1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber
    MalahatTwo7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
    Posts
    12,837

    Default Communications Problems

    I am interested to hear from our representatives from the DCFD, if they are allowed to comment on this. Not looking for a 'finger pointing', just interested to know the rest of the story.

    Best wishes to those folks who were injured, and a speedy recovery to them all.

    Three firefighters hurt after signal mix-upBy Matthew Cella

    THE WASHINGTON TIMES October 13, 2005

    Dispatchers who alert D.C. emergency crews through their radios about imminent danger failed to send the correct signal Monday during an early morning fire that injured three firefighters who were not aware they should have evacuated the building.

    Firefighters who responded to the fire at an auto-body shop in the 1300 block of Kenilworth Avenue Northeast at about 3:37 a.m. told The Washington Times that the on-scene commander ordered those inside the building to evacuate because of a propane tank.

    D.C. Fire Department records show the commander radioed the order to dispatchers at 3:49 a.m.

    However, firefighters who were monitoring the radio said the dispatchers sent the signal over a channel used for dispatching emergency calls.

    As a result, firefighters in stations across the city heard the urgent call to evacuate, but firefighters at the scene did not.

    Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman, said department officials are "looking into" the incident and that several of those involved are submitting accounts.

    "Clearly, that's a situation that we don't want to put our firefighters in," he said. "We depend on the communications division to provide a critical function. Firefighters depend on them."

    The propane tank inside the body shop exploded, sending a fireball into the air while the firefighters were inside the building. Two of the three injured were treated on the scene. The third received second-degree burns on his face and was treated at an area hospital and released. It is not clear exactly when the tank exploded.

    Those working that night said the dispatchers also sent the wrong signal tone over the radios, which firefighters wear on the shoulders, over their protective gear.

    Even if the message had been received inside the auto shop, they said, it would have been meaningless. The firefighters also said they heard the correct tone on the proper radio channel about 10 minutes later.

    Fire department records corroborate the firefighters' account that there was a 10-minute delay between the time the incident commander issued the evacuation order and the time the dispatcher sounded the correct tone over the correct channel.

    E. Michael Latessa, the head of the Office of Unified Communications, which dispatches emergency calls, said yesterday that he was familiar with the incident but not aware of communications problems during the incident.
    "This is the first I've heard of any issues," he said.

    This is not the first time the office has come under fire for making mistakes.

    The Times also reported on numerous incidents in which dispatchers have directed fire and rescue crews to the wrong addresses.

    In addition, a firefighter responding to a Jan. 11 apartment-building fire in the 2300 block of Good Hope Road Southeast broke his back after falling 30 feet down an elevator shaft. Dispatchers had failed to tell fire crews that there had been an explosion from a buildup of natural gas. A 2-year-old girl died in the fire, and her 30-year-old mother was critically injured.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    nmfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Maryland (DC Suburb)
    Posts
    5,738

    Default

    Few things:

    1. Sounds like someone pushed the wrong button. Either by accident or by lack of proper training.

    2. If the evacuation alert was not made on the correct channel right away, why didn't someone call dispatch again to have it put out again on the proper channel?
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  3. #3
    dazed and confused
    Resq14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    1,993
    God Bless America!Remember all have given some, but some have given all.
    Google Is Your Friend™Helpful forum tip - a "must see" if you're new here
    Click this to search FH Forums!

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    nmfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Maryland (DC Suburb)
    Posts
    5,738

    Default

    This is another good reason why all interior operations should be on simplex/direct. You shouldn't NEED the dispatcher to make an annoucement in order for everyone in the buiding to hear you. Don't get me wrong, its a good idea and the alert tone can help get your attention. But relying only on the dispatcher on a radio tower to make an evac annoucement is not good practice.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  5. #5
    Forum Member
    Station2Capt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Longview, Tx
    Posts
    409

    Default

    Not sure of how D.C works and all, but is issuing an evacuation order through dispatch the only way they do it. Does the I.C. not call the order over the fire ground radio channel or through sounding of air horns or other means?? If issuing this order through the diapatch center the only way it is done why is this? Just courious.
    A "Good" fire is not measured by how big it is, but by the fact that everyone is going home safe, and that we possibly learned something new about firefighting. Member:IACOJ

  6. #6
    dazed and confused
    Resq14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    1,993

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    This is another good reason why all interior operations should be on simplex/direct.
    I don't see how that has anything to do with the issue... ?

