MARCS/MARCS-IP Scanner Setup

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WuLabsWuTecH

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I just got myself a MARCS capable scanner and I'm trying to figure out how to best set everything up.

Obviously having each site on it's own quick key (I have a Uniden scanner) isn't going to work. So I was wondering how you guys have yours setup?

I figured that I might setup the 6 or so sites that I'm in range of most commonly as their own quick key and then a 7th QK for every other site in the state?

And is there an EZ-Grab function for sites or am I going to have to EZ-Grab them one by one!

Thanks guys!
 

wa8pyr

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I just got myself a MARCS capable scanner and I'm trying to figure out how to best set everything up.

Obviously having each site on it's own quick key (I have a Uniden scanner) isn't going to work. So I was wondering how you guys have yours setup?

I figured that I might setup the 6 or so sites that I'm in range of most commonly as their own quick key and then a 7th QK for every other site in the state?

And is there an EZ-Grab function for sites or am I going to have to EZ-Grab them one by one!
Depends on which scanner you have. If it's a Uniden XT model, you can combine all the sites and talkgroups under one system listing, and use the quick keys to define which system you want to monitor; the group keys can then define subcategories like police, fire, public works, etc.

If it's the T model (396T, 996T) then you're stuck; you have to enter each site as a separate system with it's own list of talkgroups. However, you can assign them all to the same quick key, which is how I did it when I had a 396T.

If you really want to divide sites out by individual quick keys, you can do that too, although I think it confuses things unless you're actively trying to map out sites.

I recommend Freescan for programming the thing. As long as you're a premium RR subscriber you can simply download what you need with the software. If you're not a premium RR subscriber, you can use the EZGrab or clipboard function to import control channels and suchlike. Takes a bit more work but also makes it easier to edit and move things around as you prefer.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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Yes, I have a Uniden 396XT. My fear though is if I have 50 towers in one SQK, then my scanner will be wasting a lot of time scanning 46-48 towers that it is out of range of and therefore I'm more likely to miss some transmissions. Has that ever a problem for you?
 

wa8pyr

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Yes, I have a Uniden 396XT. My fear though is if I have 50 towers in one SQK, then my scanner will be wasting a lot of time scanning 46-48 towers that it is out of range of and therefore I'm more likely to miss some transmissions. Has that ever a problem for you?
I got around that by defining different system entries for different areas and assigning them to different quick keys. For example:

Q01 - Columbus Fire/EMS
Q02 - Suburb Fire/EMS
Q03 - Grove City
Q04 - Pickaway County
Q05 - DelCo Fire
Q06 - DelCo Law
Q07 - Dub/Wor Fire
Q08 - Dub/Wor Law
Q09 - Columbus PD
Q10 - Franklin Co SO
Q11 - Suburb Law
Q12 - AEP
etc etc
Q15 - Airport Authority
Q16 - Federal
Q17 - Military
Q18 - Conventional Interop
Q19 - Central Ohio MARCS
Q20 - Central Ohio conventional (rail, aviation, police, fire etc)
Q21 - I71 North (Columbus to Cleveland)
Q22 - I71 South (Columbus to Cincinnati)
Q23 - I70 West (Columbus to Richmond IN)
Q24 - I70 East (Columbus to Wheeling WV)
Q25 - US23 North (Columbus to Toledo)
Q26 - US23 South (Columbus to Portsmouth)
And so on.

All I had to do was program the MARCS sites on the designated route along with the appropriate talkgroups; as long as I used only the primary and secondary control channels it worked fine. I shuffled the order around from time to time, but you get the idea.

Each quick key covered not only MARCS but also the local counties enroute, with each county assigned a separate group key within the quick key. I generally used group key 0 for MARCS. Group key 1 was for the first county leaving Columbus (Madison), Group key 2 for the second county (Clark), and so on.

Takes awhile to set up, but once it's set up and the Freescan (or Butel ARC-XT) files are saved the hard work is over. So there's no need to program the entire state in one quick key. Just takes a little planning.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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How did you get SQK01 and SQK02 to both be on the Franklin Public Safety system? I thought that each system could only have 1 SQK assigned to it?

Ever since I got a uniden (which can do TG select unliek the radioshak scanners), I've wanted to program the uniden like the XTS's are set up with Zone 1-8 being the Firegrounds, Zone 9 being EMS, Zone 10 being fire etc etc but I wasn't aware you could have SQK 1 and SQK 2 assigned to both the Franklin County Public Safety system. The dropdown in freescan only allows me to select one number for the SQK and it has to be on a site.
 

wa8pyr

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How did you get SQK01 and SQK02 to both be on the Franklin Public Safety system? I thought that each system could only have 1 SQK assigned to it?
Programmed the system once for each QK. Same for the CPD, FCSO and Suburb Law quick keys.

