Interoperable Communications

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cellphone

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I have monitored two situations lately where MCSO Fox units have been working with Phoenix area fire. Communication between the agencies was a mess. Fire wanted to a direct channel with Fox, but the Fox unit in both situations was not able to figure out a channel that they could use. Tonight was a perfect example. Fire was on K11 on the RWC, and MCSO Fox 3 was on Lakes 1 on Maricopa County Trunked system. During the storms the other day, I monitored a similar situation with Fire on K11 and Fox 1 on MCSO East having dispatchers relay messages over the phone. Listening with two scanners, I could have relayed communication between the agencies faster!

In my opinion, the RWC has done great things for interoperability in the valley. When I moved to the valley about 9 years ago, I would monitor situations like this where different agencies could not communicate almost every other day. Today, there is no excuse for this. Every 800mhz public service radio in the valley has G Deck on the RWC. I have heard MCSO on G Deck many times in the past. Are you telling me that two of their most important units (Fox 1 and Fox 3 helos) do not have G Deck in their radios? Every Public service radio in the valley also has AIRS frequencies (the State’s cross band repeater system linking 155.475 to 460.375 to 866.0125). Dispatchers also have capabilities to patch to G Deck, PSAP channels, and probably AIRS from the consoles. There should be no reason that agencies cannot communicate. Don’t even get me started on DPS….

It’s not a fix-all, but why has the MCSO system not been absorbed into the RWC? Are there plans for this? While we are talking consolidation, why is TRWC not part of the RWC like it was in the beginning? Why is the State’s AzWIN/YRCS system not directly connected with radio systems like RWC, PCWIN, or Flagstaff Regional system? All the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on these great radio systems, but there are still issues talking to each other. The technology is all here if agencies would work together!
 

SCPD

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Money, politics, who's going to pay for it etc. To this console can interop A with X so you don't need to buy what town Smith is. It's like this all over. I have heard many say same you have. I myself monitor on my own as in peak to heavy hours a dispatcher can only multi task so much. There's allot factors that play into it. I know agencies who have only 16 channels still and one zone on equipment capable of having a dozen counties near by or towns in it. Goes to town A don't wanna share there keys with town X and town D doesn't wanna pay for cost of migrating to town Ms system. It's a giant head ache for allot of emergency personnel. Most have utacs vtacs and 8 tac but tend to fall on inner tac channels. It's same as it was prior to 9/11 interop. You still have agencies who don't authorize outside agencies to use there system or channels either or send the information to radios techs on other town to throw into other departments equipment. I know of a police dept who refuses to share there keys and programming info to it's county sheriff considering it sensitive material citing it keeps any investigations involving a outter agency officer from hearing there coming to knock. The keys yes. But frequency info one can find on a free decoder and scanner. It gets interesting.
 

mmckenna

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Because technology does not equal interoperability.

This is a prime example of the technology, or the set up of said technology, being more complicated than it needs to be. This is stupid, and people die.

rant_mode -start

Yet city after city, county after county, and state after state throw millions and millions of your dollars at technology in the name of interoperability. Politicians preach interoperability. "What if you called 911 and no one came?" Give us your money because there is a new technology out there and all the cool agencies have it!

It's idiotic.

Officers die.

Firefighters die.

The public dies.

Your taxpayers money hard at work.

Something as simple as renaming channels might fix this. Better training for the radio users might fix this. Reducing the complexity of the equipment might fix it. Add all three of those up, and it would be fixed. But, no, that's too damn hard to do. Public safety officials usually won't take more than 5 minutes to talk about radios. Practices, drills and exercises rarely cover two way radio skills. Just turn it on and push the talk button. Let go to listen. This is what most radio users know. They'll spend hours qualifying on firearms. They spend days in classes learning new life saving techniques. But little, if any time is spent learning how to use that other black device that hangs on their belt. This is why we find officers with a VHF radio with an 800MHz antenna on it. "The old one broke, and this one fit, so it must be OK. Your radio system sucks, it doesn't work. No, it can't be the antenna, Bob told me this one would work."
$7000 for an "interoperability" radio, and there is zero effort to use it properly, but by God, we need to buy more of them!

rant_mode -end
 

Kars10az

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The fix in this situation is simple, as it would have been the other day. If Phoenix Fire and MCSO/Fox would have just gone to VHF mutual aid (154.28), they could have talked to each other just fine. Nobody thinks of that. It's too simple. Everyone thinks they have to make the trunked systems play with each other. Not so.