    Besides, depending on the structure/incident, simplex/direct could be dangerous...

    I'll give you that it's definetly needed as a backup option, though.
    God Bless America!Remember all have given some, but some have given all.
    Google Is Your Friend™Helpful forum tip - a "must see" if you're new here
    Click this to search FH Forums!

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    Station2Capt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Longview, Tx
    Posts
    409

    Default

    I had looked at this a couple of years ago and had put it in out AFG grant. However, since that grant looked more like a wish list it never got funded. It has since slid to the back burner.

    Trojanhorse,

    Do not know what type of SCBA you use. We have the Scott "Air-Pak fifty" with intgrated Pass and SEMS. Every engine, ladder, truck, D.C. carries a base station that plugs into our computer's. This allows me as I.C. to keep a constant eye on everyone's air consumption, who has an SCBA turned on, also I can issue an evacuation order which makes everyones SCBA go into alarm and they can not turn it off (the alarm) with out exiting the building and completley turning there SCBA off. It will also allow someone to send a distress signal to the I.C. if they can not reach there radio. This is a very good system. The only drawback I see is the I.C. HAS to have someone to assist him/her when we are running this system it takes alot of attention time and as I.C. I have so many other things going through my mind besides running the SEMS system. The total package system is expensive but we got ours through the AFG. If you would like anymore info (pro/con) on this system P.M. me and I will try and help.
    A "Good" fire is not measured by how big it is, but by the fact that everyone is going home safe, and that we possibly learned something new about firefighting. Member:IACOJ

  8. #8
    dazed and confused
    Resq14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    1,993

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse
    ISI has about the same thing. From what I understand both companies are marketing this, but have yet to actually put it into production. The Grace system has been around for a few years now. And If I were to be buying into this technology I would go with the proven system. Rest assured, both Scott and ISI will have problems with theirs in the beginning. What I find funny, is why didn't one of these folks work with Grace to integrate their system into the air packs?
    Why don't you research all of these vast suppositions you are making and share the outcome with the group, FORUM TEAM MEMBER?

    TROLL.

    Last edited by Resq14; 10-13-2005 at 12:47 PM.
    God Bless America!Remember all have given some, but some have given all.
    Google Is Your Friend™Helpful forum tip - a "must see" if you're new here
    Click this to search FH Forums!

  9. #9
    Forum Member
    nmfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Maryland (DC Suburb)
    Posts
    5,738

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    I don't see how that has anything to do with the issue... ?

    Besides, depending on the structure/incident, simplex/direct could be dangerous...

    I'll give you that it's definetly needed as a backup option, though.
    It has everything to do with the issue. If you are relying on a middle-man such as a vehicle repeater, base repeater, voting receviers, radio towers, telephone line RTPA circuits, a dispatch console, and a dispatcher, you are leaving a lot of un-needed crap to go wrong between the FF and the people outside. There is nothing in the way of simplex/direct. If you can't stand outside with a portable and hear the FF on the inside, a radio tower 5 miles away is definately not going to hear it. RF range and reducing the points-of-failure is why you do this stuff on simplex/direct.

    How it relates to this incident is obvious. They relied on a dispatcher to push buttons to talk through a radio tower XX number of miles away to alert a FF in the building that everyone else was 10 feet away from to evacuate. This simply illustrates that RF range is not the only factor in fireground communications.

    All of that said, none of this should be construed to mean that the dispatcher shouldn't be able to listen or transmit on the channel. You can do that and still be simplex/direct.