Ever since I got a uniden (which can do TG select unlike the radioshak scanners), I've wanted to program the uniden like the XTS's are set up with Zone 1-8 being the Firegrounds, Zone 9 being EMS, Zone 10 being fire etc etc but I wasn't aware you could have SQK 1 and SQK 2 assigned to both the Franklin County Public Safety system. The dropdown in freescan only allows me to select one number for the SQK and it has to be on a site.
You would have to enter the system multiple times; not really worth the hassle. Only reason I did it the way I did is so I could monitor CFD and the suburbs separately; sometimes listening to CFD gets to be too much, especially when Locutia is in full cry for hours on end. So, I turn them off; I figure if a worker pops up, I'll get a page and can then turn on the scanner (or the APX radio). Ditto CPD and the Sheriff; CPD just gets to be too much sometimes.
 
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Are you going to need all sites programmed? Do you need to have all the sites programmed in your scanner? I would concentrate on the area you live and travel most and come up with a setup that works for you. I live in Wisconsin. We have WISCOM a state wide system. It is not as big as MARCS and is way under used. I just took the 7 Regions that the State Patrol uses here. I made the 4 of that 7 State Patrol regions a system in my 396XT. Then each site in that region gets a SQK (System Quick Key). Then I make the talk groups for that region. They then get GQK (Group Quick Keys). On the WISCOM system not all talk groups are used on all sites. This is why I did my set up by region. I also did not set up every site. Only sites that I would actually use. I maybe have less than 40 sites. And in 1 year I maybe monitored 15 of those site.
You could also assign the same SQK to 2 or 3 sites if you were traveling and will pass several sites. One other option is you can make multiple freescan files. Then reprogram the scanner if you are going to travel to another side of the state. Reprogramming takes a few minutes.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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Programmed the system once for each QK. Same for the CPD, FCSO and Suburb Law quick keys.

You would have to enter the system multiple times; not really worth the hassle. Only reason I did it the way I did is so I could monitor CFD and the suburbs separately; sometimes listening to CFD gets to be too much, especially when Locutia is in full cry for hours on end. So, I turn them off; I figure if a worker pops up, I'll get a page and can then turn on the scanner (or the APX radio). Ditto CPD and the Sheriff; CPD just gets to be too much sometimes.
Maybe I'm misunderstanding you. Aren't you already programming the system in multiples times? Once each for CFD, Townships Fire, CPD, Suburbs Fire, etc?

And I grew up on the Motorola XTS so I'm used to just typing in a number and having that zone pop up. Of course, I don't think I've fully realized the power of the scanner since my XTS can only scan like 10 channels at a time But iw ould be nice to set up each of the zones on a different quick key (whether SQK or GQK) so that I can monitor the fire dispatch channels but when something good pops up (or when a truck goes out) i can quickly hit a button to also get the Battalion or EMS tac channels.
 

wa8pyr

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Maybe I'm misunderstanding you. Aren't you already programming the system in multiples times? Once each for CFD, Townships Fire, CPD, Suburbs Fire, etc?
I used to, not any more.

And I grew up on the Motorola XTS so I'm used to just typing in a number and having that zone pop up. Of course, I don't think I've fully realized the power of the scanner since my XTS can only scan like 10 channels at a time But iw ould be nice to set up each of the zones on a different quick key (whether SQK or GQK) so that I can monitor the fire dispatch channels but when something good pops up (or when a truck goes out) i can quickly hit a button to also get the Battalion or EMS tac channels.
I long ago gave up trying to organize the scanner like my Motorola radio; it just doesn't work. The structure is totally different. You could probably get away with it for CFD Zones 1-10 only, as that's the number of group keys within each quick key, but once you got past zone 10, you would have to program the system again under a new quick key to fit in the remaining 6 zones before you got to the other systems. Not worth the hassle.

After I got fed up with it, I started setting it up as follows:

Group 1 - CFD
Group 2 - Suburbs
Group 3 - MECC
Group 4 - Airport Auth
Group 5 - CPD
Group 6 - FCSO
Group 7 - Suburb Law
Group 8 - Law Interop
Group 9 - Hospitals
Group 10 - Common Interop
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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There are 18 zones on franklin public safety (1-16 and then 21 and 22) according to my template from 2013. But things don't look so bad if you combine 12 and 13, 21 and 22, and 1-8 (since with the exception of the derecho, i've never heard more than 2 active firegrounds at once). That leaves me a free GQK to use for when I just want to scan MEC Center and 10 Fire (i.e. the ones that are really important to me!).

