View Poll Results: What type of fireground radio technology do you use?

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  • Some form of digital

    14 18.42%
  • Analog/repeater with no simplex

    20 26.32%
  • Analog simplex

    23 30.26%
  • Heck, I dunno. I push the button and talk

    19 25.00%
  1. #1
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    Default Can you hear me now? A fireground communications poll.

    The Chronic Failures w/Motorola's Trunked Emergency Communications Radio System thread got me wondering about how often interior ops are relying on repeaters and/or digital systems for fireground communications.

    As pointed out in that thread, analog simplex is the most reliable form of fireground radio communications. A repeater may mean the guy just the other side of the wall can't hear you transmit and digital is often works great or doesn't work at all - no catching every other word and filling in the blanks. Despite these limitations salesmen, elected officials, and some fire chiefs are championing and implementing systems that have no simplex capabilities - and then acting shocked when they have problems.

    SO the question is, how many of us are using systems that rely on towers, encoders, or other things prone to failure in IDLH operations? Have you ever thought about it? Does it bother you?
    Last edited by EFD840; 02-04-2008 at 06:29 PM.

  2. #2
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    We use simplex analog channels for the fireground ops and repeater freq's fro contact with dispatch and incoming units. We also have multiple simplex channels as well a repeater freqs available under a CONOPS plan. No one in our area uses trunked systems. A few FD's use repeater freq's fro fireground and have nightmare results. I've been at fires where I could see with my eyes the person I was radioing only to have dispatch 20 miles away have to relay due to the repeater.

    Another even worse situation is a local FD that uses one freq for both ops and a water supply channel but PL the portable radios different from the trucks so they can't hear when others are talking on the truck radio's. The frequency is still busy whether you hear them or not.
    Last edited by RFDACM02; 02-04-2008 at 07:19 PM.

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    I have bought my own radio and program it myself, and I purposely programmed it to transmit with the PL listed, but receive open squelch...so no matter what pl someone is using, if they are, I will receive them...seems some dispatch stations around here and some apparatuses dont trasmit with a PL even though one is listed for us to use...

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    Any portable radio can be programmed simplex. Its just almost impossible to read a screen or channel selector with a mask on in smoke. Digital and trunked are useless in the fire service and in the Police. Save it for transportation and public works, not where people need to depend on it as their life line!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireDawgEMT22 View Post
    I have bought my own radio and program it myself, and I purposely programmed it to transmit with the PL listed, but receive open squelch...so no matter what pl someone is using, if they are, I will receive them...seems some dispatch stations around here and some apparatuses dont trasmit with a PL even though one is listed for us to use...
    PL tones don't have anything to do with the question. They just provide a filter to weed out unwanted traffic on the receiver's end. AS RFDACM02 said, the use of unique PL tones doesn't free up the channel.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonnyirons2
    Any portable radio can be programmed simplex. Its just almost impossible to read a screen or channel selector with a mask on in smoke. Digital and trunked are useless in the fire service and in the Police. Save it for transportation and public works, not where people need to depend on it as their life line!
    I agree completely, which is why I posed the question.

    FCC rules aside, my FD could travel from Alabama to Alaska and talk all the way but a simple glance at the poll results says not everyone is that fortunate.

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    Dispatch and operations are on repeaters. Fireground communications are and always will be analog simplex
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    My career department went digital (800-range) several months ago. So far, we're liking it, even though it took some getting used to at first. Before we went digital, we had numerous "holes" in the city where we could transmit or recieve. While we still have some of these holes with the digital, they are far, far fewer and smaller.

    Last I had heard, the PD was pleased with the transition as well. The entire city (FD, PD, PW, transit,...) made the transition.

    To communicate with other agencies, we have equipment on our primary repeater tower and in our battalion chief's vehicle to bridge everything.
    Our biggest "issue" is that when our HSRT is deployed, we have to send a chief with them to bridge comms. A lot of times, our radio tech will go with them to make sure everything is done right and to troubleshoot any problems.

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    Currently we're transmitting a PL so dispatch can hear us, receiving without a PL so we can hear anything. This will be changing someday as we move off of low band to a repeated dispatch channel, and a non-repeated fireground channel .

    Larry

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    We currently use a low band simplex system. Repeaters are in place but only for transmit on the low band system. We are in the process of switching to high band with a repeated dispatch and all channels will have repeater capability but can be switched off for simplex analog communication. At least thats the way its supposed to work.
    Shawn M. Cecula
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    We just transitioned last month to a countywide 800 mhz P25 digital trunked system. (You know, the old Homeland Security grants funded "now you can talk to a police officer at the other end of the county" type of deal.)

    So far it is working well.

    After everything I had read about digital radios and the problems with them, I requested that our primary zone be programmed with at least 5 "talk around" channels. We ended up with 4 analog simplex and 2 P25 simplex channels which we will use for fireground communications if there are any problems with the trunked talkgroups.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Capt790 View Post
    We just transitioned last month to a countywide 800 mhz P25 digital trunked system. (You know, the old Homeland Security grants funded "now you can talk to a police officer at the other end of the county" type of deal.)