    I would LOVE for you to explain where using simplex is "dangerous" as it relates to normal interior firefighting. (I'm not talking about an 80 floor skyscraper or a bunker with solid steel walls and 4 feet of concrete here).
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  10. #10
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Penn Valley, Ca
    Posts
    571

    Default

    I agree that using a dispatcher to sound an evacuation alert is a bad idea. However I do not see why you think the dispacher should have anything to do with fireground operations. Around here when units go on scene they switch to a simplex fireground/tactical channel and the only comms the dispatcher hears are from the IC after that point.

    Birken

  11. #11
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    2,503

    Default

    Why not just blow the horns?

  12. #12
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Penn Valley, Ca
    Posts
    571

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Why not just blow the horns?
    A fine idea if I do say so myself

    Birken

  13. #13
    Forum Member
    Lewiston2FF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Niagara Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    1,924

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Why not just blow the horns?
    I was going to ask that myself but found the topic getting a little heated and decided not to waste my time.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

  14. #14
    Forum Member
    ffexpCP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    909

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    Besides, depending on the structure/incident, simplex/direct could be dangerous...
    Why would this be dangerous?

  15. #15
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
    Posts
    10,739

    Question I'm Confused............

    What is dangerous about Simplex Communications Systems? As NM said, every time you add another gimmick to the system, you add another thing that can go wrong. I have a great distrust of trunking systems, and that's what DC uses. BUT, Here's the real kicker............ Everyone is debating RADIOS when they should be debating ACCOUNTABILITY. I think the real problem here (and in a lot of other places) is that the Fire Department does not operate the Communications system, rather it is run by a different City agency, and run by people who have no real world experience in Fire or Rescue business. It is a lot harder to hold someone accountable for FUBAR's when they don't answer to you in their normal day to day work.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

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

    www.gdvfd18.com

  16. #16
    dazed and confused
    Resq14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    1,993

    Default Please don't take this as an affront to your communications KSA's

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    I would LOVE for you to explain where using simplex is "dangerous" as it relates to normal interior firefighting. (I'm not talking about an 80 floor skyscraper or a bunker with solid steel walls and 4 feet of concrete here).
    Ok then, concession noted, but let's be realistic here. As I'm sure you know, the signal propagation from an antenna located outside of a structure can often be better than one from a portable located from within. Personally, I think the following table is a little too liberal for public safety use. One thing is for sure: it doesn't take 80 floors, or even 15 floors for you to have problems, depending on your choice of operating band, RF output, use of radio, design of the structure, etc.



    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    This simply illustrates that RF range is not the only factor in fireground communications.
    Right, soooooooo... not being argumentative, but since RF range had zero to do with this, I was just wondering why it was even being tossed around. Battery life and practical design for emergency use are also issues affecting public safety communications. However, here they were not.

    Anyhow,
    An on-scene tactical dispatcher (a la Phoenix, as just one example) operating off simplex could have made the same exact mistake... that is my only point.

    Obviously accountability, maintaining crew integrity, evacuation procedures utilizing air horns... all of these are atleast as important (if not moreso). The post was about radio issues though, and that's what I was discussing. It was a mistake, plain and simple. We all make mistakes.
    Last edited by Resq14; 10-13-2005 at 08:51 PM.
    God Bless America!Remember all have given some, but some have given all.
    Google Is Your Friend™Helpful forum tip - a "must see" if you're new here
    Click this to search FH Forums!

  17. #17
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Posts
    62

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    I don't see how that has anything to do with the issue... ?

    Besides, depending on the structure/incident, simplex/direct could be dangerous...

    I'll give you that it's definetly needed as a backup option, though.

    Actually its an NFPA standard that fireground ops be on Simplex

  18. #18
    Forum Member
    ffexpCP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    909

    Default

    But how is it dangerous? If simplex is dangerous, how is trunked or repeatered safe? If the signal comming from a portable inside of the building can't reach another radio inside the same building or just outside of it, how can one expect it to reach a tower who knows how far away?

