Augusta, GA - Public safety officials push for new radio system

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KF5YDR

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If they didn't use 800 MHz they wouldn't have so many problems with foliage.

How many channels does a city the size of Augusta require?
 

KAA951

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If they didn't use 800 MHz they wouldn't have so many problems with foliage.
If they operated a radio system that was actually designed to cover their community, instead of just leasing space on a neighboring statewide system, they wouldn't have problems with foliage no matter what band they were on. State systems have their advantages, but if communities choose to use them without adding additional infrastructure they likely will not be happy with the result.
 

MTS2000des

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The Palmetto 800 system is a good system, when Augusta-Richmond signed on, they were given the OPTION to add sites as needed at their expense as a stakeholder. The elected NOT to do so. The coverage is what it is, and the persons making that decision had full awareness of this.

The Palmetto 800 system is being overlayed with an Astro 25 7.13/14 core, and eventually the legacy V4.1 core will be phased out. Additional sites will be added as needed.

This would be a GREAT time for Augusta-Richmond to work WITH the Palmetto 800 folks to add some needed sites during this overlay. One thing for sure is going out and buying another 7.xx system core and hardware is wasteful, what IS needed are additional sites. With a new shared core in place, they can spend a minimum amount on adding the new sites and increasing coverage for all users across the board.

Procuring a new, separate system is wasteful and capricious, not the mention it hinders interoperability. We have this same disparate patching of non-interconnected, separately funded and maintained DTRS systems across metro Atlanta. It's a first responder and taxpayer nightmare.

Don't make the same mistake Augusta. Work with the Palmetto folks to improve the system you are already on. Building your own will ALWAYS drain your bank account much faster.
 

rapidcharger

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They need to go back to analog conventional. That is not a big complicated city with hundreds of departments. They need 1 or 2 channels for police. 1 or 2 channels for fire. They're making this way more difficult than it has to be for a small town with a small geographic area. And very high unemployment rate, I might add.
 
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KF5YDR

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They need to go back to analog conventional. That is not a big complicated city with hundreds of departments. They need 1 or 2 channels for police. 1 or 2 channels for fire.
There's definitely no reason for them to go analog, but a trunking system may he overkill for what they need. P25 conventional would probably do them fine if their capacity needs are in fact that small, with the advantages of interoperability and an upgrade path as P25 becomes the universal standard and Phase II rolls out. The advantage I see for a trunking system is being able to dynamically reassign units to talkgroups and establish temporary talkgroups as needed without having to add (and pay for) additional frequencies on their license.

Can anyone with experience installing/maintaining/using a radio system for a city this size chime in with how many channels/talkgroups they would need? Not discounting your answer, rapidcharger, I just don't have any idea and I'm curious to learn.
 

rapidcharger

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Not discounting your answer, rapidcharger, I just don't have any idea and I'm curious to learn.
Here's all you need to know.
They don't have the money.
They're running a large budget deficit. They're laying off teachers.
They have high unemployment.
They have high crime. They have to spend more money to try to prevent crime (eg through education and jobs) and to fight crime (eg hiring more cops) but that's going to take money too. They have bigger problems to deal with. They've managed with analog radios before, and a lot of large cities with a lot more people do. (such as the Miami-Dade Fire rescue who uses analog conventional in their service area comprised of 12.5 TIMES the population as richmond county.)

Digital radios are just swell, no argument from me there. But if you don't have the money to buy them or the infrastructure, you need to think of something else. "Just raising taxes" won't work when A QUARTER of the entire county lives below the federal poverty level.
 

12dbsinad

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There's definitely no reason for them to go analog, but a trunking system may he overkill for what they need. P25 conventional would probably do them fine if their capacity needs are in fact that small, with the advantages of interoperability and an upgrade path as P25 becomes the universal standard and Phase II rolls out. The advantage I see for a trunking system is being able to dynamically reassign units to talkgroups and establish temporary talkgroups as needed without having to add (and pay for) additional frequencies on their license.

Can anyone with experience installing/maintaining/using a radio system for a city this size chime in with how many channels/talkgroups they would need? Not discounting your answer, rapidcharger, I just don't have any idea and I'm curious to learn.
There is nothing wrong with analog conventional, in fact it can save big money when doing a conventional system compared to P25 and is much easier to simulcast for excellent talk out coverage. The money saved could then be used for something else, or not scimping on sites to save money (which is usually what gets cut). The problem is analog is no longer lucrative for the large radio manafactures anymore. They wouldn't make nearly as much money, so why sell it or push it as part of a solution?
 

SCPD

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Palmetto 800 is not the issue. I was on duty the day the ice storm hit us in February... I was out chasing downed power lines and downed trees, along with the other calls for service, for almost 22 hours continuously. I don't know of any radio system that doesn't have issues... some folks tend to believe that their radios are suppose to work 100%, 100% of the time. The law of averages, IMHO, won't allow that. The system has switched to site trunking two maybe three times in eight years that I'm aware of. Site trunking is a PITA but at least we can still communicate. We only affiliate with four towers, one in North Augusta, SC, and the remaining three on our side of the Savannah river. Which is more cost effective to obtain the same results? Adding additional towers or replacing the system and leaving Palmetto 800?