    So far it is working well.

    After everything I had read about digital radios and the problems with them, I requested that our primary zone be programmed with at least 5 "talk around" channels. We ended up with 4 analog simplex and 2 P25 simplex channels which we will use for fireground communications if there are any problems with the trunked talkgroups.
    Now this is a good way to handle it. Sometimes you really have no choice but to be part of a larger radio system. And for regular dispatch communications, vehicle-to-vehicle, and vehicle-to-dispatch communications, P25 is fine. As long as you have and USE analog simplex channels for the actual fireground communications.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Now this is a good way to handle it. Sometimes you really have no choice but to be part of a larger radio system. And for regular dispatch communications, vehicle-to-vehicle, and vehicle-to-dispatch communications, P25 is fine. As long as you have and USE analog simplex channels for the actual fireground communications.

    Good points, that's about what I'd have said........

    If I had an unlimited budget, I'd have a system of Two channels on the 33 or 46 mhz band, with all analog simplex equipment. THAT was Communications, back then.................


    I have Championed the Virtues of Interoperability for some time now, most recently working for change in the rules of the FCC that will provide for the building of a nationwide interoperable Broadband system using part of the 700mhz Spectrum that is being vacated by Broadcast TV. One thing that we in the Fire/Rescue service need to watch for is the "Fringe element" That's trying to convince everyone that Interoperability means that any Firefighter in Maine can talk to any Sheriff in Mississippi and any School Bus Driver in South Dakota. Wrong. WE need to keep contol over who is interconnected. NM, any thoughts on this?.......
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by FireDawgEMT22 View Post
    I have bought my own radio and program it myself, and I purposely programmed it to transmit with the PL listed, but receive open squelch...so no matter what pl someone is using, if they are, I will receive them...seems some dispatch stations around here and some apparatuses dont trasmit with a PL even though one is listed for us to use...
    you are WRONG again ............we never ever ever never have had a PL on F1.
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    We use a simplex and a repeated dispatch channel. When we are on fire ground 1 we can still hear our fire HQ. We just can not talk to them. (very well) FG 3 is simplex only.
    All UHF.

    There seems to be a big push for the XTS stuff. It seems like big $$$$$$$$$. We use HT1250's and they work ok I guess.

    George and ChiefKN. Do you ever think you will see the day when the county utilizes the MIRS radio for county dispatching?
    This space for rent

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weruj1 View Post
    you are WRONG again ............we never ever ever never have had a PL on F1.
    Well damn, looks like Im on a roll.

    The PL info was just from a database from Radioreference.com...they had one listed for F1 for the county...

    Of course I should have realized that there was some incorrect information when they have the wrong frequency listed for F3.
    Last edited by FireDawgEMT22; 02-05-2008 at 09:40 PM.

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    xts is digital they are boo ku money!

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    I have Championed the Virtues of Interoperability for some time now, most recently working for change in the rules of the FCC that will provide for the building of a nationwide interoperable Broadband system using part of the 700mhz Spectrum that is being vacated by Broadcast TV. One thing that we in the Fire/Rescue service need to watch for is the "Fringe element" That's trying to convince everyone that Interoperability means that any Firefighter in Maine can talk to any Sheriff in Mississippi and any School Bus Driver in South Dakota. Wrong. WE need to keep contol over who is interconnected. NM, any thoughts on this?.......
    My theory on interoperability is this. It should be as broad or as confined as is required for the area in question to handle a reasonable and believable large scale incident. Specifically, like you, opposing the nut cases that think we need a system to communicate with the Anchorage Fire Department from a row boat on Long Island Sound. I want reliable communication for my own department, I want communication with our immediate mutual aid partners on the same radio with a turn of the channel knob. And I want to be able to flip a switch and link a VHF, UHF, and 800mhz simplex channel, frequency agile, to connect someone further away into us or vis-versa.

    For example, in this neck of the woods, UHF is the way everyone is going, migrating from a hodge-podge of low band conflagrations. Towns with a big enough budget are putting up complete UHF voting systems. Towns without as much funding are going with UHF portables and some vehicle repeaters connected to their existing infrastructure. When I saw "this neck of the woods", I mean all the towns that regularly interact. Basically all the rural communities wedged between New Haven and the CT river and up north to Middletown. Now each town has their own channels and their immediate neighbor's channels in all their radios. This covers 90% of the mutual aid calls any of will ever respond to. In the event of a napalm attack on a shopping center, we licensed several simplex channels for regional use. Everyone has these channels in all their radios. So an incident that is going to require mutual aid from far away (far enough that they won't have our main channels), will switch operations to one of the big incident regional simplex channels. Now everyone can play together.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    My theory on interoperability is this. It should be as broad or as confined as is required for the area in question to handle a reasonable and believable large scale incident. Specifically, like you, opposing the nut cases that think we need a system to communicate with the Anchorage Fire Department from a row boat on Long Island Sound. I want reliable communication for my own department, I want communication with our immediate mutual aid partners on the same radio with a turn of the channel knob. And I want to be able to flip a switch and link a VHF, UHF, and 800mhz simplex channel, frequency agile, to connect someone further away into us or vis-versa.