  19. #19
    Forum Member
    nmfire's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Maryland (DC Suburb)
    Posts
    5,738

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    Ok then, concession noted, but let's be realistic here. As I'm sure you know, the signal propagation from an antenna located outside of a structure can often be better than one from a portable located from within.
    Of course it is. It doesn't have to go through walls and floors. You just made my argument for me. A radio inside the building is not going to talk nearly as far as a radio outside the building. That means it has less chance of reaching the distant radio tower. Then you add all the other stuff I listed as potential points of failure. If you're on simplex, you talk from inside the building to somoene standing right outside the building, not a tower 5 miles away. You also talk directly to others that are inside the structure. You have a better chance of them hearing you on simplex rather than that same tower that is 5 miles away once again. And consequently, the IC standing outside has a much better chance of talking back to his guys on the inside for the same reason. Thank you again for making my point for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    Personally, I think the following table is a little too liberal for public safety use. One thing is for sure: it doesn't take 80 floors, or even 15 floors for you to have problems, depending on your choice of operating band, RF output, use of radio, design of the structure, etc.

    That table is usless. You can't plan a radio system with a table that I'm guessing came out of a sales brochure of some type. In fact, it looks like something I saw on the package of a toy FRS radio where they claim it's 1/2 a watt will go UP TO 5 MILES!!!!!. Yea right. There is a lot more to it than anything you could ever put on a table or spreadsheet. I also find it amusing that they think going from 2 watts to 4 watts will gain you 10 floors in a high rise. You can't make generalizations like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    Right, soooooooo... not being argumentative, but since RF range had zero to do with this, I was just wondering why it was even being tossed around. Battery life and practical design for emergency use are also issues affecting public safety communications. However, here they were not.
    I never said RF range has zero to do with it. I said it isn't everything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    Anyhow, an on-scene tactical dispatcher (a la Phoenix, as just one example) operating off simplex could have made the same exact mistake... that is my only point.
    No, that wasn't your point, or if it was you didn't make any effort to state such. Of they could make the same mistake. I never said it would be any different if the dispatcher was sitting on scene. $h!t happens. The whole point is removing as many uneccessary points of failure as possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Resq14
    Obviously accountability, maintaining crew integrity, evacuation procedures utilizing air horns... all of these are atleast as important (if not moreso). The post was about radio issues though, and that's what I was discussing. It was a mistake, plain and simple. We all make mistakes.
    Actually, radio issues are only part of it and is hardly the only topic of this thread. Radio procedure is part of accountability, maintaining crew integrity, and evacuation procedures.

    Again, thank you for making my point for me.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  20. #20
    MembersZone Subscriber
    MalahatTwo7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
    Posts
    12,837

    Default

    After January 2004, Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) in conjuction with directives from CRTC Canada switched from 'broadband' signals to 'narrowband' signals, effectively increasing the number of freqs available within any give area. When they did this, we had to have all our radios reprogrammed.

    The end result was that we gained the use of two channels that are not run through our repeater. The repeater (Dispatch) channel also allowed (jury is still out on this part) us to communicate both with Dispatch which moved better than 60 miles away, and our two MA depts. We have started to use the simplex channel for most fire ground ops because it frees up the dispatch channel.

    That being said, Victoria Regional District went to a similar system (C.R.E.S.T - dont know the accronym) that really messed things up comms-wise. It works similar to the CVRD system, except that the crews found that they lost comms nearly every time they entered a building. Their solution to this was to mount portable repeaters on ALL emergency vehicles. This of course was the last I heard before moving eastward. I dont know how well the retrofit is working out for them.

    As for the original topic: Why would an IC not have an alternate alert system in place? I know that question has been asked, but it still rings with a sour note in my head.

    Malahat VFD does not rely on radios when it comes to sending an evac order.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

    impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

    IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.

