Rochester, NY - Watchdog report: Radio work worries firefighters

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snapple4th

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Simple Solution that costs nothing: Fire-ground analog simplex, just like the NFPA mandates.

If its a large building, go after the building owner in the form of requiring a BDA or DAS system based on the requirements of the IFC.
 
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DaveNF2G

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"Already under financial pressure, fire districts said they now face a potentially insurmountable cost to replace all their radio hardware at once."

How about adopting the policy, "Not everybody needs a portable radio"? Too many radios on the fireground can and does cause a lot of communications problems. The expense is unnecessary, too.
 

APX7500X2

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"Already under financial pressure, fire districts said they now face a potentially insurmountable cost to replace all their radio hardware at once."

How about adopting the policy, "Not everybody needs a portable radio"? Too many radios on the fireground can and does cause a lot of communications problems. The expense is unnecessary, too.
Everybody on the fire ground needs a radio, Everyone having a radio does not cause any communications problems, only people can cause problems, good training, policies and procedures will help that.
At a working fire in NYC they have 50-70 or more firefighters and all of them have radios, they don't have many communications issues.

If you have communications problems on the fire ground its a personnel issue not a how many radios issue.

This is an easy fix for Rochester we have many departments that use P25 trunking systems that use Futurecom Repeaters in the trucks. The firefighters are on analog simplex fire ground and the Futurecom repeats the analog simplex to the P25 radio its attached to. It can handles sending Emergency activations to the dispatcher and the other portables on the fire ground.

Very easy fix, it works in 100s of departments around the country and does not warrant a news story
 
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DaveNF2G

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Sorry, but I disagree. Every individual on the fireground does not need their own radio. Functional leaders need radios. Nobody else should be talking.

Every major fire I have ever monitored, in every jurisdiction where everybody and his mother has a portable, is plagued by stuck portable mics on the working channel. Every one. Not to mention the feedback when someone is trying to communicate important information. There are too many radios present.

Analog, digital, trunking or conventional makes no difference. It happens with all of them.
 

902

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Sorry, but I disagree. Every individual on the fireground does not need their own radio. Functional leaders need radios. Nobody else should be talking.

Every major fire I have ever monitored, in every jurisdiction where everybody and his mother has a portable, is plagued by stuck portable mics on the working channel. Every one. Not to mention the feedback when someone is trying to communicate important information. There are too many radios present.
There are several items lacking:
1) actual implementation of ICS where supervisors are in contact with their crews and have pathways up and down the ICS structure.
2) proper transceiver configuration where time-out timers and unit ID are programmed (and monitored)
3) proper transceivers, period (hopefully addressed by NFPA 1802)
4) TRAINING!!!

Having been one, I believe firefighters need a radio for situational awareness (listen to what's happening on the fireground - particularly important if an evacuation is issued), and to call "MAYDAY!" I agree with you that they don't need chatter. That's where training in communications discipline comes in.

In the not too distant future we may also be looking at "apps" that collect data for personal area networks monitoring heart rate and rhythm, O2 saturation, SCBA status, ambient temperature, body temperature, streaming video, relative location within the structure based on multipath signature or some other locational technology, etc. At that point, the argument will be immediate access to voice in order to receive commands from the IC, or to call MAYDAY! The key at that point will STILL be how do I get from my side of the wall to the guys on the other side of the wall who can help me. In the age of LTE, until a direct mode is developed (which might even be narrowband... but then so much for Band Class 14 off-the-shelf devices, as if that were ever a reality to begin with), the technology is just not ready for prime time.
 

DJ11DLN

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There are several items lacking:
1) actual implementation of ICS where supervisors are in contact with their crews and have pathways up and down the ICS structure.
2) proper transceiver configuration where time-out timers and unit ID are programmed (and monitored)
3) proper transceivers, period (hopefully addressed by NFPA 1802)
4) TRAINING!!!

Having been one, I believe firefighters need a radio for situational awareness (listen to what's happening on the fireground - particularly important if an evacuation is issued), and to call "MAYDAY!" I agree with you that they don't need chatter. That's where training in communications discipline comes in.

In the not too distant future we may also be looking at "apps" that collect data for personal area networks monitoring heart rate and rhythm, O2 saturation, SCBA status, ambient temperature, body temperature, streaming video, relative location within the structure based on multipath signature or some other locational technology, etc. At that point, the argument will be immediate access to voice in order to receive commands from the IC, or to call MAYDAY! The key at that point will STILL be how do I get from my side of the wall to the guys on the other side of the wall who can help me. In the age of LTE, until a direct mode is developed (which might even be narrowband... but then so much for Band Class 14 off-the-shelf devices, as if that were ever a reality to begin with), the technology is just not ready for prime time.
+1.

