Nashville Fire Encryption

K2LXA

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Sep 22, 2017
Messages
82
Location
Lyles, TN
Still hearing B-1, B-2, B-4, & B-6 so far this morning.
the other day i did not hear anything and i was monitoring for several hours. This morning I have heard bravo 1 and dispatch on bravo 1 calling out units to switch over to bravo -2e and alot of 1 way audio with dispatch still in the clear. Looks like it could be any time now.
 

nashscan

Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2003
Messages
139
Location
Nashville, TN
I'm the person interviewed on the broadcast. Here is a copy of the email I sent to my Metro Council member after he sent me a "response" from someone at the NFD:

Dear Dave,

Thank you for pursuing this. Here is my line-by-line response to the information you received from someone at the Fire Department:

The Nashville Fire Department is encrypting our radio traffic for active incidents to better protect our personnel and the privacy of the people we serve.
(1) The privacy of EMS patients has already been preserved through encrypted channels for many years on the E-bank. More recently, the B-5 channel (communications between medics and supervisors) has been encrypted. I have no problem with any of this, especially in light of HIPAA regulations.
(2) Having spoken with many firefighters and officers, including some who were on the scene of the Christmas morning blast, I've not heard one person who felt threatened by anything someone may have heard on a radio transmission. Not one.

MNPD encrypted its radio channels a couple of years ago and numerous other Tennessee departments have done the same. <Encrypted Agencies - The RadioReference Wiki> These include Fairview Fire Department, Lebanon Fire Department, Lebanon Police Department, Williamson County EMA, Williamson County Sheriff and many others across the country.
(3) I disagreed with ALL of the MNPD channels going encrypted, too, for the same reasons mentioned to you earlier about transparency and accountability. As with NFD medic channels, I understand the need for encryption on the Detective, SWAT, Hostage Negotiation, Internal Affairs, and similar channels. These do protect officer safety and preserve the integrity of ongoing situations. But the regular precinct dispatch and patrol channels, no.
(4) It is true that some other FIRE Departments across the state have gone to full encryption. Using the list they cited, out of approximately 635 Fire Departments in Tennessee, 11 use full encryption and 11 more use partial encryption. A number of the other 600+ fire departments with whom I've spoken cite firefighter safety and accountability to the people they serve as the most important reasons they will not encrypt their radio transmissions.
(5) Throughout the United States (again, using the database NFD cited) there are only 153 Fire Departments that utilize full time encryption on all channels; that's out of approximately 29,705 departments nationwide in 2018. Of the top 50 cities by population (Nashville is #25), only Denver is fully encrypted.

Following the Christmas Day Bombing in Nashville, various internet sites were live streaming radio traffic during the active investigative work our personnel were helping the federal authorities complete.
(6) They have been doing so for at least the last ten years and the transmissions are rebroadcast (on a delay) from scanners that have been available to the public since the 1970s.
(7) The claim that the impetus for full-time encryption is due to the bombing is untrue. The decision to move toward full-time encryption was made well before the Christmas 2020 bomb blast. The only delay in implementing the decision was the necessity to replace most of the FD radios, both mobile and handheld, with new and more expensive radios that would allow for encryption (as well as GPS to locate the radio in an emergency, which is a good thing).

While the Christmas Day Bombing was the biggest event, it was not the first time that live streaming of radio communications has put the safety of our personnel and patient privacy in question.
(8) Patient privacy, yes (although there were no patients whose privacy needed protecting that day). But I challenge NFD Logistics (Brian Jones, commander), the division in charge of the radio shop and whom I believe to be the division driving this change to full-time encryption, to name another time that the safety of NFD personnel has been compromised by our tax-payers listening to radio transmissions either on-air or on-line. Again, please refer to my responses #1 and #2 above.

There is sensitive patient and victim information our personnel relay via radio during active incidents that we want to protect.
(9) Of course. And that's been done for years.

On our website there is a listing of active incidents that refreshes every five minutes. <Nashville > Fire Department > Operations Division > Active Incidents>
(10) If you look at this list of active incidents, you will note that only the first apparatus (out of anywhere between 1 and 10+ others dispatched) is listed. That alone makes this list essentially worthless to the public or to the media.

Radio traffic is still available to the public via applicable open records laws.
(11) Which is not the same as full-time or immediate transparency and does nothing for the many firefighters and their families and friends who want to keep up with their loved ones on duty.