Ed
 

djewel6

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The fix in this situation is simple, as it would have been the other day. If Phoenix Fire and MCSO/Fox would have just gone to VHF mutual aid (154.28), they could have talked to each other just fine. Nobody thinks of that. It's too simple. Everyone thinks they have to make the trunked systems play with each other. Not so.


Ed
But then it might not have been encrypted and we might have found out about Sheriff Joe's party that was going on for Doug Ducey. (toungue removed from cheek now).
 

SCPD

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Funny. I hear more secure comms 95 percent time used for non essential traffic then actually what it is intended for. "I'm stopping by Mc Donalds you guys want some?"
 

Phoenix805

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Because technology does not equal interoperability.

Something as simple as renaming channels might fix this. Better training for the radio users might fix this. Reducing the complexity of the equipment might fix it. Add all three of those up, and it would be fixed. But, no, that's too damn hard to do. Public safety officials usually won't take more than 5 minutes to talk about radios. Practices, drills and exercises rarely cover two way radio skills. Just turn it on and push the talk button. Let go to listen. This is what most radio users know. They'll spend hours qualifying on firearms. They spend days in classes learning new life saving techniques. But little, if any time is spent learning how to use that other black device that hangs on their belt. This is why we find officers with a VHF radio with an 800MHz antenna on it. "The old one broke, and this one fit, so it must be OK. Your radio system sucks, it doesn't work. No, it can't be the antenna, Bob told me this one would work."
$7000 for an "interoperability" radio, and there is zero effort to use it properly, but by God, we need to buy more of them!
In my case it was the (lack of) training. When they were pushing the new radio system the promo movies bragged about inter-op - mostly between City Departments: Now the Park Ranger will be able to talk to the Fire Dept, who will be able to tell PD where they are, who can tell the Streets guy which street to block off, etc.

When the radios came it was 'put your radio on F-5 and keep it there, that's our 'channel'. We were never taught how to communicate with other groups. So much for inter-operability even within the City, let alone other jurisdictions.
 

Kars10az

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It hasn't changed. PD and FD can talk, Park Rangers have FD K-deck and maybe PD too, but I don't know if any other department can talk with FD or PD, or wither other PW departments.
 

KB7MIB

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A couple of months back, when I was at South Mtn, I talked to a park ranger, and she told me that they're on A-10 (she showed me her radio and the display) and that they talk to PD on A-4. They could also talk to FD when necessary.
In the SWFD-10, A-10 is listed as FD Link West. Apparantly that info is incorrect.
 

jim202

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As is common at any departments around the country, training on radio operation and interoperability doesn't exist in most departments around the country. You can see just how much training the people in the field receive by asking a simple question. Ask them if they even know what channels are in their radio on the zone they normally operate. I would be surprised if 1 out of 100 people asked could say yes.

We as technical people can provide all the radios, channels and what ever that a department will ever need to have the best radio interoperability with their neighbor departments that they will ever need. Problem is the upper management will never, ever let it happen. It wasn't they way they were brought up. It wasn't their idea and they won't ever let it happen.

The result is lack of radio training. Very little if any for the new recruits and definitely no refresher for the older members of a department. The same can probably be passed along for the dispatchers.

If management doesn't want interoperability, it will never happen on their watch. See it all the time. Hear it all the time as I travel around the country. Even all these fancy trunking systems have no effect on the feelings of upper management about radio interoperability. You might see some softening on the use of the trunking systems by management to at least allow other agencies on their system. This could supply a way to talk with other agencies. But the big question is do the people in the field know where those talkgroups are in their radios, or even know they exist in their radios?
 

AirScan1

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I don't if I should laugh or cry
are you saying they should stop pushing for a new radio system
 

Kars10az

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KB7MIB. A10 is VHF channel A10 (151.370/PL 173.3) that's used for the far north valley (New River, Anthem, North Phoenix, etc.). I find that strange for a ranger at South Mountain, but, I don't think park rangers have the dual-band radios, so I'm not going to speculate on what A10 really is since park rangers operate on the RWC.

