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Thread: MARCS Radio

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    MembersZone Subscriber tyler101's Avatar
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    Default MARCS Radio

    How many of you guys are on this system? What do you think of it?


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    Here is MO it is called the Mid America Regional Council.

    They have porvided us with a MARCERS radio, I think the last part is Emergency radio system. It does seem to work much better than the Nextel cell phone hanging from the wall, that may or may not be charged fully, and may or may not have decent signal depending upon the location.
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    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    we are not yet ...............we have put in to get 1 mobile and one portable ..........very $$$$$$$$$.
    IACOJ both divisions and PROUD OF IT !
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    From what I have heard MARCS works very well, especially compared to the MPSCS in Michigan.

    We have applied for the grant from EMS to get a bunch of mobiles and portables but so far no luck.

    Lucas County is in the process of building a new digital 800 system for all public safety agencies in the county but it will be some time before it is up and running and they still haven't come up with a way for small departments like mine to afford $3,000 portables and $5,000 mobiles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyler101
    How many of you guys are on this system? What do you think of it?
    All of the fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies in our county (Union) are on the sytem and use it for all of our operational traffic. We can't use it yet for fireground traffic (between interior crews and command) because it isn't designed for that purpose. We're in the process of programming our radios with a conventional 800 frequency (bypasses the MARCS infrastructure) that we can use on the fireground. When that happens, we'll be 100% MARCS.

    In my opinion, the system is not perfect, but no system is. There are a few ongoing issues with dead spots, but they're working to correct those problems, plus it's a whole lot better than what we had.

    The interoperability of the system is good. We can go anywhere in the state and talk to any other radio on the system. The more department that get on the system, the more useful it will be.

    The system is very expensive. The only way we were able to get on the system was by using a ton of grant funding. If it weren't for that, there's no way we could have afforded it.

    All things considered, I'm glad we were able to make the move to MARCS.

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    Forum Member backsteprescue123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chief310
    All of the fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies in our county (Union) are on the sytem and use it for all of our operational traffic. We can't use it yet for fireground traffic (between interior crews and command) because it isn't designed for that purpose. We're in the process of programming our radios with a conventional 800 frequency (bypasses the MARCS infrastructure) that we can use on the fireground. When that happens, we'll be 100% MARCS.

    In my opinion, the system is not perfect, but no system is. There are a few ongoing issues with dead spots, but they're working to correct those problems, plus it's a whole lot better than what we had.

    The interoperability of the system is good. We can go anywhere in the state and talk to any other radio on the system. The more department that get on the system, the more useful it will be.

    The system is very expensive. The only way we were able to get on the system was by using a ton of grant funding. If it weren't for that, there's no way we could have afforded it.

    All things considered, I'm glad we were able to make the move to MARCS.

    Quick question,

    What is a MARCS radio?


    I know, I know I should have done a search.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFRDxplorer
    Quick question,

    What is a MARCS radio?


    I know, I know I should have done a search.
    MARCS = Multi-Agency Radio Communication System. It is a state-wide digital trunked radio system that is operated by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services. It was originally intended to be used by state agencies (State Highway Patrol, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Corrections, etc.), however a few years ago they decided to allow local public safety agencies on it as well. The last couple of years they've been giving out some grant money through the Division of EMS for department to purchase radios and get on the system.

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    MembersZone Subscriber tyler101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chief310
    All of the fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies in our county (Union) are on the sytem and use it for all of our operational traffic. We can't use it yet for fireground traffic (between interior crews and command) because it isn't designed for that purpose. We're in the process of programming our radios with a conventional 800 frequency (bypasses the MARCS infrastructure) that we can use on the fireground. When that happens, we'll be 100% MARCS.

    In my opinion, the system is not perfect, but no system is. There are a few ongoing issues with dead spots, but they're working to correct those problems, plus it's a whole lot better than what we had.

    The interoperability of the system is good. We can go anywhere in the state and talk to any other radio on the system. The more department that get on the system, the more useful it will be.

    The system is very expensive. The only way we were able to get on the system was by using a ton of grant funding. If it weren't for that, there's no way we could have afforded it.

    All things considered, I'm glad we were able to make the move to MARCS.
    Chief,

    Quick question; Why don't you think it will work for fireground operations? We are currently working on implementing our MARCS radio's for this purpose. We recieved 31+ radio's through grant funding. Also a base station for the fire station. Someday, we hope to recieve MDT's through grant funding.

    If you have an SOP or SOG on your implementation could you please email it to me, as we are currently compiling data in order to make functionality the greatest.

