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"Selective Calling" on an 800 system

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WuLabsWuTecH

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So here's my question:

We are setting up a new "station" in a system that is on 800mHz Motorola Smartnet II. I understand that we cannot use quickcall and pagers/pager tones on an 800 system, but is there anyway to program some other set of selective calling?

Here's the setup (which is open to change should anyone have a better idea):

There are two dispatching agencies that we will be dispatched through. The first is a high volume metropolitan dispatching system and the second is a low volume college campus dispatcher. The original plan was to have station tones play on the two frequencies and set up a Minitor V to monitor that, and then have a radio programmed to be able to talk to both dispatching agencies and their respective talkgroups. Then we discovered that pager tones are not possible on an 800mHz system.

The problem with setting up the station alerting is that these units will be special duty only, and where they stay when they are in service on a nightly basis changes based upon their duty assignment. During the day this is not an issue since everyone is awake and can monitor the radios, but at night, there are situations where we will need a crew on duty, but the anticipated call volume will be so low that we will allow them to take a nap between calls. Monitoring the metro dispatch is out of the question since they average at least 10 dispatches per hour even at night. Monitoring the campus dispatch is not as problematic since they have spare event talkgroups that can be used for this purpose so monitoring those TGs we'd only hear relevant calls.

The only workaround I can see is at night only to monitor the campus dispatch and have the dispatchers who are awake monitor the city talkgroup to listen for our numbers, but this puts more work on the dispatchers and I feel is also a very convoluted way to go about this. Unfortunately, my knowledge of radio systems is limited and I have not done much work with Digital systems to think of other solutions. Is there a way that anyone can see to make this easier?

Also, what I described is still not idea as there are certain events that we would cover where excess noise needs to be avoided so even during the day a pager like system where you only produce noise when absolutely necessary (or get a vibration so you can remove yourself from the quiet situation to hear the dispatch) is still more desirable.

To answer what I think will be a solution posed: yes we have looked at alphanumeric pagers, and no they are not a viable option at this time.

This isn't something that needs to be implemented tomorrow, we're still a few months away from becoming operational, but I figured since this is something that no one on my team here knows how to fix, it might be a good idea to get a head start on this while we're still working on solving other logistical issues.

Thank you for any thought you are willing to offer. There are not solutions that are too silly or non-conventional and I will appreciate anything you can come up with because we here are all out of ideas!
 

kc8mln

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Use the "private call" function to alert for dispatches... Set the station radio to only allow private calls to be received and mute all other audio until a private call is iniated, then the dispatch centers can send a "private call alert" to your station radio and the radio will go into "alert" and unmute the audio....
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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Oh, forgot one complicating factor!

The dispatches coming from the metro dispatching agency are automated. They are sent out by locution. I don't think there is a way to do that (I'll have someone check on it, but I feel the Bat. Chief of Communications would have told me there was that capability if it existed...)

That was a good thought though and maybe they can rig something up like that!

Any other thoughts?
 

TFC301

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Our dispatchers use simulcast on our old VHF channel and the new 700 digital trunking channel. They talk on both frequencies at the same time. We also get the pager tones on the 700 digital trunking system. They use the VHF channel for pager alerting and everything else is done on the 700 channel.

Would that be a possibility?
 

zz0468

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KC8MIN is on the right track. The call alert function is how it's done on a Smartnet II system. Call alert can be sent from any enabled radio, and depending on the system configuration, it can be automated through CAD software. If you can't get that feature through the dispatch CAD program, perhaps you could implement it through a separate control station at the dispatch center. The ID of the unit to be paged is entered by the radio's keypad, and the paged radio responds. That response can be used to activate a relay to turn on lights, open bay doors, and turn on the PA system so that voice dispatch is heard.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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It sounds like a possibility, but it would be very expensive to set up another system to simulcast in right? Since EVERYONE around here is on some sort of trunked system or P25, we'd have to set up a tower, and patch equipment...?
 