  21. #21
    dazed and confused
    Resq14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    1,993

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    Again, thank you for making my point for me.
    Hehe, ok then. (was my quick reply last night... here's the rest)

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    This is another good reason why all interior operations should be on simplex/direct. You shouldn't NEED the dispatcher to make an annoucement in order for everyone in the buiding to hear you.
    I've played the radio game for years, as it sounds like you have. There are many potential points of failure, and obviously you want to limit them to limit failures. We should all agree on that as it makes good sense.

    My point--which I guess was very cryptic or vague--was worrying about hardware reliability is all well and good. But when it comes down to it, you will always have the PEBCAK issue:

    Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard

    or PEBHB, for that matter - Problem Exists Between Helmet and Boots

    This was not an error stemming from design failure, FD protocol, or anything else. You acknowledged this already, so I guess it's a moot point.

    *********************

    As far as simplex/duplex (which you brought up)...
    I don't see why I got slammed on the chart - it's science. I never said I was "planning a radio system" with that chart. It gives people a GENERAL idea. There is no such thing as a magic chart for each and every situation, as you know, which is why there are things like RF propagation studies. I'm sure even your FRS radios had a disclaimer "coverage may vary depending on terrain."

    Consequently, my additional point is that simplex is not always practical in EVERY situation. That was the concession I got out of you, and I made the point that you don't need to be in the Sears Tower to have problems. Do you need simplex if the SHTF and no one is hearing you? Yes, always. High density fixed simulcasting sites, vehicular repeaters, portable repeaters, and in-building repeaters are valid solutions to problems where it comes down to "we can't communicate."

    To me, some additional points of failure with better performance MOST of the time IS BETTER THAN "point-a to point-b" that has the flat-out limitation to result in static or silence in certain environments as an inherent limitation. So I guess that's how I'm going to phrase it: inherent limitation of simplex vs. a mechanical failure of hardware for duplex. I see them as two different things. Ideally we would want to live in a simplex world if it were possible.

    A properly designed, COMPREHENSIVE, overly-redundant system with excessive simulcasting sites to eliminate problems is always possible. The "if your tower is 5 miles away" example you give is a problem of system design not meeting desired performance. But we know how the sell-a-system gig goes. "Here's a list of three options -- go ahead and pick the one you want to buy." Depending on your RFP and performance spec, they're usually something like, good ($), better, ($$$), and best ($$$$$).

    Guess which one they buy? And guess what they realize in short time? Maybe it's a cop-out to say this because we have the reality jakes having to go to work everyday and operate off inadequate systems. But like in everything in this world, the problem should be identified and not be confused with something else.

    At some point you have to trust your equipment, and make decisions with the knowledge that there is the possibility of equipment failure. The pump could fail, a line could burst, your SCBA rupture disc could blow... SO many things to worry about that you could make yourself crazy doing so. Obviously we need to know how to handle failures and have contingency plans. But to me, we shouldn't limit performance with the worry that "it might break."

    And I venture that there are far better options performance-wise than portable-to-portable for many situations. Simple isn't always better, nor is it always safer. Might it be in your jurisdiction? Unfortunately, it just might be, and that's a crappy reality.

    You say that radio procedure is part of accountability, crew integrity, evac ops... and I agree, it is. I think it's more important to take a step back though, and broaden that to "the ability to communicate effectively is an integral part of fireground operations."
    Last edited by Resq14; 10-14-2005 at 04:50 PM.
    God Bless America!Remember all have given some, but some have given all.
    Google Is Your Friend™Helpful forum tip - a "must see" if you're new here
    Click this to search FH Forums!

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Communication Problems: Philly and elsewhere.
    By FiftyOnePride in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 10-28-2004, 12:07 AM
  2. Replies: 3
    Last Post: 07-25-2003, 08:11 AM
  3. PG County Public Safety Communications
    By F/FJunkett in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 03-04-2001, 02:42 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register