Best Way to manage my MARCS scanner

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WuLabsWuTecH

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So I've had my MARCS radio for a few years now, and with the areas I'm in , 10 banks of channels is barely enough to get by, but making a few choices, I was able to get it down to that (I have a Uniden BCD396XT... I think...)

Now with Columbus going to MARCS, theres no way I can fit all of the things I want to listen to in Columbus into 10 banks of channels, much less all of MARCS. Is there a way I can set up multiple systems so I have have 10 banks for Columbus Area Fire, 10 banks for Columbus Area LE, and 10 banks for the rest of MARCS throughout the state?
 

northernsummit

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So I've had my MARCS radio for a few years now, and with the areas I'm in , 10 banks of channels is barely enough to get by, but making a few choices, I was able to get it down to that (I have a Uniden BCD396XT... I think...)

Now with Columbus going to MARCS, theres no way I can fit all of the things I want to listen to in Columbus into 10 banks of channels, much less all of MARCS. Is there a way I can set up multiple systems so I have have 10 banks for Columbus Area Fire, 10 banks for Columbus Area LE, and 10 banks for the rest of MARCS throughout the state?
So are you trying to just better organize the talk-groups logically? My suggestion is to first determine exactly what radio you have because you seem to doubt if its a 396XT. Then, go here:

Easier to Read BCD396XT Digital Scanner Manual

This is a link into the Easier to read manual right into the planning section. You have far more than 10 channel banks unless I'm not understanding what you're doing.

You can group talk-groups into "groups" of 500 then turn those groups on/off as you wish.

Keep in mind if everything you're listening to is on MARCS and MARCS alone you're not setting up "multiple systems" as much as you're setting up "multiple groups". Your system is MARCS. Inside of MARCS you monitor "sites" which are defined by a common control channel - then you monitor talk-groups that interest you off those sites. If you're trying to use the scanner statewide then you'll likely build out a lot of sites - but make sure you don't scan them all if you're not genuinely near them or it'll really slow down your scanner.

Since MARCS is a P25 system use this worksheet (referenced in the above website) to layout your system and assign it if you need a visual:

http://marksscanners.com/396XT/worksheets/BCD396XT Motorola P25.pdf
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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Yes, I do in fact have the BCD396XT. With all the radio changes going on at the department lately, the numbers and letters have gotten all confusing in my head.

I was under the impression that when I set up a system, I program sites and assign them to quick keys. I can have like a hundred of those--more than I'll ever use. Then I program the TG's into Groups. I can only have 10 groups per system.

Initially, I wanted to setup my scanner like my walkie at work. For example, for the Columbus system, Group 1 would be BN1 TGs, Group 2 would be BN2 TG's ... Group 9 would be the 9 EMS TG's, Group 10 would be the 10 FIRE TG's etc. But then I was told I'd need to program the entire system over if I wanted to go to 11 with the Hospitals, 15 with Suburbs, 16 with MECC, etc.

So I Lumped all of the less used TG's into Group 0 which I would only activate if anything big was going on, kept all my frequently used ones on Group 1, and then spread out a few others accordingly to make 10 Groups.

The above was for the old Franklin County Public Safety 800 system. Now that we're on MARCS, I have to merge the above 10 groups into the 10 groups I already have in place for MARCS. Right now, I have Group 1 on MARCS as Madison County Fire, Group 2 as Greene County Fire, Group 3 as Montgomery County Fire, Group 4 as Madison County Law, Group 5 as Greene County Law etc...

I'm wondering for people who travel between two places, like me, if there is any way to have 20 different groups of TGs. When I'm in the Dayton area, I want to be able to decide which specific TGs I want to listen to so I don't have to scan all of Montgomery County, so I need to put certain TGs into certain groups, but when I'm in Columbus, sometimes I only want to hear 10 Fire, 9 EMS and not all of the police as well.

My question is what's the best way to organize my scanner so I can have more than 10 groups assigned to the function keys 0-9? Can I program one system, call it CentOH Fire and program in the Columbus and surrounding area sites with 10 groups related to fire, then have another system call it CentOH Police and program in the Columbus and surrounding area sites with 10 groups related to police, and then have another one called OHIO Marcs and get another 10 groups to use related to when I'm in other areas of the state?
 

jscott02

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My question is what's the best way to organize my scanner so I can have more than 10 groups assigned to the function keys 0-9? Can I program one system, call it CentOH Fire and program in the Columbus and surrounding area sites with 10 groups related to fire, then have another system call it CentOH Police and program in the Columbus and surrounding area sites with 10 groups related to police, and then have another one called OHIO Marcs and get another 10 groups to use related to when I'm in other areas of the state?
That's what I've done with my 996p2.
 

