1. #1
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    My county is in the process of building a new communications system. We are currently on a VHF system and are going to a 800 mHz trunked system. For now, the infrastructure will be 800 and the end user radios will remain VHF until the funding can be secured to buy end user radios. When the system is finished, the county will have 6 new county owned towers.

    My question comes in reference to paging. Fire Dept.'s are currently paged and talk back on the same VHF frequency. Firefighters in the county like this setup because they can hear other departments get paged and all radio traffic while they are on the call. This feature is apparently going to go away when the new system is in place.

    We have discussed maintaining the old VHF system for paging, however we are still not going to be able to hear other departments talking when end user radios switch to 800.

    We have discussed alpha paging, but once again you don't hear other departments being paged or hear their radio traffic while on scene.
    (The county would buy their own alpha system)

    It seems like the thing we would need is to be paged on 800 and talk on 800. However, I'm told that there is no way to be paged on 800.

    Another option is that everyone carries a portable radio. However with over 400 responders in the county, This is not feasible since the new portable radios are coming in at $3500.00 a piece.

    Any ideas? And if no other ideas or solutions, which one of the above would you prefer and why?

    Thanks
    mcbride@longlines.com

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    You could have dispatch simulcast an 800mhz "dispatch group" onto your existing paging frequency. I don't know if all your dispatching is currently on one frequency or not, but it would have to be for this to work effectively if you want to monitor other department's pages.

    You won't be able to monitor other units if they're operating on other talk groups, such as tactical channels. But it is possible to pick one talk group and have it rebroadcast. At least you'll hear other departments getting dispatched if events escalate, provided it's a common county dispatch group.
    Last edited by Resq14; 09-08-2004 at 02:26 AM.
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    Lightbulb One idea...

    We were in a similar situation when we switched from all-VHF hi-band in 2002 to an 800-trunked system. Our solution came in the form of a feature on the dispatch consoles called multi-select. This allows the dispatcher to broadcast on both the 800-trunked channel of his/her choice and the VHF channel at the same time.

    Ideally, the dispatcher would leave this option selected for the duration of the call and would repeat all traffic pertaining to the call. That way, the people with the VHF pagers would still know that an engine is enroute, smoke is showing, etc. without hearing the actual traffic. However, that rarely -- if ever -- happens in my department.

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    You are correct, there is not 800Mhz trunking pager. Not now and probably not ever. So that's out the window.

    If you want to continue using voice pagers, you will need to retain your old VHF system. The radio console can be programmed to do just about anything and automaticlly at that. It can be programmed to put the paging tones out on the VHF channel, an alert tone on the dispatch talkground of the trunking system and all without pressing a million buttons.

    You can then do two things for the rest of the radio traffic:

    One-Way multi-select on the console. Anything the dispatcher says goes out on the trunking talkgroup and the VHF channel.

    A full Cross-Patch would link the trunking talkgroup and the VHF channel together. Anything said or heard on one will go out on the other. You might NEED this if you aren't replacing all your mobile & portable units yet.

    Once you have all your mobiles and portables in place and only need the VHF channel for pagers, I would use the multi-select option during the calls rather than a full cross-patch.

    Oh yea, good luck with the trunking system. I hope the people designing are not morons and your budget allows for it to be built properly.
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    Well it sounds to me like we can make those options work. (I hope). As for the budget and the design... It seems like everything they are doing seems to be the right thing. They are building the system with the Future in mind and allowing for expansion. When done there will be 6 tower sites covering 3 counties in 3 states using a $6 million budget.

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    A question for the "Com Guru" nmfire ,

    If & when my county goes to a digital trunked system one of the alerting options being discussed is alpha-numeric pagers. We already have MDTs in all FD apparatus in the county so it seems like it would be a simple solution to also send the dispatch info to pagers.

    Are there existing software programs that will convert CAD/MDT data to alphanumeric pager text? We have a Litton CAD program and Motorola (of course) MDTs if that makes any difference.
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    Not sure about the MDT to alpha.

    On alphapaging: we just added these to all units plus handing the to officers. Ideally to stop the "what was the address again?" radio traffic. Which it has. What it won't do is replace radio based alerting. It takes too long for pages to go through. Remember the onyl alphapagers you can get are commercially available using one of the cell phone networks. The more you type, the slower they are to send/receive the page. Even on short pages we've had anywhere from nearly instantaneous up to 5 minute delays on pages. They aren't reliable enough to use for primary alerting. Also unlike radio pagers, the message only has one chance to be received because it's only sent once. So if you're in the wrong spot or turned the wrong way, you won't get anything. Unlike a radio pager left open, at some point you'll pick up some kind of radio traffic.

