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Washington, D.C. - Big city fire depts balk at new digital radios

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Thunderbolt

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Dude111

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Digital is garbage compared to ANALOGUE and for important services like FIRE,EMS,etc... THEY SHOULD STAY ANALOGUE!!
 

tolley

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I agree digital is too risky to use for fireground operations especially for interior operations. Give me an analogue portable any day of the week!
 

tolley

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For EMS I would rather use the traditional analog med channels than our digital 800 equipment. There are too many important things that the hospital needs to hear and vice versa in the ambulance. When you have to keep repeating yourself due to poor reception it compromises patient safety. If you misinterpret an order and do something wrong the patient is S.O.L and then you will be up #$it's Creek.
 

rescue674aa

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I agree

I agree with all of you we are on a analog system but we switched to digital last year and a medic was hit by a 18 wheeler and they couldn't call for help nor did the emergency button. The medics were injuries but are doing great now and they said there portable worked but couldn't get out for help they had to use there cell and call 911. We are now back to analog and there is no way were are going back per the chief.
 

tolley

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It's funny but New York City FD is still using analog we should stick to the fundamentals and stop using fire and ems as an experiment for new toys.
 

cdknapp

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My area's law enforcement went to P25 about a year and a half ago; worst move they ever made. Poor voice quality; repeater lags, from what I see (hear) it all pure officer safety issues. THAT is NO improvement in my book.
Personally, I wouldn't even think about going to digital for structural firefighting. nor EMS for that matter.
The big radio boys are pushing all of this, and I am seeing all kinds of arguments about it all over the country. BIG BIG BUCKS.... for what? And many are selling it under the narrow band requirements guise, which is an outright lie; you don't need to go digital to use narrow band.
I personally have been in emergency services for over 35 years. No doubt that radios have made huge leaps over the years, but in my humble opinion, the digital stuff just don't cut it.
Give me an analog system, with decent radios, ANYDAY!
 

902

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Digital is garbage compared to ANALOGUE and for important services like FIRE,EMS,etc... THEY SHOULD STAY ANALOGUE!!
Digital and analog have their places in the toolbox. We seem to want to hand everyone a hammer and say, "that's your hammer." Then we get into a situation that needs a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. You reach into your toolbox and the only thing you have to make something work is a hammer. Digital and analog, as well as networked, stand-alone repeater, mobile repeater, and simplex are different tools that can be used at an incident. Same thing with the characteristics of certain frequency bands. The first place we lost control was not telling the manufacturing community what "we" want. Instead they tell us. Then, we lost more control by accepting that the only useful tool is a hammer. It will get worse. In the years to come, that hammer will be taken out of the toolbox by the FCC at the behest of Congress, and auctioned off so the winning bidder can melt down the metal and turn them into can openers that you can lease and stick in your toolbox instead. Then we can all be equally ineffective because we all have the same kind of can opener when we show up at a common incident. Or, you can be in Los Angeles and I can be in New York and we can take our can openers out at exactly the same time. Wow. That's true interoperability.
 

mike_s104

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Digital can sound better and has all the added bells and whistles that can be very useful. In Berkeley Co. WV (can't speak for other counties/cities/towns in WV on the WVIRP), from what I've heard from listening, there are some dead spots in the county. This is going to get someone killed (fire/ems or police) eventually. I've have listened while firefighters were on a working structure fire and their radios would not get to the repeater. They eventually switched to an analog simplex channel on their digital radios (used to talk to helos; basically a MED channel input freq). I also regularly hear the sheriff's office reference the "other radio". The other radio is, well, a basic CB radio! I know in the past and I think it's still the case, that Loudoun Co. VA does have an analog fireground freq that they do use; I have heard them using it when they were in my employer's 5 story office building. In my unprofessional opinion, when a agency or locality are planning a new fangled P25 system, they need to figure in a few analog channels just for situations like firegrounds or other situations where the radios cannot reach the tower. And, if the big companies that are making tons of money from these systems would be responsible enough to accept the fact their systems may and will fail from time to time and make it mandatory that the radios have a few analog channels build in.
 
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I think that there is a flaw in the setup and programming of these radios, Fire and Police should mantain priority over all other users on a trunked radio system, weither it be analog or digital. When a firefighter keys up his radio, His radio should be set up to tell the system that he is priority, there by allowing his call to go through the system. An other agency using the same system should have their radios set to low priority... such as municipalities, bulding inspecters ect...ect. It is tragic that first responders have lost their lives due to flaws in their communications systems, But I think that who ever is in charge of programming these radios should go through comprehensive training, And set the systems up how they should be set up. Rather than just programming all the radios with their proper channels and calling it good.
 

902

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I think that there is a flaw in the setup and programming of these radios, Fire and Police should mantain priority over all other users on a trunked radio system, weither it be analog or digital. When a firefighter keys up his radio, His radio should be set up to tell the system that he is priority, there by allowing his call to go through the system. An other agency using the same system should have their radios set to low priority... such as municipalities, bulding inspecters ect...ect. It is tragic that first responders have lost their lives due to flaws in their communications systems, But I think that who ever is in charge of programming these radios should go through comprehensive training, And set the systems up how they should be set up. Rather than just programming all the radios with their proper channels and calling it good.
What you said is very important.

When my former agency dumped P25 on me, I had no idea what I was getting into. There are SO MANY imbedded features in the radio and in the system, even with a conventional system, that if left at the default value will be detrimental. For a popular brand P25 radio, there are about 14 pages worth of parameters that go into each channel and personality. System configurations get equally involved.

