The text below was copied from this morning's National Incident Situation Management Report put out by the National Interagency Fire Center and regards narrowbanding. Most of us that monitor federal agencies are familiar with what is stated, but for those who don't, and may not realize that all of public safety will be affected by narrowbanding in the future, here is some good information.
The ability to have positive, reliable communication is one of the most important safety
considerations we have in Wildland fire. As we are forced to adapt to technological changes, maintaining good radio communications becomes more complex and requires a heightened level of skill and awareness from all firefighters. The following are some facts and suggestions that may make radio communications easier.
Federal Agencies are under a congressional mandate to narrowband their frequencies by January 1, 2005. State and municipal agencies will not have to follow suit until the year 2013. For firefighters trying to determine if a frequency will be narrowbanded or not, this means that it is probably a good bet that Federal frequencies (those frequencies between 162.0000 and 174.0000 Mhz) are.
Operating your radio in the wideband mode while working in a narrowband environment may cause radio communication problems for everyone working on that channel. The symptoms may range from distorted transmissions to no transmission at all. Before we were mandated to work in narrowband, frequencies were listed with just three digits past the decimal point. It is imperative that we now convey frequencies with four digits past the decimal point, for example 168.xxxx
Some firefighters mistakenly believe that if they simply punch in four numbers past the decimal point, the channel will then be narrowbanded. This is not true! Each channel must be programmed specifically to operate in wideband or narrowband. Narrowband programming instructions for most handheld radios can be found at
Check your frequency guides, plans and maps to see which mode the frequencies are supposed to be operating on. If these don't€™t have the information you need, find it and make pen and ink notes for yourself. If available, have a radio technician check your radio to ensure you are operating in the proper mode on the assigned frequencies.
Discuss the narrow/wide band concept with all firefighters, managers and pilots.
I wish I could get my hands on those frequency guides, plans, and maps that are mentioned. It is interesting to note that distortion or lack of transmitting may occur when a wideband radio is used in a narrowband environment. I listen to a remote base downlink that is part of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks and it must have a wideband receiver and one repeater in the Park (Palmer) must still be wideband also, because there are a lot of distorted signals on the frequency. I only hear the one repeater so all the rest must be narrowband. The reverse may be true also, where Palmer is the narrowband repeater and the remaining repeaters are all wideband. I've noticed that not every federal radio system has completed the narrowband conversion process in spite of the almost two year old due date.