BCD396XT: Fire Tone out, how to for dummy?

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Machria

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Hi folks,
Can somebody help me with FTO's?

I've had the BCD396xt for a while, and have never really tried the Tone Out feature. I understand what tone out does, basically set off the correct pagers for fireman to alert them of an incoming call. But after looking up the freq's / tone codes on the RR database and trying to put them into the scanner got me a bit confused... (pretty easy to do!!).

I live in Suffolk County, NY, in the township of Brookhaven. And also in the village of Brookhaven which is part of FD Division 5 in the RR db: Suffolk County, New York (NY) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference

So the questions are:
1. What do I put into the Fire Tone out settings as the Frequency? I assume all the FD's in the area (Suffolk Cnty) would use the same FTO frequency, right? So what is that freq, is it simply the DISPATCH frequency? In this case that is 46.460 (Fire Dispatch - Ccunty wide). Is that correct?

2. I found a list of Tones for Suffolk County on W2LINET.com Downloads / Fire Tone-Out Charts / Suffolk Tone Chart v1.0.2 - W2LIE.net | Monitor Long Island, Inc.
In there, Brookhaven FD has Common Tone: 1180.0 and Tone 1 Gen: 1743.0 But then it also has 5 more tones listed for what looks like different "STA"tions, Chiefs and RtnTone. Ok, so there are separate tones for the chiefs only I guess... so we will ignore that for now.

So I assume I put the common tone and Tone 1 into Tone A and Tone B, right?

3. Assuming I actually got this right above, I then just click [Menu], then [Tone-Out for..], and then [Tone-Out Standby] and scroll to "BROOKHAVEN FD". IT now says: Tone-Out Standby Brookhaven FD w/ A and B tone codes listed.

I assume this will now just sit there quite until those particular tone codes are sent over the air on 46.460. Correct? And when those tones are received, the scanner will unmute and play the audio of whatever is broadcast, i.e. "Signal 12 for Brookhaven FD, at 123 Towering Inferno Street, cross street Light Me Up Rd....." Is this correct?

4. And if I do not know the Tone codes, I would just put in the Freq (46.460), leave the tone A and B blank, Put it in "Tone-Out Search" and wait until I hear that station called and note the A and B and then program them in, correct? I assume when they are left blank, you will hear all tones/broadcasts for all stations done on that frequency, so you have to wait to hear the station you are looking for, correct?

5. Ok, now lets assume I have programmed in all 10 of my Tone out memories with proper Freqs and Tones I am interested in (aka the towns around me). Is there a way I can simply monitor all 10 of those at the same time, or is the Tone-Out feature only look at one at a time? If the Tone-Outs feature only looks at 1 at a time I assume if I want to "scan" these I would need to put these into regular scan memory and add to a group I'm scanning.

So many questions, so little time!! ;) Thanks for any help!
 

Machria

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Thanks.... read through that part. But either the freqs/tones I'm getting out of those links are wrong/outdated, or I am not doing it correctly. Or both! ;)
 

ofd8001

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I suggest going to YouTube and searching for "Uniden Fire Tone Out". Several videos are there which may be helpful.

Even though they may not use your specific scanner, the programming principles are very similar.
 

Machria

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Thanks. I've watched all those video, not very helpful. They remind me of the Chinese instruction booklets that come with cheap electronics. "Power Button: Press this to power the unit". "Program button: Use this button to program the unit". ;)

I know how to program the data in. I'm really looking for help on deciphering in WHAT to program in (Freq's, tone codes...). I've tried all the ones I know of, and the ones listed in the RR db, and a few other db's (listed in my initial post). But I never see tone codes filling up A and B, and I never hear anything while sitting in Tone code standby or Search... ? BUT, I do get/hear most of my FD's, and FD dispatch's on my regular scanning groups when scanning. I just have to be doing something wrong using the FTO feature.
 

ofd8001

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There are three things you must set for Fire Tone Out. One is the frequency on which the tones and voice are broadcast. That's the easy part as you've noted, this can be found in the RR database.

The other two things are the specific tones (usually but not always) a Tone A and a Tone B. These things are not published in the Radio Reference database.

