1. #1
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    Default F.D. Portable radios.....Help!

    I have a problem! I am trying to convince the powers that be that each of our firefighters that enter a structure should have a radio. I was told that the officers have radios and that is "good enough". My contention is that it is not just officers that get lost and or trapped in a burning building. Help cannot be summoned if there is no means of letting someone know that you are in fact in trouble. Right? Like the old addage "if a tree falls in the forest and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

    I understand that some departments cannot have this luxury due to small budgets, but we have a generous budget, and I feel that this is a huge life safety issue for us. I need help with info. on this subject! I did not find an NFPA code on this, although I could have simply missed it. Does OSHA have anything?

    Please any help with this would be hugely appriciated!

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    Ok.....Our dept goes like this.....Every officer is issued a Portable and TMR...."Officers" are Fire Constables,Safetys and the usuals Lt's,Captains and Chiefs..At the station we have 30 Other Portables...and 15 TMR's....Never do all portables and TMRs leave cuz you never have 30 Attack teams...1 per team..But you'll never go into a house without a radio because you always have an officer..Never ever do you enter without an officer..even for overhaul..

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    With the grant we got last year, we were able to purchase a portable for every riding position in all of our equipment. We do have strict rules on the use of the radios though. Only the officers are to have their volume up. This stops the backfeed from occuring when people are talking. Also, the only time a "Black helmet" can talk is if they are in trouble ie: Mayday situation. No matter what call we are going on, we all are to take the portables out when we get on scene (or on the the way). But I agree with you that everyone inside the building should have a portable. I mean, what happens if you get seperated from the person with the radio, yeah you have a PASS alarm, but a radio would be better, so you can communicate faster with command.

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    KVFDCAPTAIN,
    I see how your dept. works, and in a general way that is how our dept. handles this issue, but what happens if one of the attack team members is separarted from the officer of the attack team? My concern is that the separated person now has no way of calling for help, and therefore the possibility of this person going unaccounted for for a period of time. In that time anything could hapen to this person. We have never had this happen, but the potential is very much there. My career dept. issues EVERY firefighter a radio at the begining of each 24 hr. shift. I atleast feel that I have the "tool" to let someone know if I am ever in need of the RIT. Thanks for responding, would love to hear more.

    Shed

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    Ok i see where your coming from...we got 67 members so it would be h*** for us to get everyone radios..But yeah i guess depending on your dept size and funding it could be a good idea yes....Mind you in our case never do we have all 67 members out either but i mean in most cases we have 3 or 4 Portables left for other members manning the hall..so most of ours are on scene..also any person who is "drivers" as we have certain members who just drive..they all have their own portables...This way they don't need to take from the stock for attack teams..But Shed if the funding is there..Go For It

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    KVFDCAPTAIN,
    I see how your dept. works, and in a general way that is how our dept. handles this issue, but what happens if one of the attack team members is separarted from the officer of the attack team? My concern is that the separated person now has no way of calling for help, and therefore the possibility of this person going unaccounted for for a period of time. In that time anything could hapen to this person. We have never had this happen, but the potential is very much there. My career dept. issues EVERY firefighter a radio at the begining of each 24 hr. shift. I atleast feel that I have the "tool" to let someone know if I am ever in need of the RIT. Thanks for responding, would love to hear more.

    Shed

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    We are a small rural department, with lots of wildland/urban interface fires. As soon as you pass our basic test, you get issued turnouts and a radio. New guys get the older 4 channels, officers & engineers get the newer 16 channel scanning radios. The county dispatches us over the radio, the officers go to our fireground frequency and scan both our home and the Sheriif's Office channels. Everyone else is on the fireground channel.

    Even at a brush fire, being able to communicate with everyone is basic life safety. A shift in the wind, the location of fences, buildings, propane tanks, etc. are all safety issues. Inside a structure (we rarely go in), every person should have a radio. Our radios, the 16 channel models, cost less than $350 @. Figure out the costs to the department of one avoidable death! It's well over $1 million, without regard to the emotional consequences.

    (Costs include, but are not limited to: Benefits, counselling, funeral costs, finding, testing, hiring, training, and equiping the new hire.)

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    Default Radios --- Good or Bad

    There are pros and cons as with all tools in the fire service. Do I believe each person should have a radio ? No. At least one radio or two per attack team ? yeah why not. The department I volunteer at has one radio in each piece and of course the officers have issued radios. The Department I work for...Also a combination Volunteer/Career House has 4 radios on each truck. Not everyone needs a radio. Fire Attack, Search, and perhaps the roof teams should have at least one with them. Think about it radios are tools does everyone need a k-12 ?

