National Intra-Crew Frequencies

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Feb 24, 2001
I posted this in the Federal forum, but with so many large fires continuing to burn in California, I thought posting it here would be a good idea.

Fire crews often have the need to communicate by radio with just the other members of their crew. This cannot always be done on the assigned tactical frequencies of the incident due to high traffic load and because the traffic is of such a nature that not everyone needs to hear it. The traffic is mainly logistical in nature so it may concern getting spare parts for a chain saw from the crew carrier, figuring out where to stop for lunch, or for in camp communications when several members need to coordinate the errands they are running. This need has been identified by previous national studies as well as the observation of crews programming MURS frequencies in their handhelds or bringing FRS/GMRS radios with them on assignments, with the use of both of these services by the federal government being prohibited.

Recently I came across the "2008 Intra-Crew Communications Plan." It identifies four frequencies to be used and suggests the use of tones when in analog mode or NAC's during digital mode to reduce interference with other crews. These frequencies are not authorized for use in mobile radios and the lowest power setting is to be used to reduce interference. The four frequencies are all "NTIA Common Use Frequencies." You might be familiar with the old federal government common use frequencies of 163.100 and 168.350, sometimes referred to as "federal government itinerant frequencies." You may not know that as of January of 2008 these frequencies are now designated for repeater use, with 163.100 being the output and 168.350 being the input, for temporary repeater use by any federal agency. The replacement frequencies for simplex use are 163.7125 and 168.6125 with the addition of 167.1375 and 173.6250. The first two have been showing up in the radio programs of many federal agencies as replacements for 163.100 and 168.350.

The 2008 Intra-Crew Plan lists these four frequencies in the following manner:

National Intra-Crew 163.7125
Primary IA and Incident 167.1375
Secondary IA and Incident 168.6125
Tertiary IA and Incident 173.6250

Note that "IA" means initial attack. The National Intra-Crew frequency is to be used during the mobilization process for travel and at the home unit. The remaining frequencies are to be used on project fires and initial attack. These are common use frequencies and are not authorized or intended for exclusive use of any one agency. Crews are encouraged to coordinate their use with other crews to minimize interference between crews. Tactical operation and coordination are to be conducted on assigned division tactical frequencies as the Intra-crew frequencies are for logistical purposes only. Additional frequencies may be available upon request depending on the complexity, crews assigned, and frequency availability. Any frequency temporarily assigned for use on an incident must be removed from radios during demobilization. No use of any other Intra-crew Frequencies are authorized on an incident, unless issued by NIFC or the incident communications unit leader.

A new trend on incidents beginning in 2008 will be that command and tactical frequencies will be toned. Command repeaters will be toned on the receive side and tactical frequencies will be tones on both the receive and transmit side.
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