear...its comfortable, very lightweight, cost effective (a/k/a low bid) and will generally protect you....of course, there will be times when you encounter some higher temperatures while fighting a fire and the interior barrier/pvc foam liner may start to bake, crumble and be destroyed after one exposure...or, we used the REAL LIGHT WIEGHT liner so you'll be comfortable...of course, since you really don't have a lot of fires, the exposure problem won't occur all the time...but for the most part...you'll like your new gear"
    AND FINALLY....
    "Hiya fellows...Here are your NEW 800 Mhz digital radios........................ ......"
    Ya get the picture? Can ya hear me now? Don't let the "tail wag the dog"...firefighters are the ones in danger-not radio techs! There was a GREAT song a few years ago that had the words "We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore......" and that seems to be the appropriate response to those who are trying to jam us with "stuff that don't work."
    Whats the solution for any FD? Make sure the specs are written with FIREFIGHTER SAFETY as the top, no excuses priority and no "back burner priorities"....by holding those responsible, accountable and making sure, without any doubt that "it" works in the toughest of conditions and by not accepting something that could hurt one of our own.
    We can't allow the "CRISIS" SYSTEM of management, as described above determine firefighters fate. It takes loud, clear and bold leadership to make sure these situations don't occur again. I have no doubt that (in the FDNY radio problem arena) the Commissioner, Chiefs and Union leaders want this problem fixed...and they are focused for obvious reasons.
    In any FD, there area few basic material things that must be used to insure firefighters safety...the best airpaks, the best turnout/bunker gear, the best apparatus and the best radios. FDNY has 3 out of 4. They are entitled to 4 out of 4. Aren't we all? This doesn't seem to be all that tough to figure out.
    "Can ya hear me now???? Good.
    Seeya,
    BillyG

    Article:
    FDNY radios not good to go
    By ALICE McQUILLAN
    DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU September 18, 2002

    Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told the City Council yesterday that the department is still trying to work out the bugs in its new radios - a concession that angered relatives of Sept. 11 victims."My son did not know that the Fire Department had substandard equipment, that it had radios that did not work and it did not have a plan to handle emergencies," said Sally Regenhard, chairwoman of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign. Her 28-year-old son, Christian, was among the 343 firefighters who died that morning.On Sept. 11, they were carrying the same hand-held radios that had failed in the 1993 WTC bombing. Newer radios had been shelved in March 2001 because of transmission problems.Scoppetta said if the newer radios pass the FDNY's tests, which will be finished by early November, they'll be issued to firefighters.If they fail, it will take two more years to order replacements, he said.

    Mulling joint plan
    Scoppetta added that he didn't know if an effort to join the Police Department's more advanced communications system is technologically feasible. He cautioned that for radios to work in high-rises, they need repeaters - amplifiers that boost signals. Most skyscrapers lack them or don't have systems compatible with the FDNY's. The Police Department has a network of repeaters, but Scoppetta said merging into it is more complicated than "just plugging into their system. Monica Gabrielle, whose husband Rich died on Sept. 11, said that the 1993 WTC bombing should have led fire and city officials to plan ahead."Everything that was wrong in '93 was wrong in 2001," she said. "There were no lessons learned; there were no changes implemented."

  8. #8
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thank You Billy - If anyone doesn't get it by now........ stay Safe....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

  9. #9
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    More often than not in 800mhz systems, the radio is not the problem. The radio works just fine, it just not setup correctly. "We'll cut some money here, cut some money there, we don't need this, that is ugly." The result is a system with holes. 800Mhz does not travel as far as highband, UHF, or Low Band. So, chances are, simply putting an 800mhz antenna where the VHF ones are, will have LESS coverage. A true well built 800Mhz system, whether conventional, analog trunking, or digital trunking will have a LOT of reciever sites to cover everything. They don't have to be towers, the tops of buildings usually work well and no one would ever know they are there, at least in a city envirnment. Rural areas would probably require more towers which are not exactly cheap.

    A lot of municiplaities do not spend enough to make the system work as good as it is should. CT State Police DID spend the money and the system (Digital APCO-25 Simulcast trunking system) works great. You can talk to eachother from opposite corners of the state and there are talkgroups for anyone and everyone that might need or want one. They also integrated the ICALL / ITAC channels into it for mutual aid and disasters. It blows the old low band POS System out of the water.

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