You might look at this wiki page, going to the very bottom. There are some links for fire tone out. http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Suffolk_County_(NY)

Alternatively you can put your scanner in Fire Tone Out Search and have it determine which the Tone A and Tone B.

Unless you have all three things (frequency, Tone A and Tone B) programmed, your scanner won't do anything in Fire Tone Out Standby.

FWIW fire departments may be reluctant to share specifics about Fire Tone Out data. Someone with the right kind of radio transmitting equipment could make a lot of mischief by falsely activating fire pagers.
 

jonwienke

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Paging tones have nothing to do with CTCSS/PL tones. Paging tones are going to be above 300 Hz.
 

Machria

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There are three things you must set for Fire Tone Out. One is the frequency on which the tones and voice are broadcast. That's the easy part as you've noted, this can be found in the RR database.
Well, I have the dispatch channels and listen to them, and hear tones on them (beeee boooooob beeeeep beeeeep, "This is KEG977 for a Signal 10 for ....."). I assume those tones I hear are the actual paging tones, is that correct? And I assume the tone outs go out over the same main dispatch channel I listen to?


The other two things are the specific tones (usually but not always) a Tone A and a Tone B. These things are not published in the Radio Reference database.

You might look at this wiki page, going to the very bottom. There are some links for fire tone out. http://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Suffolk_County_(NY)

Alternatively you can put your scanner in Fire Tone Out Search and have it determine which the Tone A and Tone B..
Yes, that is what I'm trying to accomplish. But when I put in the dispatch freq, and put it in "Search" on that channel, nothing ever happens. No voice, no tones, and A and B do not get filled in. Does that mean I have the wrong freq for paging, or am I not doing something to get it into "search" mode?


Unless you have all three things (frequency, Tone A and Tone B) programmed, your scanner won't do anything in Fire Tone Out Standby

Understood. But once I have the proper freq, and A and B, then I just put it in Standby on that tone out channel, and it ONLY will activate when that tone out comes thru, correct? So there is no way to "scan" all 10 or some subset of the 10 tone out channels, correct?

FWIW fire departments may be reluctant to share specifics about Fire Tone Out data. Someone with the right kind of radio transmitting equipment could make a lot of mischief by falsely activating fire pagers.
Understood.


Paging tones have nothing to do with CTCSS/PL tones. Paging tones are going to be above 300 Hz.
Hmmmm, maybe that is what I'm doing wrong.... am I looking at PL codes and not the paging tones?? I have to double check that.... thanks.
 

Machria

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Got it. Couple things:
1. I had the wrong freq for dispatch
2. Now I understand the FTO feature does NOT scan the 10 FTO channels, it only either standby or search on ONE of the 10 channels at a time.

@jonwienke Thanks! That little comment was VERY helpful, I was confusing the PL tones with the FTO "paging tones". I should have know better. ;)
 

scanman1958

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The important part of the set up is putting it in the search mode. When the tones go off it should show tone a and b as they sound. If there are multiple tones being sent for multiple units then only the tirst set of tones will appear on the screen. You will have to do this many many times if there are multiple units/stations. Document each set of tone so you don't loose them. And once you get the tone out freqs you can only monitor one freq at a time. It is a neat feature but it is not real simple. You must learn how to use it. Be patient.
 

Machria

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The important part of the set up is putting it in the search mode. When the tones go off it should show tone a and b as they sound. If there are multiple tones being sent for multiple units then only the tirst set of tones will appear on the screen. You will have to do this many many times if there are multiple units/stations. Document each set of tone so you don't loose them. And once you get the tone out freqs you can only monitor one freq at a time. It is a neat feature but it is not real simple. You must learn how to use it. Be patient.
Thanks. Yep I got it now. Doing exactly that, and have picked up and documented a bunch of the FD's and a few EMS stations I'm interested in already now.