JIM202, Radio training is pretty non-existent in most services. PD teaches their officers how to get to the most-used out of system channels. Phoenix Fire Dept. teaches them a little more about their radios, but then they "fireman-proof" the radios by putting Channel 1 at both ends of the dial, just in case a hose-dragger spins the dial the wrong direction. In their defense, in a smoke-filled environment, they may not be able to see the dial, and with big gloves on, spinning the dial can be a challenge, but I guess I'd wonder why they'd want to change the channel in the first place. The help they could need is on the same channel they are.

Which brings up another scenario that I hope we never have to realize. If a firefighter in distress comes up on channel 1, the dispatchers are instructed to not make them try to change channels. If it ends up in a long rescue operation, that would tie up channel 1 for that time. Where will the dispatches go? That part isn't covered in training. HMMMM.
 

KB7MIB

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I'm not referring to Phoenix FD VHF A-10. I'm referring to Phoenix PD A-10 on the RWC, talkgroup 2990. It's listed in the SWFD-10 as FD Link West on page 102.
Why the park rangers need an encrypted talkgroup, I don't know.
 

AirScan1

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BLAME IT ON THE CITY OF PHOENIX for going to a cheap radio system
and the FFC letting it happen.
 

KB7MIB

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The RWC system is by no means cheap. And the issues talked about here are not due to the system, they are due to the attitude, or perhaps the ignorance, of agency heads in regards to interoperability, and the lack of proper training for the rank and file officers and firefighters, as well as the dispatchers, on the capabilities of their radios, and how to utilize them.
 

AirScan1

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ok so you say their professionalism has completely went heck.?

What happened to the good ol days ?
 

Kars10az

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I can tell you for a fact that the most of the Phoenix FD dispatchers have no clue how their radio system works (even the VHF system), and they also don't have a clue what it's capable of. PUSH TO TALK. UNKEY. LISTEN FOR A RESPONSE. REPEAT AS NECESSARY.
 

Kars10az

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It has nothing to do with professionalism. There is so much time spent on how to do things on the computer that radios get very little coverage in training, and the trainers don't know much more than someone just walking in off the street (with regards to radios). The personality of the job went away a long time ago, when the computers started doing so much more. It's a data entry job with a twist (you get to save lives), but that's about it.

The good ol' days are long gone, never to return. When I started working in the Alarm Room, we did 34,000 calls a year. 100 calls on a 10 or 14 hour shift was unheard of. Now an 8 hour shift can generate over a thousand calls without the blink of an eye. Call volume has increased more than 10 times, but staffing has only increased by about 3 times. Training that used to take 4-6 weeks now takes months. Half of the trainees quit during training, or shortly afterwards, so if they hire 10 people, maybe 5 or 6 will actually continue on, and if the City of Phoenix keeps screwing with them, cutting wages, cutting benefits, mandatory furlough days, no retirement contributions from the City... there won't be any quality people to train.

RANT OVER....
 

rpgaun

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I can tell you for a fact that the most of the Phoenix FD dispatchers have no clue how their radio system works (even the VHF system), and they also don't have a clue what it's capable of. PUSH TO TALK. UNKEY. LISTEN FOR A RESPONSE. REPEAT AS NECESSARY.
I think that is true of most of the Dispatchers no matter what agency. I spent about 18 months dispatching back east before moving here. I found that across the board no one in the center even heard of simulcasting dispatches across different frequencies. There every Tom, Dick & Harry department had there own paging/dispatching frequency. So, larger incidents were often dispatched one at a time up to 6 times depending of the resources needed. One night I reached over selected that needed frequencies and hit the simulcast button. They along with the agencies were amazed....LOL
 

AirScan1

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I wish we stayed with vhf and uhf
why because I don't understand digital,
Sorry but I just look at the city of phoenix's talk groups of RWC
and don't make sense, where is car to car and where is chase and detectives etc



( newer radios , newer designs no wonder they don't know how it works)
1 can hope they go back to vhf and uhf
 
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