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    Is a K12 going to call for help if you go down or get lost??? It is not "just another tool" by any means.

    Each of our apparatus has a portable radio for each airpack and one for the driver. So that basicly 6 on each of the two engines, 2 in the tanker, and 2 in the rescue truck.

    Issuing everyone a personal radio is an option but that can get expensive if you also buy them pagers. You can use the radio for paging too but a radio beefy enough for interior attack (in my book at least) is not something most would enjoy carrying on their waist all day.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    nmfire, we have had zero durability problems with our Kenwood radios. All new turnouts have radio pockets, and we all get speaker mics, so you plug in the mic, drop it in the pocket, and are good to go. They are small, about the 2/3 the size of a brick and 1/3 the weight.
    Due to the distances involved and the predominence of mobile homes, we rarely enter, so your results may differ. But considering the unsual hazards (I know of a police officer who fell into a manure pit over his head on a raid), and the chance that the guy without the radio is the one who is lost, I maintain that everyone on the fire ground should have a radio. They are cheap insurance.

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    We upgraded or radios last year for $87000 we purchased 36 portable radios, 8 mobiles, 1 base,1 repeater, and 36 pagers everyone gets a radio. We did this after we missed a mayday and almost got a couple of guys killed....saftey first!
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    Im still on the fence as to EVERYONE having their own radio, but i think that 2 or more per team is a must. My dept has 2 portables per vehicle and all of our officers are issued their own. Also as we have started to change all of our radios over to new Kenwoods we have kept the collection of Maxons, old Kenwoods, and Motorolas. These are in the station and avalible for use on calls by members as needed. I usually had one, being a senior guy in the house as well as the on call EMT many nights, so myself and several other people in my position lobbied the chief for better radios. He wouldnt get us all our own and the hand-me-downs are a mixed bag, so we kept after him and he finally approved us to buy our own if we wished. 4 of us found a deal on some Icom radios and I now have my own personal radio.

    Not the best way but for the benefits of having my own (safety and i know its charged and has been cared for) was worth the money.
    Last edited by shammrock54; 03-23-2004 at 07:57 AM.
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    Originally posted by Sleuth
    nmfire, we have had zero durability problems with our Kenwood radios.
    We use 99% Kenwood too. What are you using? We use the TK-390 portable on the apparatus and for officers. We try to budget for those since they are the most durable. If I were to get portables for individuals to keep on them all the time as a replacement for pagers and for EMS and stuff, it would probably be a 370 or 372 and perhaps the 3140 but I haven't played with that yet.

    Matt
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    We use the Kenwood TK272G for the officers and engineers. 16 channels, scanning capable, and we page on our home frequency. That way, I (who live 10 miles from the station) don't go racing in if we have 2-3 FF responding to a medical call.

    THIS JUST IN - BREAKING NEWS
    We just got a State fire grant for more of the new radios. So, everyone will be able to have the scanning radios! Y'ahoo, the grant writing class was worth it! And they authorized MORE than I asked for!
    With all the Homeland Security/Interoperability grants out there, there is no reason not to have a radio for everyone. It was about 4 hours of reading & writing for a $5,000 grant! Go for it!

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    Congrats on the grant! We submitted one for a new radio system and it was denied. (Thanks again FEMA!) So we are building it piece by piece now instead of all at once. The first phase of it should be on the air in a week or so... I am psyched!

    Also, my personal radio that I own (among many others) is a Kenwood TK-370G. It's a great little radio. Not too big that it hurts to carry and not so small your afraid to lose it. I have the 128ch with keypad and display. I need the DTMF pad to remote control the repeater and cross-link. An average person though can get away with out the full keypad.
    Last edited by nmfire; 03-23-2004 at 03:53 PM.
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    This was not a FEMA/DHS grant, but a BLM/State Land Department Grant. The only fly in the ointment is the radios have to be APCO Project 25 Compliant. Looks like the cost per radio is jumped up to about $1,500 each! Plus, in our remote area, the local radio guy says we will never use the APCO 25 features. Oh well, we will still get some new radios out of it, and next year, put in for more.
    If you are assembling your own radio system, you may want to make it either APCO 25 compatable, or upgradable to that standard, to get grant money for it in the future.

    BTW, I have no clue what APCO 25 is (I'm a FF & write the grants) I'm a radio user, not a tech type. APCO 25 is also P25 or EIA/TIA 102A standards. (Don't bother to learn me what it all means, I'll just look for more grants to get more radios.)

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    Oh god. Don't get me going. I love it... "You have to get radios that are P-25 complient. They cost three times as much as a normal radio, work only half as well, and you can therefore only afford a 1/3 as many radios as you actually need. All of this is a requirement even though there is no chance of actually getting a P-25 system in the next 20 years.