    VHF and 800: our CAD consoles are set up to broadcast over 800, VHF and lo-band all at the same time. It will also repeat from any of them over to the other two, but since we don't have any lo-band or VHF radios, it's just a theory. Bearcom swears it will work that way, but since it hasn't been tried, I can't say for sure how well it works. We actually have two CAD consoles. At Station 1 is 1 VHF frequency, Station 3 is 2nd VHF frequency. The console at 3's receives the 800 and patches to the other VHF, so sometimes we miss a couple of seconds of the beginning of the message. Can't rebroadcast on the same VHF because it would cross in the middle and those people would get nothing. Or the same conversation happening in real time and on a 2 second delay. Either way, garbage.

    If your folks have never used 800 before, drill it into their heads that they have to push the button and wait 2 seconds before talking. Wish I had a dollar for every time one of the newbies does this. $5 for each time someone that was supposed to know what they were doing does it. I'd have lots of new toys in the garage.

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    Originally posted by WTFD10
    A question for the "Com Guru" nmfire ,

    If & when my county goes to a digital trunked system one of the alerting options being discussed is alpha-numeric pagers. We already have MDTs in all FD apparatus in the county so it seems like it would be a simple solution to also send the dispatch info to pagers.

    Are there existing software programs that will convert CAD/MDT data to alphanumeric pager text? We have a Litton CAD program and Motorola (of course) MDTs if that makes any difference.
    Alpha paging is a seperate function of a seperate system. It would have nothing to do with the MDT's. However, the MDT's get the information they display from the CAD. The alpha paging system would also get the same data from the same place... the CAD. So, seperate systems, same data source.



    Originally posted by BC79er
    It takes too long for pages to go through. Remember the onyl alphapagers you can get are commercially available using one of the cell phone networks. The more you type, the slower they are to send/receive the page. Even on short pages we've had anywhere from nearly instantaneous up to 5 minute delays on pages. They aren't reliable enough to use for primary alerting. Also unlike radio pagers, the message only has one chance to be received because it's only sent once. So if you're in the wrong spot or turned the wrong way, you won't get anything. Unlike a radio pager left open, at some point you'll pick up some kind of radio traffic.
    You right except for the part about that being the only way and the cellular bit. You can very easily put up your very own alpha paging system and tell the commercial carriers to pound sand. That eliminates all the problems. Anyone who relies on alpha paging for primary alerting should not be doing this any other way.

    Oh, and paging is done by paging systems. It has nothing to do with cellular networks.

    Your description of a defunct cross-link and perfect example of what happens when you don't set it up properly. If the dealer and technicians are not idiots and do it the right way, it will work fine.
    Last edited by nmfire; 09-09-2004 at 08:51 PM.
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    Paging companies rent space from cell phone providers in 90% (probably more) of the country because it takes a zoning variance to put up another antenna site, but nothing to put another antenna on an existing tower. That's what I meant by using the cell phone system. So if you're in a bad cell phone signal area, you're not going to do very well with alphapagers either.

    Although technically, our paging provider is owned by Verizon. Several other brands are owned by the other providers, as well as at least 3 others owned by Verizon. In a wholly owned subsidiary kinda way. We jumped through flaming tubes to get our VHF frequencies and whatnot from the FCC, I can't imagine what you'd have to do to get your own alphapaging system.

    Besides the fact if it's not something that's being used constantly or can be used to monitor radio traffic, how do you know it's not working until it's too late?

    If the dealer and technicians are not idiots and do it the right way, it will work fine.
    Ain't that the truth.

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    Originally posted by BC79er
    Paging companies rent space from cell phone providers in 90% (probably more) of the country because it takes a zoning variance to put up another antenna site, but nothing to put another antenna on an existing tower. That's what I meant by using the cell phone system. So if you're in a bad cell phone signal area, you're not going to do very well with alphapagers either.

    Although technically, our paging provider is owned by Verizon. Several other brands are owned by the other providers, as well as at least 3 others owned by Verizon. In a wholly owned subsidiary kinda way. We jumped through flaming tubes to get our VHF frequencies and whatnot from the FCC, I can't imagine what you'd have to do to get your own alphapaging system.

    Besides the fact if it's not something that's being used constantly or can be used to monitor radio traffic, how do you know it's not working until it's too late?


    Ain't that the truth.

    Your still misconstruing the cellular thing. We are talking night and day here. The two have no bearing on eachother. Sharing radio towers is the only thing thing in common and even then, it is not always true. The transmitter power and antennas are completely different and will cover far better than a cell phone will. You absolutely can not compare cell phone coverage with paging coverage because there is NO COMPARISON.

    Getting a paging frequency from the FCC is not difficult. You apply. You give them money. They give you a frequency. End of story. Screw verizon and the commercial carriers, they are NOT suitable for fire paging.
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    Remember on alpha pagers that ISO will not give you full credit (maybe not any credit) for a system that is operated by a third party (aka the pager company).