    RFRDxplorer,

    The nice thing about MARCS radio's is being able to talk to any department across the state that has these radio's. We were sitting here on station in Ashland County and talking to a Dispatcher in Cincy. This makes it efficient for multi-agency responses to disasters. Another perk is being able to talk to OSP units on the Interstate's. I-71 runs through our coverage area and we are able to "patch" through with OSP and talk back and forth with them instead of relaying data through dispatchers.

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    Forum Member backsteprescue123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyler101
    RFRDxplorer,

    The nice thing about MARCS radio's is being able to talk to any department across the state that has these radio's. We were sitting here on station in Ashland County and talking to a Dispatcher in Cincy. This makes it efficient for multi-agency responses to disasters. Another perk is being able to talk to OSP units on the Interstate's. I-71 runs through our coverage area and we are able to "patch" through with OSP and talk back and forth with them instead of relaying data through dispatchers.

    Sounds like a good and valuable system.

    Thank you for the kind explanations Tyler101 and Chief310.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyler101
    Chief,

    Quick question; Why don't you think it will work for fireground operations?
    If you're using your radio on the MARCS system (trunked), the signal from your interior crew's portable radio has to travel to the closest MARCS tower, then to a big computer at the MARCS central office, then back to a tower, and then out to the receiving radio. It doesn't just go from one radio to the other. If you're in an area with strong MARCS coverage, that's usually no big deal. If you're in an area (like mine) with marginal coverage, sometimes portables work inside of buildings, and sometimes they don't. Most of the time they do, but it's not something we want to rely on if somebody inside needs to call Command for help.

    We're going to get around this problem by adding a conventional (non-trunked) 800 frequency to our radios. Then, we'll be able to reliably talk from radio to radio without going through all of the extra technology.

    Outside of buildings, our MARCS equipment (portable and mobile) works on the system with almost 100% reliability. Not only can we communicate from one end of our county to the other, we can communicate from one end of the state to the other. When I'm in Nelsonville doing the youth academy, I can sit with my portable radio and talk with my department back home like we were sitting next to each other. It rocks!

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    The other issue with MARCS is channel capacity. With it being such a large system with about 140 separate sites across the state, most sites only have 3-4 channels, one of which is used for the control channel. This only allows 2-3 users to use the system at the same time. Comapre that to most metro systems which use 15-30 channels. If you have a regional or county wide system, you are probablly better off if the system was properly engineered. You can get the same functionality by interfacing you local system with the state system in a variety of ways. If your local system is moto, you can buy one radio to use on both systems. State systems are designed for wide area coverage which requires that they spread the capacity out much more. Local systems are usually designed around concentrated coverage and provide better in-building coverage and usually a higher capacity.

    -just my opinion
    Nathan

    Almost forgot, if you're curious about what talkgroups are where and who's on what system check out http://www.radioreference.com Look in the database section under ohio.
    Last edited by NHiester56; 04-24-2006 at 04:31 PM.

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    [QUOTE=NHiester56]The other issue with MARCS is channel capacity. With it being such a large system with about 140 separate sites across the state, most sites only have 3-4 channels, one of which is used for the control channel. This only allows 2-3 users to use the system at the same time. Comapre that to most metro systems which use 15-30 channels. If you have a regional or county wide system, you are probablly better off if the system was properly engineered. You can get the same functionality by interfacing you local system with the state system in a variety of ways. If your local system is moto, you can buy one radio to use on both systems. State systems are designed for wide area coverage which requires that they spread the capacity out much more. Local systems are usually designed around concentrated coverage and provide better in-building coverage and usually a higher capacity.

    -just my opinion
    Nathan
    QUOTE]

    Very good point!

    For normal, day-to-day operations in a county our size & population, 3-4 channels are plenty. We experience very few "busy" signals. If the "big one" hits, however, I don't imagine it will take long to deplete the available frequencies and "busy-up" the system.

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    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    How is the system woirking out for everyone. Is it still the same?? We will (hopefully...... knock on wood) be getting 3 portables and 1 mobile with our FIRE Act Grant this year. We will also have them programmed with the Lucas County 800 MHz system so it can be used for mutual aid.

