1. #1
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    Default Voice Pagers vs Digital Pagers

    Hi guys, new member here...

    Tega Cay Fire Department, on the shores of Lake Wylie, SC. We are just inside the NC / SC border, about 15 miles from Charlotte. Website is www.tcvfd.com

    The county (York, SC) will soon introduce an 800 system. Our department is not part of the county, but under contract. We have the only VHF High page system in the county using GP100 & 300 radios, and Minitor 2 & 3 stored voice pagers (EMS ambulance use Sceptar pagers). We have our own repeater system atop one of the water towers in the city. It is far superior in reliability and range to anything else the county currently has.

    The powers that be are pushing hard to have us come under the county umbrella (after we just bought a new Pierce Quantum truck and a M&S Fire/Rescue boat). If we don't, then we may have to convert back to being dispatched by the local police department instead of directly from the County EOC and the 911 system.

    We have until April 2007 to decide if we will join the 800 system for the county or stand alone with our VHF High system. The county is forcing all the EMS departments to foot the bill, i.e. the digital pagers run upwards of $25 per month, per pager to use the system...plus the cost of us having to aqcuire the radios and pagers. For our depratment, that's almost $50,000 in initial outlay! The annual fees for pagers and radio access paid to the county would run close to $40,000 per year.

    That being said, I'm wondering how the digital pagers have worked out for anybody. Of course, the stored voice on the Minitor 2 & 3's are great, especially while driving to the station at 0300...over the years we've found the Min's to be extremely reliable and tough as nails.

    Anybody who can give me some feedback I would greatly appreciate it. Also, still trying to find about 10 Minitor II or III (high) with stored voice...any body know where some can be had?

    Thanks in advance for the info.

    Shannon Davis - Communications Officer
    Tega Cay Fire Department
    Tega Cay, SC

  2. #2
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    DO BOTH!!

    First things first, forget the digital text pagers. Keep your existing system and use it for paging. It works fine now and doesn't cost anything. This is how many many places work since there is no viable alternative for paging. If they tell you it can't do that, they are either lying or stupid, get another radio shop. This would save you the paging money.

    For normal operations, you can have your old system that works linked to the new system (one way or both ways). Unfortunately, the county will still charge you for this and there isn't much I can suggest.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    A few questions...what type of 800mhz system are they going to? There is a big difference from one company to the next, and as much I don't like Motorola, they are the best for an 800 digital trunked system. Ours has been up for a little over a year now, and no major problems so far. Macom sucks!!

    As for the paging, you should'nt have to pay for the service if its digital. Buy the pagers, load the capcode, and you will get the calls, its that simple.

    Regarding buying the radios, I would have loved to spend ONLY $50,000 for radios. Most companies here have spent at least 100K, and some close to 1/4 mil. Our county does not give us anything.

    I would wait until the 800 goes live. watch and see how it works!
    I would then wait for a major incident or a few at a time. watch and see!
    The system has to be tested live, not in a "learning" mode as is done in most places. Wait for ***** to hit the fan, if it stands up, switch over, if not, stick with what works for you.

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    Yes, they will have to pay for the service because the county just won't send pages to their pagers without someone paying the bill. Pagers can be individually addressed and therefore it isn't just "turn it on and get the pages".
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    So much to absorb...

    1. Digital paging works - GREAT. The only issue that some feel is the pagers are not loud enough to wake them up, but for MOST people it will. Changing the alerts, etc will help greatly.

    2. 800 Mhz, in a PROPERLY DESIGNED and built works very well.

    3. If you have no choice in dispatching - BUILD A BRIDGE. Yep. A bridge.
    Not the road type, but the radio type. For a one way system, it will work great - basically a cross band repeater that will take all traffic from the dispatch talkgroup on the 800 system to your VHF system. Very simple.

    BUT.... Here is what appears to be your issue, besides the fact you are paying WAY too much for paging. ISO will NOT recognize a commercial paging carrier as an alerting system. Losing those points in your ISO rating WILL decrease your ISO, unless you are only a 9.

    There is so much good to come from digital paging, alpha pagers are CHEAP - $60.00 each new - and the information is tremendous that it can carry, as well as the multiple group calls you can do, the private paging, etc.

    And to put in a alpha paging system is CHEAP!