    Alphas are okee-dokee for other info, but they're a last option for dispatching runs.
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    Originally posted by nmfire



    Your still misconstruing the cellular thing. We are talking night and day here. The two have no bearing on eachother. Sharing radio towers is the only thing thing in common and even then, it is not always true. The transmitter power and antennas are completely different and will cover far better than a cell phone will. You absolutely can not compare cell phone coverage with paging coverage because there is NO COMPARISON.
    Explain please. We are rural district. "Old fashioned" (not 800mhz/trunked whatever that is) pages from County 911 center to DF pagers or handheld radios. Minitors very expenseve and radios are expensive, batteries are expensive and 90% of dept carry a personnally owned cellphone. We would rather not buy minitors or so many radios and we would rather not carry 2 commo devices around all day. We need several new pagers/radios and $ are short. "Page" to a cell phones already owned by members might be a way to solve problem. Loking for user comments. I'm going to reread the article on the subject in Sept "Fire Chief". Did not penetrate 1st time.

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    What it seems you would like to do is send text messages to the member's cell phones. While this makes an excellent SECONDARY means of notification as well as non-emergency message delivery, it would suffer the same issue as the alpha pagers. You are relying on a commerical telecommunications company who has no interest in your emergency. You are at their mercy. When the system is congested with lots of other users, your dispatch gets delayed. Got help you if there is a major incident like 9/11 or the great Blackout of 2003. You might has well just yell down the road because the networks will be way to busy to care about your fire dispatch.

    This is why any primary means of notification MUST be YOUR system or at least a regional system dedicated to you. I would strongly discourage the use of cell phone SMS messaging as a primary means. You would be better suited working hard to get the money you need for the voice paging.
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    My dept uses alpha paging as primary dispatch with no problems. Our carrier is a small regional company with few customers so we do not experience delays. Our medical calls only get dispatched to the alpha pagers, but fire calls get dispatched to alpha pagers and to the frequency for our Minitor pagers.

    If you plan on doing paging via AT&T or verizon cell phone text messaging, forget about it. It has taken me up to 2 hours to receive text messages on AT&T.

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    Originally posted by nmfire
    What it seems you would like to do is send text messages to the member's cell phones. While this makes an excellent SECONDARY means of notification as well as non-emergency message delivery, it would suffer the same issue as the alpha pagers. You are relying on a commerical telecommunications company who has no interest in your emergency. You are at their mercy. When the system is congested with lots of other users, your dispatch gets delayed. Got help you if there is a major incident like 9/11 or the great Blackout of 2003. You might has well just yell down the road because the networks will be way to busy to care about your fire dispatch.

    This is why any primary means of notification MUST be YOUR system or at least a regional system dedicated to you. I would strongly discourage the use of cell phone SMS messaging as a primary means. You would be better suited working hard to get the money you need for the voice paging.
    Not at all interested (or had considered) the text message thing. I have never seen the point of the entire cellphone text messaging/toy for airhead teenieboppers gimick.

    I want every fireman's cell phone to ring and on answer I want him to receive a voice message "Fire a John Smiths barn 12356 20th St". Thats all we get now with our papers and radios. Store/repeat might be nice but whats it worth for the cost. Question is, is this within capability of typical 911 system. But I want to get out of buying/carrying pagers/radios 24/7 when most guys aready carry a cellphone which is at least as reliable (and less expensive for the fire dept). Not really all that worried about cellphone network going down (or the current pager transmitter dieing). Backup now is blowing the firehouse siren. I'll except the risk. If we paying member $5/yr for cellphone access rather than buying radios/pagers and batteries will save us $100/member/yr. That's real money.

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    Your going to spend a boat load more money making that work than your will save. You can only call one phone number at a time. So it will go like this....

    Dial one number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Dial another number, wait for answer, play message.

    Until it dials all of them. Horribly inefficiant, slow, totally disregards NFPA recomendations, and ISO would probably laugh at it.
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    As far as all of the technical stuff goes, I am lost, but I do agree with NM, the cell phone idea is no good. Spending money for com's should not even be an issue, as much as it is a necessity. If your dept. does not have the money on hand, request a grant, talk to your governing body about a loan, or even hit up the community for donations.

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    My volunteer department is/was in a similar situation. We utilize our 800Mhz system for fireground, dispatch and unit to unit comms and a VHF paging system for alerting. Someone already mentiond cross patching and what not. It DOES work. But there is a drawback we discovered. This is that there is a 1 to 3 second delay between the VHF and the 800Mhz traffic. That means that when someone keys the mic of the 800Mhz radio, they must wait for 1 to 3 seconds for the VHF to catchup before speaking. This proved very problematic at best for us so we went the other way. Every member, with the exception of new personnel, are issued a 800Mhz portable radio. The VHF pagers are maintained for alerting only.