W8RMH

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I had a 396 before I upgraded to a 436. I just set up more systems (about 80). There were duplicated control channels in more than 1 system. It makes it easier to scan using the system/site quick keys. 0=Columbus Fire, 1-5=Columbus Police Zones, 6=County Police, 7=County Fire, 8=Grove City, 9=Hospitals, 10=OSU, 11=COIRS, etc. I had every talk group in the county programmed, this way they were available should there be an incident in a certain area under a certain agency's jurisdiction. I didn't scan everything at once but it was all there if needed or if I was in that area.

I had a system for local state agencies and each county had it's own system. Each county was assigned it's own quick key containing it's MARCS sites, local and state talk groups, plus any conventional channels still in use.

I had about 20 counties in the Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton Metro areas including Northern Kentucky. I also had systems for aviation, businesses, railroad, security, OSU, amateur, and federal stuff. I just switched systems with the system quick keys as I traveled.
 
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WuLabsWuTecH

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More questions now that I'm getting into it more.

Franklin County apparently has 6 towers. Columbus City, Columbus MARCS, Bixby (Groveport), Discovery (Grove City), Mobile Site (649) and Franklin County. Which ones of these towers do I want? Or do I want all of them?
 

northernsummit

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More questions now that I'm getting into it more.

Franklin County apparently has 6 towers. Columbus City, Columbus MARCS, Bixby (Groveport), Discovery (Grove City), Mobile Site (649) and Franklin County. Which ones of these towers do I want? Or do I want all of them?
You'll no doubt get better advise from others in the region down there but I wouldn't include the mobile tower at all. Those are towers on wheels (there are two) and if you look in the DB they have different system ID's than the rest of the statewide MARCS system. My understanding is that they operate exclusively as a pop-up system with talk groups specific to those systems and are not typically linked. When the RNC was up in Cleveland they had one on a bridge and by the time I realized it was there I didn't have any way to go monitor what was going on. Rumor was it was all encrypted anyway.

As for monitoring all those other towers I don't think you need to. I'd pick the most logical one or two closest to me and see if I think I'm missing any traffic that interests me. So long as any one radio is affiliated with the tower/site you're listening to for the talk-groups you care about you should hear the traffic. Each site you add to your scanner increases your "dwell time" on that particular system.
 

W8RMH

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More questions now that I'm getting into it more.

Franklin County apparently has 6 towers. Columbus City, Columbus MARCS, Bixby (Groveport), Discovery (Grove City), Mobile Site (649) and Franklin County. Which ones of these towers do I want? Or do I want all of them?
There are 6 sites in the county, Franklin County, Columbus City, and MARCS Columbus, Discovery Dr., Bixby Rd, and Darby. Each site uses six or more towers. They also share towers. The sites are what you program not the towers. Some units can roam and use any or all of the sites. I program all the sites. I don't normally scan the Bixby and Darby sites unless I am in those areas.

For example Columbus City is a "Site" which uses six "towers" which operate on the same frequencies (Simulcast), located at 30 E. Broad, 4250 Morse Rd, 3080 Dublin Rd, 5600 Parsons Ave, 4250 Groves Rd, and 444 Lazelle Rd. The County and/or State also use these towers in addition to towers at 1900 Cannon Dr. and 2470 North Star Rd.

To hear Columbus units, MECC, and Westerville Fire you will need the Columbus City site.

For any county and suburban units you will need the Franklin County site which shares the above towers plus sites (single towers) on Discovery Dr. in Grove City, Bixby Rd near Groveport, and the Darby site north of West Jefferson. If you were near Grove City or Groveport you may want to add the Discovery and/or Bixby Rd. sites. I mainly monitor Grove City and usually hear them on the Discovery Site, but may also hear them on the Columbus, Franklin County, and MARCS Columbus sites.

For state agencies, OSHP, ODOT, Corrections, OSU, etc. you would need the "Columbus MARCS" site, which is the state site, which uses a tower at 1900 Cannon Drive in addition to the other towers.

Depending on your location you may have issues on the city site with Simulcast Digital Distortion. If you have issues with garbled speech and signals breaking up try less antenna, a directional Yagi antenna, or a dual band amateur antenna may help.

I don't mess with the mobile sites.

I program my scanners with systems for departments/geographical areas with the appropriate talk groups, then include all the sites in each system.
 
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WuLabsWuTecH

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Ok, I finally think I'm done with the planning stages of this and ready to start programming things in. Now for a question that I can't remember the answer to but I'm pretty sure I figured out before:

How do I set up sites in FreeScan for MARCS? Are the defaults ok or do I need to change things like site time, APCO Mode, Modulation, APCO Band Plan, etc?
 
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