It's a bummer we have no way of then programming them into regular scanning channels so we can then monitor a bunch of them at once. But I do understand why, the radio would have to stop on that freq and wait for the entire tone to get the tone codes, then check if they are a set that are in any of the memories, and either stay and listen or continue if they are not ones in memory. I guess the only way it could do this without "stopping scanning" is by having multiple receivers. One working on regular stuff, and a 2nd receiver just listening for tone outs. Easily done, but probably costly to implement. I know some of the expensive HAM radio's and receivers have this ability, but they are $3k plus. ;)
 

N9JIG

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If you set the tones to zero for both the A and B tones on your 396XT the radio will open on any set of tones and display the approximate tone values. If you are on the ball you can read them off the display and guess at the actual tones used (See the attached reference sheet for the list of probable tones used).

If you are using ARC-XT Pro software to log activity then the log will contain the tone values. (Other software may also do this but I am not sure.)

The radio will display the tones but they may be off by a Hz. or so. This is usually OK, close enough is good enough most of the time when it comes to scanners. If you can compare a few more tones decoded you may be able to determine the sets on which the tones came from to make educated guesses as to the actual tones used.

While current consoles can generate (and radios decode) any tone specified they used to be more limited so tones selected came from specific groups. Even now many agencies stay within the groups used for decades, out of habit, preference or to retain use of older equipment that may still be in use.
 

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Machria

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If you set the tones to zero for both the A and B tones on your 396XT the radio will open on any set of tones and display the approximate tone values. If you are on the ball you can read them off the display and guess at the actual tones used (See the attached reference sheet for the list of probable tones used).

If you are using ARC-XT Pro software to log activity then the log will contain the tone values. (Other software may also do this but I am not sure.)

The radio will display the tones but they may be off by a Hz. or so. This is usually OK, close enough is good enough most of the time when it comes to scanners. If you can compare a few more tones decoded you may be able to determine the sets on which the tones came from to make educated guesses as to the actual tones used.

While current consoles can generate (and radios decode) any tone specified they used to be more limited so tones selected came from specific groups. Even now many agencies stay within the groups used for decades, out of habit, preference or to retain use of older equipment that may still be in use.
Awesome PDF, thanks!! So far, the ones I have received are dead on correct. I think I'm very close to a main FD repeater in he area. There is a large tower with lots of stuff on it including some microwave stuff, and no cell stuff on it.
 

ofd8001

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I'm sure there are a ton of exceptions out there, but the "Best Practices" are to use a separate frequency for emergency service alerting (as in tone and voice paging). In that case it is only an "outgoing" frequency, one where units do not talk-in via a repeater.

The theory behind this is that you don't want crews at a structure fire scene to be calling for help only to be "drowned out" with a trash fire being dispatched.
 

N9JIG

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I'm sure there are a ton of exceptions out there, but the "Best Practices" are to use a separate frequency for emergency service alerting (as in tone and voice paging). In that case it is only an "outgoing" frequency, one where units do not talk-in via a repeater.

The theory behind this is that you don't want crews at a structure fire scene to be calling for help only to be "drowned out" with a trash fire being dispatched.
This is the whole idea about Fireground channels. 153.830 is the historic main fireground for many departments around the country but they could be almost any channel.

You do not want dispatch operations on the fireground channels for exactly the reason stated. Most Command officers will usually have at least 2 radios going, one to talk to Dispatch and the other on the fireground channel. On larger scenes there might be several fireground channels assigned to specific commands or "Sectors". While my memory is fading since I went thru ICS classes these Sectors could be geographic ("North Sector", "Interior/Exterior") or task specific ("Rehab", "Staging") and have different channels assigned to them.

Before I retired our FD's started adding several new fireground channels, and in our area they were assigned standard names. 153.830 is Fireground Red, there were also FG White, Blue, Gold, Black and Grey as well as the main Mutual Aid operating channel. Since almost everyone used VHF High, these were in everyone's radios so they could be easily assigned no matter who showed up at the party.
 

ofd8001

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The extended Chicago area does have a very well thought out system for radio channels.

Having said that, I always took comfort with our radio system where fireground operations took place on repeated radio channels (paging frequency is separate) and there was a dispatcher monitoring the channel. More than once a dispatcher was the first one to catch someone calling for help.
 
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