    On a side note........ How is everyone paying for the "service fees".......... If I understand correctly, there is like a $240 annual charge per portable to utilize the MARCS system...... Or you can pay only when you actually use the MARCS system........... How is everyone else doing it?? The radio guru from Lucas County EMA suggested we get our own Talk-Group on the MARCS system, but is it really worth it for us if it's not an everyday-use radio system?????
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    Quote Originally Posted by firenresq77
    The radio guru from Lucas County EMA suggested we get our own Talk-Group on the MARCS system, but is it really worth it for us if it's not an everyday-use radio system?????
    I think to get any use out of the radios you will need to have your own talkgroups. Looking through the Radio Reference Database I don't see any fire service "tactical" talkgroups that any department can use unless the ECOMM ones from EMA are available. Everybody in our area who's on there has their own talkgroups. Maybe Fire40Man knows what they have programmed in the STFD radios.

    BTW, did you get confirmation on the grant yet? We still have not had any action on ours...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Capt790
    I think to get any use out of the radios you will need to have your own talkgroups. Looking through the Radio Reference Database I don't see any fire service "tactical" talkgroups that any department can use unless the ECOMM ones from EMA are available. Everybody in our area who's on there has their own talkgroups. Maybe Fire40Man knows what they have programmed in the STFD radios.

    BTW, did you get confirmation on the grant yet? We still have not had any action on ours...
    Actually, Koontz told me that there are only a handful of FD's in Lucas County who have their own talkgroups.........

    No confirmation, exactly on the grant, per se............ It is being reduced. We worked that out a week or two agao. Got a call yesterday from the same guy and he needed "written confirmation" that we were agreeing to the reductions. He emailed me and I replied......... Says it should be out by the end of the month.
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
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    We currenty have about 30 MARCS radio portables that we are getting ready to implement. We are awaiting our base unit on station. Currently it is getting programmed at MARCS. We will see how it goes being that our dispatchers will have to similcast on both MARCS and VHF as we are called into the station to man when we drop below minimum manpower. We are paged on our VHF pagers. It will be nice if MARCS ever develops a paging system. I believe we are currently looking into getting alpha-numeric pagers for off-duty personnel.

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    I'm still not sure if I like this system or not. I don't know details, but to me it says something when the State Patrol has it in their vehicles, and is still using the VHF radio for any of their operations (as near as I can tell). I've heard that they don't use it, and I know that they are still using the VHF channel to run reports and whatnot.

    Here's a problem I see though, our department is in a position where we would work with Michigan sometimes. Should we go out and buy a MPSCS radio too so that we can work with them (they have a different type of system than MARCS, I may be wrong though)?

    I'd also be interested to know, out of those who have gone to MARCS, how many have actually used it to contact somebody out of the area or across the state? Also if they feel that the steep price of the radio and the annual fee is worth it.

    Right now our dispatch has a couple MARCS base stations, our hospitals have some, and our department of health has at least one. I don't see the system taking off too much more in my area than that, unless something changes.

    It will be nice if MARCS ever develops a paging system.
    I agree, it would probably be a nice system. But consider this, if the radios are costing thousands of dollars, then how much would it cost for a pager to work with this system? We already have pagers that can read digital signals (alphanumeric pagers), but how much more is it going to cost to build a pager that will work on a trunked system? Say that the pagers only cost $1000, I would think that those would be a rather hot thing for people to steal off of firefighters' belts and sell on ebay.
    Last edited by MichaelD77; 11-28-2006 at 12:10 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelD77
    Here's a problem I see though, our department is in a position where we would work with Michigan sometimes. Should we go out and buy a MPSCS radio too so that we can work with them (they have a different type of system than MARCS, I may be wrong though)?
    Yes, they are different types of Motorola systems. However, a talk group could be set up that is cross patched between both MARCS & MPSCS. That was the plan for us when the Lucas County TRS goes online next year. The problem is Michigan wants their user fee for each radio that has this talkgroup before they will allow it. Not sure what happening with this right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelD77
    I agree, it would probably be a nice system. But consider this, if the radios are costing thousands of dollars, then how much would it cost for a pager to work with this system? We already have pagers that can read digital signals (alphanumeric pagers), but how much more is it going to cost to build a pager that will work on a trunked system? Say that the pagers only cost $1000, I would think that those would be a rather hot thing for people to steal off of firefighters' belts and sell on ebay.
    I doubt anyone will ever spend the time & money to develop a trunking pager. It's much easier to patch an already licensed VHF or UHF freq. to the main dispatch talkgroup.

    An idea that my department had was tying in alphanumerics to the county's existing CAD/MDT setup, broadcast on dedicated 800 mhz conventional frequencies. The System Manager said that theoretically since text could be sent to an MDT, it could also be sent to a pager. Unfortunately, this idea never went anywhere.

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