When we, the county, "rent" from Palmetto 800 it's much akin to the average Joe getting cell service. He buys the phone and then contracts with a cell carrier. The cell carrier takes care of all the infrastructure, updating equipment, software, cell sites, paying for repairs, etc. The same goes for being on the Pal 800 system, we buy the radios and rent everything else from them. They provide 24/7 tech service, equipment updates, etc. for $28.50 a month per radio ID. The county doesn't have to have radio techs on call 24/7, they don't have to pay for equipment updates, etc. There's pros and cons to being on the system and the one that really stands out is statewide interoperability. This came in handy during the chlorine spill in Graniteville, SC a few years back. Also, we have the capability to be "patched" with Columbia County if an incident occurs and interoperability is needed. BTW, in worse case scenario all of our county comms can be routed through Ft. Gordon, if needed, with no break in continuity. This was done in June 2012 when a huge electrical storm took out our 911 center and all county services didn't know any difference.

The whole State of South Carolina seems to operate efficiently on the system, AFAIK. Our deputies use portables, exclusively, and have remote mics with the antenna attached. When they're in a fringe area, inside a vehicle, it's sometimes difficult to affiliate with a tower. We have mobiles in our fire trucks so the radio problems aren't there but when on the fire ground affiliation can be difficult when inside a structure fire, your radio is in your turn out coat, pressed against your body attenuating the signal.

I don't know, or have, the answers but presently the county can't afford a new system. The county is losing trained, and qualified, deputies and firefighters at a rate that would make your head spin. 128 firefighters have left the department in the last five years and just over 200 deputies have left in that same time frame. These public servants are leaving because they haven't had a pay raise since gasoline was $1.85 a gallon. They're leaving for higher paying public safety jobs in other cities or just leaving public safety altogether. What kind of message does it send if they needlessly spend money for a new radio system vs. adding additional towers that would fix the problem?
 

MTS2000des

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When we, the county, "rent" from Palmetto 800 it's much akin to the average Joe getting cell service. He buys the phone and then contracts with a cell carrier. The cell carrier takes care of all the infrastructure, updating equipment, software, cell sites, paying for repairs, etc. The same goes for being on the Pal 800 system, we buy the radios and rent everything else from them. They provide 24/7 tech service, equipment updates, etc. for $28.50 a month per radio ID. The county doesn't have to have radio techs on call 24/7, they don't have to pay for equipment updates, etc.
These are the benefits of being on someone else' system anywhere. Provided the system is run by competent people who prioritize problem resolution, it's a win-win for end users.

Which is more cost effective to obtain the same results? Adding additional towers or replacing the system and leaving Palmetto 800?
Becoming a stakeholder by owning infrastructure on a shared system is the most cost effective way to go. If more agencies work together, costs are saved by all, interoperability is gained, and everyone ultimately gets what they want for less.


Our deputies use portables, exclusively, and have remote mics with the antenna attached. When they're in a fringe area, inside a vehicle, it's sometimes difficult to affiliate with a tower.
The system is designed for 95 percent MOBILE coverage in the county. Portables with stubby remote antennas, subtract about 12-15 db. That is bad enough at street level, it only gets worse inside a vehicle or a building. Users should be made aware of the limitations of the system. As you stated, no system has 100 percent coverage, 100 percent of the time.

Mobile radios should be installed in every vehicle. Portables should not be relied on as the sole radio by public safety workers. That is a workplace safety issue.

We have mobiles in our fire trucks so the radio problems aren't there but when on the fire ground affiliation can be difficult when inside a structure fire, your radio is in your turn out coat, pressed against your body attenuating the signal.
USFA, APCO, IAFC, and many other groups advise against using any trunked radio talkgroups for fireground "hot zone" communications. Relying on infrastructure miles away from the hot zone to talk to your crew 20 feet away is not only a waste of resources, it is downright dangerous.

Your agency should have analog simplex channels for fire tac use, and allow your IC to relay and traffic to dispatch if needed. This way the points of failure are limited to the radios on the scene themselves.

The county is losing trained, and qualified, deputies and firefighters at a rate that would make your head spin. 128 firefighters have left the department in the last five years and just over 200 deputies have left in that same time frame. These public servants are leaving because they haven't had a pay raise since gasoline was $1.85 a gallon. They're leaving for higher paying public safety jobs in other cities or just leaving public safety altogether. What kind of message does it send if they needlessly spend money for a new radio system vs. adding additional towers that would fix the problem?
Well, coming from someone who lives in a county of over 800,000 who has watched a mass exodus from our county police at a time when the same county commission goes on a wild spending spree like a teenage girl with her parent's credit card, I know how you feel.

Our county police are some of the lowest paid of metro Atlanta counties, they aren't given raises, and are so slammed with calls they cannot even take meal breaks. Yet the same corrupt board o bubbas who refused year after year to give them raises, suddenly "found" $397 million of our tax money to benefit some private for-profit company in Colorado to bribe them into bringing the Atlanta Braves into our county. Nevermind that we don't want it. When big money changes hands, you get a different set of priorities.

Don't think the same types of craziness don't occur when radio vendors start offering free Disney cruises and casino trips either.
 

SCPD

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I concur with the mobile radio coverage at 95%. The problem is that the county has to pay per radio (per radio ID) to be on the system. Someone out there believes that using a portable radio, continuously, for a 12 hour shift is sufficient... all because they don't want to fork over additional funding to have mobile radios in the S.O. vehicles. I've heard countless times, on the air, a deputy advising dispatch that he/she needs to hold calls for him/her because they need to change their battery or, they missed a call because the battery went dead and they had to do a battery change in a hurry. The deputies get issued a radio, charger, and two batteries. Everyone in the radio community knows we should condition our batteries and rotate them properly... deputies, for the most part, don't know they should. The batteries don't last very well on the 12 hour shift when they're using them continuously. Hopefully, things will improve but we just don't sweat it because we have no control over it.
 
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