Ravalli, MT - Ravalli Fire Chiefs Fight For New Digital Radio System

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N5TWB

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Another fun article written by a skull full of mush with nary a technology bone in its body. Hell, let's just throw some government grant $$$ at the problem, that's not real money, right???
 

brcommo

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Poor Reporting

I can't decide if its poor reporting or a snow job by salesman. Sadly, the lack of fundimental communications knowledge amongst first responders is staggering. Montana has no formalized instruction in communications technique or theory for first responders, so the door is wide open for misinformation and aggressive salesmanship to drive entities down paths that are inherently flawed and life threatening to the responders. Sadly, some of the misinformation is coming indirectly from state agencies. I guess the ultimate test is when an interior attack crew, using a trunking talkgroup gets trapped in a building and dies because the system either won't allow access or doesn't have interior coverage. Fortunatly the recordings of the trunked system will prove who is at fault and will be the systems own undoing. Don't misinterpret this is a rant against trunking. Trunking has its place, especially for law enforcement and strategic interdepartmental communications, but absolutly has no place being used as an on scene communications tool. Hopefully this article is just another case of a technologically challenged individual writing a misleading article. There is so much information within the fire community as to the inadvisability of utilizing trunking tactically that I am completely surprised that so many chiefs support the idea. Not to mention money. $250,000.00 won't even buy one site let alone the zone controllers and radios.
 

iamhere300

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Wow. Maybe I misread the article. Where did it mention trunking?

According to the database, they have 4 transmitters, two are repeaters, maybe all 4. To replace them with P25, 100 watt repeaters, using existing antenna and hardline, anywhere from 10k each, to 25k, depending on the koolaid flavor.

Leaves at least 140k for subscriber units. P25 subscriber units from 1,250.00 up, that is a max of at least 140 subscriber radios.

Over 10 per department, plus any that they already have.

And thats if they go P25. IDAS/NXDN/DMR/TRBO could lower their prices and double the number of subscriber units they could get.

When you go narrowband, the industry is pretty much going with expect a 3db loss in range, You can snatch that 3db right back by going digital.

I don't even see the government grant being discussed, shame on them for not applying for an Assistance to Firefighters grant - this year they are almost all getting funded. Why not take that grant money and using it for this?

Seems like a much better solution than the millions I see being used elsewhere.
 

brcommo

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iamhere;
I agree that there are less costly digital alternitives, however in Montana there are other factors that have to be taken inti\o consideration. The State of Montana is extremely heavily invested in a Smart Zone P-25 Trunked System, and the one qoute in the article about wanting to talk to other departments across the state means that they are wanting to go on the trunked system.
I am speaking from my own experience as a communications specialist of over 40 years and emphasizing my wildland and structure fire background.
In order to go on the trunked system you might as well slip the decimal point one number to the right for any base station with its infrastructure. Putting SmartZone in a radio runs between $500.00-$1000.00 depending on manufacturer. Adding in the space diversity T3 microwave hops to interconnect the sited to the master controller in Helena will add another large sum of money.
Its my experience having worked wildland fires in Ravalli County, that the analog coverage is sadly lacking, especially to portables. Going by what has happened all over Montana, they will have to double the amount of sites in the county to get equivelant coverage. Each site will have to have a minimum of three radios plus a controller and microwave. Interoperable Montana specifications virtually guarantee the trunked sites have to have climate controlled shelters with backup generators, towers that will handle two to four 2-3 meter dishes, all built to R-56 standard. The last pricetag I saw on a site, less R.F, was over $200K
I disagree with the 3db loss in range with narrowband. It has been my experience that the range loss is negligable. I've been working with narrowband radio systems since 2003. The range loss with digital is significant, especially in a county that is starting off with a limited coverage. Ravalli county has 40,000 people spread out over 2300 square miles. It has some of the most vertically challenging country in the state and I can only see a huge expense to the taxpayers with little or no tactical advantage for the fire EMS community. . In all fairness, law enforcement is the big beneficiary of trunking, and I see the advantages to them. I just question the cost verses benefit ratio. They could go P-25 conventional, double the amount of sites using their own ingenuity and ability to construct appropriate shelters for probibly less than half the cost of a trunked system. But then that is my personal opinion.
Thanks for your time.
 
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