    On the other issue.........CAD software/alpha paging interface. Does anyone know of a software maker that can patch the two together. Currently our dispatchers, after recieving and dispatching the call, have to manually send the group alpha page. Our CAD software maker no longer provides a paging interface module with their CAD. Does anyone know of one that is out there that can do this. What I want is a software program that will allow a group alpha page to be sent automatically upon the CAD program call entry screen being completed WITHOUT the dispatcher having to do the extra step manually. Any help would be great.

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    Originally posted by firedawg803
    As far as all of the technical stuff goes, I am lost, but I do agree with NM, the cell phone idea is no good. Spending money for com's should not even be an issue, as much as it is a necessity. If your dept. does not have the money on hand, request a grant, talk to your governing body about a loan, or even hit up the community for donations.
    Cash apparently grows on cacti out there in NM. Spending on commo gear is an issue. As for vehicles, equipment, PPE, SCBA, etc etc etc. Point is when 90% of firemen already carry a very capable commo device on their belt (that they own) why WASTE limited $ on overpriced limited utility pagers. A handheld radio at least has some utility on fireground (beyond receiving the page). Get into this 800Mhz stuff and apparently cost per man is as much as an SCBA. Waste.

    A predictive dialer at a telecom center can dial/sort hundreds of calls perhaps that would handle the job. Noone here received dozens on recorded phone calls from politicials lately? Fireman does not answer or phone busy dial back in 10 seconds. Fireman answers play message. If fireman callsback to last # he gets the message again.

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    Originally posted by neiowa
    Point is when 90% of firemen already carry a very capable commo device on their belt (that they own) why WASTE limited $ on overpriced limited utility pagers.
    You ask why not? The answer to why not has been made crystal clear above by myself and several others here. Any further explanation would be saying the same thing with the words rearranged. Do what you want to do because you have this idea stuck in your head. Don't say you weren't warned or you didn't know. That's the best anyone here can do for you.

    Get into this 800Mhz stuff and apparently cost per man is as much as an SCBA. Waste.
    Nice to see you can put a price tag on life.


    A predictive dialer at a telecom center can dial/sort hundreds of calls perhaps that would handle the job. Noone here received dozens on recorded phone calls from politicials lately? Fireman does not answer or phone busy dial back in 10 seconds. Fireman answers play message. If fireman callsback to last # he gets the message again.
    And who exactly is going to pay for all the extra POTS dialtone lines at the com center to dial all these numbers at once?
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    I would hate for somebody life depending on an alpa-numeric pager waking me from a dead sleep if most are like the ones I have seen. We have a VHF system with pagers that have an amplifies charger that will wake the whole house and the folk next door and alert all the dogs in the neighborhood when we have a call if you turn it all the way up. Tone alert paging in my opinion is the best way to go even if you do have to run 2 systems. As far as other departments being able to hear what’s going on outside their district I could understand if it was a mutual aid department that wanted to hear what was going on but for the most part we hear lots of complaints from department chatter so this sounds like it would eliminate the “Bring me 2 sections of 3” when you leave the station” or “attention station 67 we need all members to the station for a work detail” conversations that go on allot of radio systems from being heard all over the county. By the way if your wife needs milk and bread or needs you to call her at work get a freak’n cell phone!

    As far as the use of cell towers our county has an ordinance that when a new tower goes up the owner has to give the county one spot for an antenna. Where it falls on the tower as far as elevation may be up to the owner but we or somebody in the county communications family is guaranteed a spot.
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    Originally posted by STATION2
    This is that there is a 1 to 3 second delay between the VHF and the 800Mhz traffic. That means that when someone keys the mic of the 800Mhz radio, they must wait for 1 to 3 seconds for the VHF to catchup before speaking. This proved very problematic at best for us so we went the other way. Every member, with the exception of new personnel, are issued a 800Mhz portable radio. The VHF pagers are maintained for alerting only.
    I totally forgot to reply to this problem before and it just dawned on me for some reason (yea, out of the blue, I said "Hey self, you never replied about the cross-patch delay!"

    This delay is because a console patch operates by sensing audio and using that is the que to key up the other radio. It does not use a logic signal from one radio to key the other, so it is waiting for the presense of audio. Unfortunately, by the time the audio is there, it is too late anyway and then you have the normal keyup delay. This does certainly make a standard console patch where any one of the resources is a conventional (non-trunking) one.

    However, this is not the end of hope. If you explain to your radio service company that you want a patch that uses COR Logic rather than VOX, they should be able to make the equipment comply rather easily. It is all capable of it, it just needs to be configured properly to actually function. Once it it is setup properly, it should function with virtually no delay, at least no more than any normal repeater.
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