Inter-department communication

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MrVelvet

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During the fire this morning out in Chestermere, there was no CFR --> CFD communication. When the call when out to CFD units, they were switched to zone C16 and issued a Tac channel of C5. I also heard the radio call to CFR where the dispatcher told them they had C5 to use.

When CFD crews entered the home, their first concern was the roof collapsing in and that was broadcast on C5. Unfortunately, the roof did collapse and a CFR firefighter was inside when it did. According to the PIO report, he was knocked unconcious and had to be rescued by fire crews. Hopefully he is ok and makes a full recovery.

I read the PIO report where they said radio communication between the 2 departments was a problem. Was this due to a technical issue or can the 2 departments truly cannot talk on the same Tac channel?
 

Jay911

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Chestermere has a handful of Calgary DRS radios, but like most rural fire agencies, uses them for interops while enroute and between command and incoming units, not for interior fire attack. In an attack mode, I would think Chestermere would be using their UHF (400MHz) system.

I don't know exactly how the situation yesterday went down - I didn't even know a FF was injured until late last night - so I can't comment on any of that.

Most of us volunteers who surround Calgary have maybe 2, 5, or so trunk radios in the entire department. That's not enough to equip the teams working at the fireground with them all. In contrast, every riding position on a truck in CFD has a radio. So 12P has 5 radios, 22P has another 5, 12A has 2, etc - plus their mobile radios. Chestermere, Langdon, Irricana, Beiseker, Madden, Cochrane, and Redwood are all on UHF 400MHz radio systems of varying types and frequencies - but we all have each others' freqs and common freqs we can use together. Crossfield has both UHF and VHF channels, and Airdrie is exclusively VHF. (This is not to say that the other departments - like mine, Redwood - don't have VHF radios, but again, there are only a handful in the department, used for mutual aid/interop purposes, not one for every FF.) Springbank, Balzac, and any future stations Rockyview adds will be on the trunk system. (Springbank has a UHF radio to talk to Redwood and Cochrane, as well.) Until earlier this year, it was virtually impossible for Cochrane to talk to anyone else (or vice versa) because of their MPT1327 400MHz trunk system. That has been rectified, in the interests of both simplicity for the radio system maintainers, and responders' safety.

This is why we need something like AFRRCS. The M.D. of Rockyview, along with a consortium of other agencies making up something known as the Calgary Regional Partnership, was literally ready to put ink to paper committing to an expansion of the Calgary DRS, years ago, to cover the entire area surrounding Calgary and allowing all users to use the trunk as everyone in-city and places like Springbank do, but at the same time, the province was announcing the impending AFRRCS project. So the CRP project was shelved.

As is probably very plain to see from what I've said here on this forum for years, AFRRCS can't come soon enough for me. However, there's one caveat: The province (and the vendor, whichever is chosen - I can't discuss that as I was part of the vendor vetting process in a focus group) will establish all of the infrastructure - the radio system, the towers, management of the system, etc. - at the provincial level, with costs borne by the province. However, anyone who wants to join onto AFRRCS (it will be fully voluntary for most agencies - you don't have to join if you don't want to) will have to bear the costs of radios themselves.

Redwood Meadows has 6 trucks and, on a good day, 30 members. Even outfitting just the trucks is a daunting task. An XTL5000 ASTRO25 mobile costs in the neighborhood of $5000-$6000. So that's $30,000 to $36,000 just for truck radios alone. The companion portable radio is in the same pricing ballpark. Anybody know any small communities of under 1,000 people that have $175,000 lying around to make a purchase in one fell swoop? I sincerely hope that our province's giant monster surplus will be employed to grant out some of that cash to agencies that want to jump on AFRRCS but can't afford that kind of expenditure in one shot.

Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent. Interoperability (which is what the public safety sector as a whole calls "radio communication between departments") has never really been a strong suit of any agency(ies) in this area, IMO, and while it is getting better, until we can be guaranteed one radio solution that will cover all regions and all purposes, you're still going to have issues - and even then, once (if) everyon'es on one system, I'm sure you'll still have little things from time to time, too.

I'm just glad the Chestermere FF (who I don't know, off the top of my head, FYI) is OK. Good job CFR and CFD.
 
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MrVelvet

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Thanks Jay, I knew you'd have the answer. I wondered why Springbank and Balzac were handled solely on the trunking system.
 

Jay911

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Thanks Jay, I knew you'd have the answer. I wondered why Springbank and Balzac were handled solely on the trunking system.
To be honest, I think it is mainly because they don't have to spend lots of money on towers and repeaters and etc (and all the crap to link it to Dispatch) if they use the trunk system. If the trunk system covered anywhere close to 95% of my department's coverage area, and we could find enough radios (used/new/etc), I'd put RMES on the trunk in a flash (no pun intended).
 
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