2 other questions you might know about this:

First, is there any point in programming in channel 16 in any of the zones? My understanding was that channel 16 was the "All Talk" channel for everything in that zone and when I flipped my radio to channel 16, it basically did a patch to the other 15 (or however many there may be) channels in that zone so I could hear everyone on those 15 channels and all of them could hear me. (At least that's what they tell me. I tried to use HOSCEN once and it didn't seem to work but that could also be because the hospitals weren't listening, or as someone guessed, maybe it was a patch for transmit only). But since if you have a scanner, you can scan the other 15 channels already, do I need channel 16 in my scanner?

2) In order to scan failsoft, do I need to program that in as a separate (conventional) system? Or is there a way to tell the bearcat to go into failsoft mode?

Thanks!
 

wa8pyr

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First, is there any point in programming in channel 16 in any of the zones?
No. Waste of a channel on a scanner.

My understanding was that channel 16 was the "All Talk" channel for everything in that zone
Only on the fireground zones and only with an actual radio. Doesn't work on a scanner.

I tried to use HOSCEN once
Not an ATG. Only talkgroups that actually have "ATG" in the alias name are announcement groups.

In order to scan failsoft, do I need to program that in as a separate (conventional) system? Or is there a way to tell the bearcat to go into failsoft mode?
Don't waste the channel space. Every channel stays hot and transmits a beep every 10 seconds during failsoft, so your scanner will simply lock onto a channel and stay there. Even if you hit Scan it will just go to the next channel and stop. Failsoft is pretty rare in any case, Franklin County and Columbus have both had a couple of brief Failsoft episodes in the last year or so, but before that it had been at least a couple of years since anybody went into Failsoft.
 

WuLabsWuTecH

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Not an ATG. Only talkgroups that actually have "ATG" in the alias name are announcement groups.
Wait really? I was taught that on two different departments it can be used to talk to multiple hospitals at once to get info such as how many reds/yellows/greens each can handle and to be able to listen to all the hospitals at once. It was said that we still had to address each hospital individually (otherwise we'd just confuse all of the nurses), but it allowed you to use one radio to monitor different hospital TGs so you didn't have to grab 3 or 4 radios to keep in touch with them all.

If that's not what it is used for, why exactly does it take up space in my radio? (i.e. what is it used for?)

Don't waste the channel space. Every channel stays hot and transmits a beep every 10 seconds during failsoft, so your scanner will simply lock onto a channel and stay there. Even if you hit Scan it will just go to the next channel and stop. Failsoft is pretty rare in any case, Franklin County and Columbus have both had a couple of brief Failsoft episodes in the last year or so, but before that it had been at least a couple of years since anybody went into Failsoft.
[/quote]

Yeah, i've never seen it until last year when it went it a couple of times and I couldn't hear anything. Is the beep synchronous across all of the frequencies? Because my scanner is set to hold only for 1 or 2 seconds so it might still be able to pick up some stuff. Plus, because the TGs are fixed, once I figured out which frequency 10 Fire is on or which one MEC Center is on, i could hold to that frequency and hear everything coming off of that TG right?
 

wa8pyr

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Wait really? I was taught that on two different departments it can be used to talk to multiple hospitals at once to get info such as how many reds/yellows/greens each can handle and to be able to listen to all the hospitals at once. It was said that we still had to address each hospital individually (otherwise we'd just confuse all of the nurses), but it allowed you to use one radio to monitor different hospital TGs so you didn't have to grab 3 or 4 radios to keep in touch with them all.
Don't know who taught you that, but it's not correct.

If that's not what it is used for, why exactly does it take up space in my radio? (i.e. what is it used for?)
Your guess is as good as mine.

Yeah, i've never seen it until last year when it went it a couple of times and I couldn't hear anything. Is the beep synchronous across all of the frequencies? Because my scanner is set to hold only for 1 or 2 seconds so it might still be able to pick up some stuff. Plus, because the TGs are fixed, once I figured out which frequency 10 Fire is on or which one MEC Center is on, i could hold to that frequency and hear everything coming off of that TG right?
If you can tolerate listening to a constant carrier and a beep every ten seconds, knock yourself out. However, failsoft is so infrequent that you'll be wasting space in the scanner for no good reason.
 
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