TFC301

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It probably would be expensive to set up that system although i'm not sure. For the tower, depending on what system y'all want and if there is a tower already existing for that trunked system and there is decent signal coming from it, then you wouldn't have to set up another tower.

Maybe use just two radio systems, a VHF or UHF for paging (for Minitor V alerting) and the system y'all using now. It seems a little silly but, it just may work. Lol.

Pagers would work for y'all, Vibrating for quiet events, and going off with the high pitched tone for when someone wants to sleep.

We carry around a Minitor V VHF and a 700 Radio. We hear EVERYTHING on both channels. Not sure how they do it, but it's great.

Also, how are pager tones not possible on an 800 system? It doesn't alert or there are no tones that could be played?
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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an 800 system uses trunking. That is, each channel on your radio, doesn't correspond with the same radio frequency:

So on a conventional system you have the following:

Channel 1 - Dispatch
Channel 2 - EMS Tac
Channel 3 - Fire Tac
Channel 4 - Local Hospital

And each channel has an assigned frequency:

Channel 1 is ALWAYS 460.1
Channel 2 is ALWAYS 460.2
Channel 3 is ALWAYS 460.3
Channel 4 is ALWAYS 460.4

On an 800 system, each channel (or "talkgroups" as they are commonly referred to) is a channel on your radio only. Channel 1 for your first transmission may use 840.1, but for your next transmission, it may use 840.6. There is no way for a pager to know which frequency Channel 1 is going to use so it can't effectively monitor to hear the tones. Tones can still be played over trunked systems, but they are used as attention getting tones (and are in most cases a holdover from older systems that the guys were used to hearing) rather than station alerting tones.
 

mojo3120

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Our dispatchers use simulcast on our old VHF channel and the new 700 digital trunking channel. They talk on both frequencies at the same time. We also get the pager tones on the 700 digital trunking system. They use the VHF channel for pager alerting and everything else is done on the 700 channel.

Would that be a possibility?
That's what we do too, works pretty well. Another issue (among many) with paging on digital P25 systems is they won't play a perfect tone due to the compression. The tones that go over our P25 system (due to the VHF patch) get so garbled there's no way they'd trip a pager.

What are your neighboring departments doing? Wouldn't you all be in the same boat together?
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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The neighboring departments have a few different solutions:

1) Wait for the landline--since they are doing mutual aid at that point, they don't care if it takes them anohter 3 minutes to get rolling.
2) Buy a $9000 box that is programmed into the dispatching CAD and trips when a signal is sent. Not only is this cost-prohibitive for us, we also can't wire in a box to a moving vehicle unless we use a lot of fancy satellites and such.
3) One of the problems with the system has always been that if you are out and about, you have to listen to each dispatch, but that's not as big of a problem since when you are out the guy in the passenger seat can pay attention to the radio anyway

How much would a system to patch it through to a 700 mHz or VHF or what not cost? I would also have to imagine that it would be very expensive...

I'll look into the alerting thing. Can they alert a group of radios or would we have to designate a walkie as the "dispatching radio?"
 

RodStrong

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Create a new talkgroup dedicated to dispatching calls for your dept. only. Have dispatch patch the initial toneout or pageout (or whatever you call it) on the primary talkgroup to the new talkgroup with the initial call info. only, and then drop the patch when they are finished.

Those awake during the day who are able to monitor the primary dispatch channel do business as usual, and catch the call by normal means. Those asleep at night or need to have their radios totally quiet unless a call comes in will be able to park their radio on the new talkgroup and sleep or whatever. Those that hear the page on the new talkgroup wake up and dial their radio to the appropriate talkgroup to deal with the call.
 

zz0468

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...One of the problems with the system has always been that if you are out and about, you have to listen to each dispatch...
I've never seen a department that does it any other way. The station gets alerted, the equipment and portables do not. If you're away from the station, you'd better be paying attention to the radio. Does the dispatch center use SIMS?

Can they alert a group of radios or would we have to designate a walkie as the "dispatching radio?"
Group voice calls can be done, but I'm not aware of any method to do group alerting for Smartnet radios with different ID's.