    For example, in this neck of the woods, UHF is the way everyone is going, migrating from a hodge-podge of low band conflagrations. Towns with a big enough budget are putting up complete UHF voting systems. Towns without as much funding are going with UHF portables and some vehicle repeaters connected to their existing infrastructure. When I saw "this neck of the woods", I mean all the towns that regularly interact. Basically all the rural communities wedged between New Haven and the CT river and up north to Middletown. Now each town has their own channels and their immediate neighbor's channels in all their radios. This covers 90% of the mutual aid calls any of will ever respond to. In the event of a napalm attack on a shopping center, we licensed several simplex channels for regional use. Everyone has these channels in all their radios. So an incident that is going to require mutual aid from far away (far enough that they won't have our main channels), will switch operations to one of the big incident regional simplex channels. Now everyone can play together.
    This is the most succinct discussion of what interoperability should be that I have ever seen. Chertoff is going to get thrown out on his hind end in January, ever thought about seeking a cabinet position in the Clinton II administration?

    On the other hand, the Tower of Babel from Anchorage to Long Island Sound might make entertaining listening. Let us not forget the the importance of an engine company officer being able to speak to a bus driver anywhere at any time.

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    Harve,Why would I want to talk to a Sheriff in Mississippi? Hehe T.C.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    Harve,Why would I want to talk to a Sheriff in Mississippi? Hehe T.C.
    Exactly - but, there are some "Nuts" out there who think that TRUE Interoperability should encompass just that ability, and that those of us who actually get our hands dirty doing our jobs should not have any say in the matter. These are the ones to watch out for.......
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  21. #21
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    A few points...

    NFPA actually recommends that you use a simplex frequency for your fireground operations. If anyone needs to know which number, I can dig it up.

    nmfire and I had a discussion a while back about the UCALL and UTAC frequencies. According to our department's FCC Lawyer, the Government set aside frequencies in VHF, UHF and 800mhz for nation-wide interoperability. Any public safety agency is not only allowed, but urged to program these frequencies into their radios for low power (mobile) multi-agency use.

    151.1375 base/mobile VTAC 1
    154.4525 base/mobile VTAC 2
    155.7525 base/mobile VCALL
    158.7375 base/mobile VTAC 3
    159.4725 base/mobile VTAC 4
    453.2125 base/mobile 458.2125 mobile UCALLa, UCALL
    453.4625 base/mobile 458.4625 mobile UTAC 1a, UTAC 1
    453.7125 base/mobile 458.7125 mobile UTAC 2a, UTAC 2
    453.8625 base/mobile 458.8625 mobile UTAC 3a, UTAC 3

    800s...

    Pre reband = 851/806.0125 Post Reband = 866/821.0125
    Pre reband = 851/806.5125 Post Reband = 866/821.5125
    Pre reband = 852/807.0125 Post Reband = 867/822.0125
    Pre reband = 852/807.5125 Post Reband = 867/822.5125
    Pre reband = 853/808.0125 Post Reband = 868/822.0125

    I believe the code being used on these frequencies is 156.7. If anyone would like a copy of the memo outlining Public Safety agencies' right to use these frequencies, send me a PM.

    It is frustrating that this information is not more readily available to FDs nationwide...

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by KyleWickman View Post
    George and ChiefKN. Do you ever think you will see the day when the county utilizes the MIRS radio for county dispatching?
    Yes, I do. It's already happening. All county dispatched fire departments will be on the P25 County Trunked system this year. I believe they will still be "paged" on low band.

    I don't know that MIRS will ever replace all the other systems, there might be some patches or there might be a use of MIRS and a local system (sign on and communicate with the county on MIRS, but use local system for local ops).

    There is a definite movement to go to a county dispatch center for fire/ems.

    That said, I sincerely hope that there will still be simplex channels for fireground. I agree it's much better and as the name implies, it's simpler.
    Last edited by ChiefKN; 02-10-2008 at 10:32 AM.
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    My county upgraded to an 800MHz EDACS system about 2 years ago. After about 6 months the county fire dept. dropped it and went back to VHF, citing coverage concerns inside buildings after an incident where a firefighter couldn't get out on his portable deep inside a structure. About 6 months later the city dept. went back to VHF for the same reason, and so they could talk to the county dept. since they worked a lot of calls together. They setup the EDACS system with a simplex group for fireground operations. However, one of the battalion chiefs told me they didn't want to use this as it didn't allow them to use the "emergency" button which was one of the main reasons they went with the 800 system. Plus, they want everything to go through the repeater so it's recorded. Even now the in-building coverage sucks on the VHF system when it's repeated. I can hardly make out what they're saying even when it's a decent signal. They're putting in another 800 MHz tower to improve coverage and I've heard rumors that both dept.'s will try it out again. If it's so important that the transmissions be recorded, would it not be just as easy to bring in a mobile voice recorder on the battalion chief's vehicle?

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