    Sounds like a goverment project to me....

    APCO Project 25 is a digital modulation standard that no one can afford but it is forced on us to justify someones employmemt in the federal goverment.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Originally posted by nmfire
    Oh god. Don't get me going. I love it... "You have to get radios that are P-25 complient. They cost three times as much as a normal radio, work only half as well, and you can therefore only afford a 1/3 as many radios as you actually need. All of this is a requirement even though there is no chance of actually getting a P-25 system in the next 20 years.

    Sounds like a goverment project to me....

    APCO Project 25 is a digital modulation standard that no one can afford but it is forced on us to justify someones employmemt in the federal goverment.
    I agree that it is being forced on us, but what happens if we DONT even acknoledge it, take notice, or care?



    Seriously, how are they going to force us to buy 1500 dollar radios when we can barely afford a handfull of 400 dollar radios. Hmmmm, 1 radio, or 4 radios.



    Project 25 stuff is available from grants, but in my rural Montana county, if we had to raplace every current radio, the grants available to us would even BEGIN to cover the costs. We have the dispatch center which serves 4 counties to update, we have 4 counties worth of LE, Fire, EMS, etc... And this is all on grants that havent even made it from the state yet!!!

    There are grant from 2002 that come counties in my area havent gotten a dime out of.

    Now we are working on the 2003 ODP grant...in 2004.



    Something is not working here.

    IIRC by 2012 everybody is supposed to be Project 25 compliant. Well, unless a mirical happens, our fire guys are NOT going to be P25.

    And on top of that, I cant justify spending that kind of money on radios when we already have an excellent system in place with affordable technology.

    Somebody is getting richer...
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    Thats what I mean. They have all these grants to help us improve OUR communication. But they won't give it too you unless you comply with these assinine requirements like P-25. It is a self-defeating process but someone is making a lot of money on it. It sure isn't us.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I agree that it does not appear worthwhile, but let me put another face on it.

    I am a volunteer - so my time is donated to the Dept. I spent about 4 hours researching and writing this grant. My department will get 3/4 new radios FOR FREE (well, for less than the cost of one non-P25 radio). Next year, I'll put in for more $$. Now that I know the costs of the P25 radios, I'll jump up our requests.
    3/4 radios for free beats no radios for free, or 1 radio for the same costs. It's still a bargin - not a great bargin, but a bargin.

    Plus, now I'll start looking for non-government grants (thus, no P25 strings) for more radios.

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    Thumbs down portable radios

    In doing some research into this topic, i checked the NFPA Standards and was suprised to see that NFPA 1500 does not require that each firefighter operating at an emergency scene have a portable radio. Normally the NFPA is the most stringent authority on safety and the like. Sorry that the NFPA cant help you on this one. Hopefully you will find a way to influence the 'powers that be' and get them on the same page as everyone else.

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    Originally posted by Sleuth

    3/4 radios for free beats no radios for free, or 1 radio for the same costs. It's still a bargin - not a great bargin, but a bargin.

    Plus, now I'll start looking for non-government grants (thus, no P25 strings) for more radios.
    Exactly and Exactly. It is still stupid that we have to deal with this to begin with, but what are ya gonna do... Best of luck!
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I dont like the idea that some of the people using the new digital sytems hit the ptt button and all they get is a busy signal. I wouldnt want to be a downed firefighter in a building and get a busy signal due to traffic. Trunked 800 works well the digital variations still need a lot of work. You can still be interoperable with different agencies and not be digital p25 crap.

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    Uh, no.

    Busy signals have absolutely nothing to do with digital or not digital. One has no bearing on the other. Busy signals occur when you want to transmit on trunking talkgroup and all the frequencies are in use by other users on other talkgroups. It makes no difference whether it is digitial or analog.

    And for that matter, you should never be doing interior operations on a trunked talkgroup anyway. That is what conventional simplex fireground channels are for. NFPA happens to agree with me on this one too. It explicitly states that you do not use a trunking talkgroup for operations like that.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Thanks for that little tidbit NM. Just an update on our system in MI. The radios were supposed to be ordered last week. Everything is on track to make the grant.

    Here is the kicker and why I am chiming in on this one. If we offered all our firefighters radios we would be charged $200.00 Mike fee per Radio that would equel another $4000. out of our yearly budget. We are back to one radio per crew. All members are trained that if someone goes missing that the mayday is called. Not real happy about losing radios but what are you going to do.

    With the little tidbit you just fed me on the trunking I will have to make sure we are set up with a couple analog channels on our radios. They said they would give us one for the 4% of the time the radios may not hit the towers while inside a building.
    Les Hartford
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