BTW, tones CAN be sent over an analog trunked system. You have to watch the timings of things to make sure nothing get's trunkated, but once the channel grant is made, it's just an analog radio on an analog channel. Not so much with digital, there's enough processing done that tones would probably get mangled.
 

TFC301

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That's what we do too, works pretty well. Another issue (among many) with paging on digital P25 systems is they won't play a perfect tone due to the compression. The tones that go over our P25 system (due to the VHF patch) get so garbled there's no way they'd trip a pager.

What are your neighboring departments doing? Wouldn't you all be in the same boat together?
That is very true. Our tone is very garbled. But it works pretty well .

How much would a system to patch it through to a 700 mHz or VHF or what not cost? I would also have to imagine that it would be very expensive...

I'll look into the alerting thing. Can they alert a group of radios or would we have to designate a walkie as the "dispatching radio?"
I would have to get with our dispatching agency to find out how much it would cost. (I'm not sure when I'd be able to do it.)

For the other question, If you use paging tones, you can use a Minitor V and it'll alert all pagers programmed for that tone.
EX. Dispatch pages out with a long tone of 469.8, all pagers with that tone programmed will decode.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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I've never seen a department that does it any other way. The station gets alerted, the equipment and portables do not. If you're away from the station, you'd better be paying attention to the radio. Does the dispatch center use SIMS?
I am not sure what SIMS is...

For the department I'm currently on, while we can get toned out on the dispatch frequency in the radio on monitor/scan mode, we also have the option of not really paying attention to the radio and just our pagers. They will alert when our tones go off regardless of whether we are paying attention to the dispatch frequency.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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I do like the patch to a second talkgroup thing and if it can be automated, that might work as a solution. We still have a couple of open TGs on the dispatch zone so that could just be the solution!
 

zz0468

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I am not sure what SIMS is...
SIMS stands for Smartnet Information Management System. It's a software application that integrates with the trunking system, and can talk to CAD applications to build call alert and status message functionality into a dispatch center's CAD system. That's the 'legacy' product. The new version is called 'Site Lens'.

Chances are, there is some sort of capability in use there now. You need to talk to whoever manages that dispatch center and see what they do. You're likely going to find reluctance on the part of either dispatch center to do anything different from what they're doing now just to accommodate one low volume station.
 

wa8pyr

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So here's my question:

We are setting up a new "station" in a system that is on 800mHz Motorola Smartnet II. I understand that we cannot use quickcall and pagers/pager tones on an 800 system, but is there anyway to program some other set of selective calling?
Actually, you can use Quickcall on a Smartnet II system. It's been used around here successfully for years, although is now being mostly phased out by the departments which used it in favor of network-based systems.

The only drawback is that because of the lower deviation on the trunked frequencies, you must crank up the audio level of the paging encoder so that the decoders will work properly.

That being said, it works very well and is very cheap and fairly easy to set up.

1, Install trunked radio in fire station; leave on dispatch talkgroup (lock it up so the firefighters can't fiddle with it).
2. Connect a paging decoder to the accessory connector on the radio.
3. Install a day/night switch on the output of the decoder. This will route the audio to the PA all the time when in Day setting, and only when the correct tones are received in the Night setting.
4. Connect output of Day/Night switch to station PA system.

It should even work with Locution, as long as Locutia knows to send the station tones before she starts to talk.

Any good radio tech worth his salt should be able to set something like that up.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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Actually, you can use Quickcall on a Smartnet II system. It's been used around here successfully for years, although is now being mostly phased out by the departments which used it in favor of network-based systems.

The only drawback is that because of the lower deviation on the trunked frequencies, you must crank up the audio level of the paging encoder so that the decoders will work properly.

That being said, it works very well and is very cheap and fairly easy to set up.

1, Install trunked radio in fire station; leave on dispatch talkgroup (lock it up so the firefighters can't fiddle with it).
2. Connect a paging decoder to the accessory connector on the radio.
3. Install a day/night switch on the output of the decoder. This will route the audio to the PA all the time when in Day setting, and only when the correct tones are received in the Night setting.
4. Connect output of Day/Night switch to station PA system.