Furthermore, our public information office is very responsive to media inquires during active incidents. This includes responding on nights, weekends and holidays.
(12) Joseph and Kendra do an excellent job. But their response to media inquiries is secondary to media and public knowledge of particular incidents.

The implementation of our encryption has started, and we will complete it at a date to be determined.
(13) What? So like it or lump it? Does Chief Swann, whom I truly believe has the best interests of the public and of his personnel at heart, know of and agree with all these claims?

So, I ask you, as my council member, to ask the whole Metro Council, and/or Mayor Cooper, to halt the final implementation of full-time encryption of the Fire Department until the advisability of such a move can be reviewed. As I've said to you before, I see no good reason why any of the currently monitorable Bravo Channels (Dispatch - B1, Special Operations - B2 & B4, or Tactical Operations - B6 through B15) should be switched to full-time encryption. And I question the need for encryption on the Delta Channels (PIO, Training Academy, Fire Inspectors, Box 55) that was implemented sometime last year. I can count, maybe on one hand, the number of times the Arson Investigators have even used their channel in the past ten years. We mostly used cell phones.

With the new Motorola radios, every channel can be set up for selectable encryption should the users decide that is necessary during a particular operation. A simple flip of a switch on the user's radio is all that's required.

Thank you, Dave, for your responsiveness to this concern. I share it with many NFD firefighters, their families, and their friends.

Fred L Page
NFD Arson Investigator, retired
Hello Fred. I got to page you several times over the last few years before you retired. I began my dispatch career because of my scanning hobby and am sad it's come to this.
 

nashscan

Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2003
Messages
139
Location
Nashville, TN
The news story said that even off duty first responders wouldn’t be able to listen. Do they plan to make them turn in their radios at the end of each shift or is someone going to stun the radios at the end of shift? Geofencing? Seems a little over the top. I understand encrypting patient information, SSNs, and VICE operations, but general calls should be clear. Emergency Management is there for the worst and they across the board tend to be in the clear. If I ever have to pass anything too juicy I find the recipient and tell them myself or I call them.

I’d much rather have extra sets of eyes looking out for my wellbeing. Guess I’m funny like that. Big E does a lot to turn departments into islands.
I saw that as well, but I think there must have been a misunderstanding. Those of us who are assigned a portable radio take them home with us.
 

milf

Careful, I CAN hear you!
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 18, 2002
Messages
14,149
Location
Indianapolis, IN
I saw that as well, but I think there must have been a misunderstanding. Those of us who are assigned a portable radio take them home with us.
I would not put it past them to begin the practice a lot of other cities use. EOS, put your HT in the rack charger. Come on duty next day, pick it up. Can't run the risk you may be smart enough to stream your HT, or clone it. Can't trust anyone not in a Brooks Brothers 3 piece making over 6 figures a year right?
 

KN4EHX

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Dec 5, 2020
Messages
119
I saw that as well, but I think there must have been a misunderstanding. Those of us who are assigned a portable radio take them home with us.
I’d say taking them home will still be the norm but as milf stated they might start requiring HTs to be left at the station after shift. That isn’t very uncommon in large metro areas where radios are shared between users. That would be very annoying to me if that was my case. I’d probably make it a point to drop it in some cake or something in front of my boss and coworkers and lick it off. In the time of global pandemics I don’t think you’d have much competition for the radio any longer. Stuff we EMA vampires think of…..

What radio do you guys use? If they are all band 8000’s or the high end Harris radios that isn’t outside the realm of possibility. I’m pretty much attached to mine, but we’re in the process of considering APX Next sooooo I might be the victim of a similar circumstance.
 

nashscan

Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2003
Messages
139
Location
Nashville, TN
What radio do you guys use? If they are all band 8000’s or the high end Harris radios that isn’t outside the realm of possibility. I’m pretty much attached to mine, but we’re in the process of considering APX Next sooooo I might be the victim of a similar circumstance.
I think it's the APX6000. Mine is in the radio shop for reprogramming but I'm picking it up tomorrow. There's no possibility officers or dispatchers would be able to turn them in at the end of their shift. We often go straight from home to whatever event we are working. And there's a lot of events these days with sporting events, concerts, special commands, etc. Not to mention we have two fully functioning dispatch centers in Nashville.
 
Top