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    Personally, I would stick with the voice pagers as primary and use the text paging as secondary. That is what we do here. Primary alerting is with the standard tone and voice paging. The CAD will also send text messages to anyone's cell phone, pager, or e-mail that want it. It is very helpful but not reliable enough for primary alerting.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Our two county area went through a similar transition that has taken years to complete. It was a mess, with law enforcement, fire, and EMS using a combination of low band, high band, and 800 MHz. Everything but our fire pagers is now 800 MHz (Michigan MPSCS). Our fire department does the following:

    New Minitor IV pagers are on high band. 800 MHz portables were too expensive to buy for all of our firefighters, so we spent $3000 to put an antenna on our water tower for use with a high band repeater. At $300-$400 per radio for high band radios, we bought one for each firefighter.

    800 MHz mobiles are in all apparatus and are used only to communicate with dispatch. Once onscene, all but the IC switch to high band. Yes, the IC does have to monitor two radios.

    We did have a need for MFR's to have portables since they often respond direct, so we bought the Motorola 1500 portables and they work great for our needs.

    I'm a FT 911 dispatcher and do 800 MHz radio programming for our center so feel free to contact me if you have any questions about 800 MHz; I'll do my best to answer based on my Michigan MPSCS knowledge.

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    An alpha system can be just as dependable as a voice system - but you
    simply cannot depend on a commercial system to be that dependable.

  9. #9
    firefighter7160
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    Talking Voice Pagers

    We use VOICE pagers in my county. The big thing about the voice pagers is, the number of dept's on one freq. We have 17 FDs with close to 40 stations on one freq. We use that channel only for paging. only FD-Dispatch can talk on that channel. We respond on are new statewide radios (800-DMHZ) All medic units are dispatched on the DIGITAL pagers, they like them. The digital pagers let them get there call times and inc#. Also they work good inside are medical center (Voice Pagers dont work there). Also range of the freq. is another thing about the voice pagers. They only have about a 25-30 mile range. But the digital pagers work anywhere. There has been talk of the busy depts going with both. But they work good for us down here.

    * 800-DMHZ, EACH COUNTY HAS A RADIO TOWER WITH UP TO 200 RADIO CHANNELS IN THEM. NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN THE STATE YOU CAN HEAR YOUR DISPATCH. YOUR RADIO FINDS THE CLOSEST TOWER WITH THE BEST SIGNAL. LIKE A CELL PHONE. I HAVE BEEN AS FAR AS 250 MILES FROM MY COUNTY AND STILL HEAR THEM CLEAR. EACH RADIO COST CLOSE TO $2500.00 AND WE HAVE ABOUT 400 IN ARE VFD'S IN THE COUNTY. THANKS TO GRANTS WE HAVE ONE OF THE BEST RADIO SYSTEMS IN THE USA.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by LVFD301 View Post
    An alpha system can be just as dependable as a voice system - but you
    simply cannot depend on a commercial system to be that dependable.
    Unfortunately, most places go the commercial route.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I wouldn't rely souly on alpha-numeric pagers, the dept. I used to run with had those, but also used the voice pagers as the primary means of dispatch, there was several times that the pages would not go through, and sometime they would not be received till 15 mins after initial dispatch even though send at the same time we was toned.

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    That is my point. It is not the alpha pager, it is the COMMERCIAL
    provider. Put up your own system, cheaper than a voice
    system, and enjoy the dependability

  13. #13
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    We use voice alert pagers (minitors) and a siren to sound the alarm, and alpha pagers to give extra details, such as patient info, PMD codes, extra information, etc. Works very well for us.


    PS. Its funny, my uncle acctually lives in Tega Cay, down in SC, so it was suprising to see somebody from there post on the board, lol. Good luck, brother.
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    We are strictly alpha here....It takes some getting used to but I actually like it better than voice

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    My regional dispatch center within the last few years has invested in alpha-paging, there are transmitters on every tower which gives excellent coverage and to the best of my knowledge I have not missed a page. The system is owned by the center and works off the CAD so there are no delays inherent with commercial providers.
    There are some distinct advantages to alpha numeric, such as when the center just needs the duty officer for some bs assignment then the whole dept doesn’t need to be awakened, another example would be sensitive info such as hidden key locations can be sent to individual pagers (OIC etc) without broadcasting the info for scanner land to hear.
    There were some issues with the pagers not being loud enough at night however, one manufacturer has come out with an eight cap code unit that has an amplified base and when this goes off, it’ll bolt you right out of bed.
    We still have a few Minitors in service but within a year they’ll all be retired.

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