It should even work with Locution, as long as Locutia knows to send the station tones before she starts to talk.

Any good radio tech worth his salt should be able to set something like that up.
I like this idea, except that we can't set up 10 of these or however many places we might be staying at night. It also doesn't help with needing things quiet when we are at formal events.

Taking this to the next logical step, could we set this up in the truck, and then use a lower power transmitter to transmit over a frequency which our pagers could be tuned to? So use steps 1-3 from above, but instead of connecting to a PA system, connect to a radio transmitter and have that transmit to pagers/radio carried on the body? I don't know how reliable a radio transmitter mounted in the truck would be. And the cost of leaving the truck running to give the system juice might negate any savings we get from it.

We did verify already that Locution can dispatch tones before the message, but that's where we stopped after we realized the tones were worthless

SIMS stands for Smartnet Information Management System. It's a software application that integrates with the trunking system, and can talk to CAD applications to build call alert and status message functionality into a dispatch center's CAD system. That's the 'legacy' product. The new version is called 'Site Lens'.

Chances are, there is some sort of capability in use there now. You need to talk to whoever manages that dispatch center and see what they do. You're likely going to find reluctance on the part of either dispatch center to do anything different from what they're doing now just to accommodate one low volume station.
I know that at the firehouses in the metro area, they do have a box installed (which I hear costs about 9k) which is how they get dispatches from locution. It does not come over the radio channel. We know this because the radio channel can only dispatch one run at a time, whereas the locution system can do up to 7. When it's busier, we will hear the dispatch in our station, get in the truck, and as we are responding, hear the dispatch again over the radio. Does this sound like Site Lens?

Keep the suggestions coming though, the dispatch center's battalion chief has been very accommodating in trying to find us a solution so far. While compared to their stations (some of which do 17,000+ runs per year) we might be low volume on average, where we will come in handy are the days that the campus gets 200-300 runs in one day and having a couple of extra crews on hand will help out quite a bit.

It's also obviously in their best interest to keep dispatching centralized. While the campus police department can just have all calls to 911 routed to them and dispatch us that way, we have decided to keep 911 calls dispatched through the metro dispatching agency right now and it's beneficial not only to us but also to them to keep it that way.
 

krokus

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wa8pyr said:
So here's my question:

We are setting up a new "station" in a system that is on 800mHz Motorola Smartnet II. I understand that we cannot use quickcall and pagers/pager tones on an 800 system, but is there anyway to program some other set of selective calling?
Actually, you can use Quickcall on a Smartnet II system. It's been used around here successfully for years, although is now being mostly phased out by the departments which used it in favor of network-based systems.

The only drawback is that because of the lower deviation on the trunked frequencies, you must crank up the audio level of the paging encoder so that the decoders will work properly.

That being said, it works very well and is very cheap and fairly easy to set up.

1, Install trunked radio in fire station; leave on dispatch talkgroup (lock it up so the firefighters can't fiddle with it).
2. Connect a paging decoder to the accessory connector on the radio.
3. Install a day/night switch on the output of the decoder. This will route the audio to the PA all the time when in Day setting, and only when the correct tones are received in the Night setting.
4. Connect output of Day/Night switch to station PA system.

It should even work with Locution, as long as Locutia knows to send the station tones before she starts to talk.

Any good radio tech worth his salt should be able to set something like that up.
I assume the tones over Smartnet is being done on an analog system. I can't see this working on a P25 system.

I have started to give a similar question more thought. When my agency is out on the road, for a call, we do not have our pagers with us, and leave our VHF mobiles tuned to something other than the VHF simulcast of our dispatch. That leaves us with no alert, should we get another call, other than keeping an ear on all radio traffic. I have thought about trying to get a TG for our dispatches, and a special audio alert when that TG is received. (I am not sure how well that would be received, as each agency would need its own TG, and each one would not get that much traffic.)

My secondary, and more likely response, is to get some pagers, in automotive chargers, set for alert only, and install them in the big trucks.
 
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