There are a number of tweaks that can make digital better. AGC and audio gain is one. A unique unit ID for each radio is another. One that I found extremely important in a law enforcement environment is a "transmit inhibit on proper code detect" which stops people from transmitting over an in-progress transmission. On analog, you get heterodyne and maybe capture. In digital, two different digital signals may be mutually destructive ant nothing is heard. Timing parameters become critical, too. An agency must have a system manager who learns these and optimizes them to suit the needs of the agency - AND to make the equipment simple for the firefighter, EMT, or police officer to operate (i.e., you be good at what you do and let them be good at what they do) and conform to their daily needs, not so hard to work you need an engineering degree to use it. The radio has to be intuitive and the designer/system administrator/programmer have to anticipate how the user will use the radio and make it fit the need... not make the user change how they do things to fit the limitations of the radio or system.

Default settings often have hellacious results. For example, when the system was handed over, about 350 subscriber units (mobile and portables) had 6 channels programmed into them and each radio was set for a unit ID of "1." The gain settings were such that keying a radio picked up conversations in the room as well as the officer speaking into the microphone (no, it's NOT a good thing). Simple changes didn't fix all of the problems, but made a pretty significant difference.

As for provisioning priorities, modern systems have multiple levels of priority access, often putting a unit with an emergency button press at the top of queue. Got to be careful with preemption of in-progress transmissions. Fleet mapping and good system administration go a long way to making a system efficient. Message trunking (the system hangs for a few seconds while people speak) is least efficient and must wait for the conversation to time out before that talkpath is reused. Transmission trunking (the system frees up the talkpath after the transmitting party unkeys) is the most efficient. Sadly, a marketing technique to up-size systems depends on setting everything to message trunking and having users complain about system busies ("bonking out"), then requiring the addition of more talkpath channels (which may not be available).

All of these things and more have to be considered before someone can say a system or a particular technology is "no good." Some of it can be made much better and more reliable with optimization. And, some of it cannot. The more complicated things become, the more we have to be aware of techniques at our disposal and the less we can rely on the old fashioned "set and forget."
 

PJH

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And how many of you above actually used a digital system? I am not talking about listening on a scanner with a ratty speaker either....

Dead spots are not unique to digital or trunked systems. I don't know why that seems to keep coming up in these posts. Of all the digital and digital trunked systems, I've only had positive experiences with the features used.

As with ANY radio system, its all about how well you fund the system.

I do think that analog simplex comms belong on the fireground (as well as NFPA does too), but that doesn't stop many fire departments from running on trunked analog or digital systems.
 

fredva

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However

Dead spots are not unique to digital or trunked systems.
That may be true, but perhaps agencies should quit using dead spots in their analog systems as justification for buying a new digital system when there may be other solutions.
 

PJH

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Examples?

Typically when agencies are upgrading, they are going for best case funding, which lately doesn't happen due to all the budget issues. Agencies say "we want better coverage and x amount of sites" but allocated funding from the bean counters will say "your only getting x dollars" which translates into less infrastructure. So while the initial plans would have helped to eliminate or greatly reduced "dead spots", the person writing the check has the ultimate say. Thats just how it works.

Without going too in depth for the millioneth time, digital does "extend" the range of usable voice in fringe areas, but I have yet to see that being a major factor in proposals. Its an added benefit....but its not the #1, 2 or 3 selling point. In professional and first hand studies, this shows true in many cases...but once you hit that dead end fringe range...the voice is gone. In our testing using identical equipment...all you heard was static in analog but we were able to hear reconstructed voice in the digital mode. It was no where near quaility, but it was something.
 

CCHLLM

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The root problem for everyone who uses a radio in a public safety/emergency services vocation is always the same: the ones who make the equipment decisions and who set protocols for the working personnel are the ones who don't use a radio for anything more than a paperweight or credenza decoration.
 

izzyj4

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And how many of you above actually used a digital system? I am not talking about listening on a scanner with a ratty speaker either....

Dead spots are not unique to digital or trunked systems. I don't know why that seems to keep coming up in these posts. Of all the digital and digital trunked systems, I've only had positive experiences with the features used.

As with ANY radio system, its all about how well you fund the system.

I do think that analog simplex comms belong on the fireground (as well as NFPA does too), but that doesn't stop many fire departments from running on trunked analog or digital systems.

As a former CT State Police dispatcher, I have worked with a digital transmission 800 MHz trunked radio system. There are pros an cons to every type of radio system. The major problem with digital systems is the translation of voice to "0"s and "1"s in the mobile / portables, then re-translating the signal back to voice at the receiver. If the "0"s and "1"s are not there, you cannot make out what the person was saying. Either it comes in choppy or total digital garbling. With an analog system that everyone is accustomed too, you get that "squelch fading" effect where you can still make out what a person is saying. Just like the old VHF-Low band radios and VHF-high extenders CSP used to use, there are still going to be dead spots. One time at work one of the troopers was involved with an incident and he could not get out on any of the channels to our troop or the next near by troop, he had to call in via a phone to get a hold of us.

Another problem is the fact that the manufacturers are pushing these systems to make a buck. They are selling the next best thing since sliced bread. At work I am on a LTR system, non digital, the system sucks plain and simple. The reason, everyone except for the PD is on the system and the FD and EMS do not have priority. All the casino's operations are on the system and when it gets busy, we get bonked! Plus half of the places in the complex you can't even get a good signal and there are four tower locations line of site!

Everyone over complicates things, trying to have the next best thing. Trouble is we tend to forget the KISS method. If its worked in the past why change something, we just want something that works and we don't have to worry about it failing. Another thing is to change our operating styles with radios for public safety. Is there a place for digital, yes but like everyone here says field operations should be analog and in simplex or off a mobile repeater.
 
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