We practice radio discipline and while sometimes things do get out of hand (it's an emergency situation, people are keyed up), it isn't usually a problem. If someone is on my fire scene without a radio, and none of the backup H-T's are available, he/she becomes a go-fer for the pump operator or a drinking-water-fetcher or something similar. No communications = no accountability and no safety. No entry team goes in without each of them having a known working H-T and part of the checklist is to make sure it's on the FG we're using so they can communicate and if necessary call in the backup team or otherwise call for help. If it's a big event, different FGs may be used by different teams with the OIC/team leader using scan or 2 radios or whatever is necessary to stay in contact with the team and also with the IC. That can get cumbersome but you make another excellent point in that training is the key. I push this kind of training because to me communications procedures and discipline is one of the most important aspects of a FFs skill set. And making order out of the chaos that sometimes comes out of the radio on the scene is part of the IC's skill set; what may seem like utter bedlam to someone with a scanner often makes perfect sense to the people working the event.

Sorry, this thread pushed one of my buttons...off my soapbox now.
 

gesucks

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"Already under financial pressure, fire districts said they now face a potentially insurmountable cost to replace all their radio hardware at once."

How about adopting the policy, "Not everybody needs a portable radio"? Too many radios on the fireground can and does cause a lot of communications problems. The expense is unnecessary, too.
90% of Fireground fatality NIOSH reports from the last decade have the direct recommendation that every firefighter entering a IDLH are to have a working radio. Lack of the above have been a DIRECT factor in many of the deaths.

I have yet to see any thing ever show that everyone having a radio caused a death.
 

902

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Couple of things -

Look at this - Pg. 93 - 105. Sometimes even having "a radio" isn't enough. They can be damaged. In this case, the radios were intact, but the speaker mic melted, wires shorted, and the radio became inoperable as a result. It's got to be the "right" equipment in the hazardous environment. What that is, is currently under investigation by both active firefighters from across the country and industry. The collaboration is impressive - and sincere.

Training - make sure your drills include "radio failure" procedures, just as you might conduct an SCBA failure simulation. San Francisco has something to say about this on the pages I've cited above. What's your SOG say to do? Drill on it! Tweak it! Make sure every firefighter goes through it. What's radio failure? "Bonking out" (now what?!), someone has a stuck mic (how do you deal with keeping everything going when someone's stuck? If you say "move everyone to another channel," what if that stuck mic guy is someone who needs help and can't say anything? Can you talk over the other radio? What if not everyone gets the message? How does your accountability program work with that?

We need to learn from our brothers and sisters who've gone before us. The gift they give is to help make sure everyone after them doesn't have the same problem.
 

ocguard

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The radio in your "functional leader's" pocket is of no use to you when you full through the floor to the basement and your function leader (who you were right next to ten seconds ago) is still on the second floor. Subscriber units account for a VERY small amount of the total cost of a radio system. EVERY member who enters IDLH environment needs to have a portable radio. Period.
 

KAA951

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Implementation timeline?

Did anyone note the long- very long- implementation timeline for agencies to switch over to the P-25 system? They have non-emergency agencies using it now, fire and EMS go in 2016(!) and law enforcement won't follow until 2019! 6 years seems like a long time to switch users to an operating system. Our county is switching all the agencies over in a 4 month window to a P-25 system.

Any ideas?
 
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DaveNF2G

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The radio in your "functional leader's" pocket is of no use to you when you full through the floor to the basement and your function leader (who you were right next to ten seconds ago) is still on the second floor. Subscriber units account for a VERY small amount of the total cost of a radio system. EVERY member who enters IDLH environment needs to have a portable radio. Period.
If your leader fails to notice and report your sudden departure, then your department has a much bigger problem.
 

ecps92

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There is no mandate to go to P25
There was Narrowbanding

Did anyone note the long- very long- implementation timeline for agencies to switch over to the P-25 system? They have non-emergency agencies using it now, fire and EMS go in 2016(!) and law enforcement won't follow until 2019! 6 years seems like a long time to switch users to an operating system. Our county is switching all the agencies over in a 4 month window to a P-25 system.

Any ideas?
 

902

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There is no mandate to go to P25
There was Narrowbanding
When I read his post, I though it might be a local issue to jump onto a P25 trunked system. Yep, no "you have to" go P25 or digital for that matter (although a lot of two-way dealers have munged the facts a little... a very good argument to have a communications specialist on your department so radio is not a "black box" that's entrusted to an outsider). BTW, the FCC has just announced that it will not renew any wideband licenses that do not have a narrowband emission on them or are not covered by waiver. That should have happened the day after the deadline, but... at least it's happening now.
 

APX7500X2

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Sorry, but I disagree. Every individual on the fireground does not need their own radio.
QUOTE]

NIOSH, OSHA, NFPA and IFAC and all firefighters will more than disagree with you

As your post said you sit and listen so your commenting on things you don't know about, what you hear on the radio is about 20% of what is really happening

I would suggest using Google.

NIOSH-OSHA-NFPA...Lots of real info from real people who know what they are talking about
 

ff-medic

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Sorry, but I disagree. Every individual on the fireground does not need their own radio. Functional leaders need radios. Nobody else should be talking..
I GREATLY disagree. Each and every fireground presents its own unique difference from other fireground incidents. Car accidents, HAZ-MAT, Structure Fires, Search and Rescue, Confined Space Recovery. Inside a structure fire, most of the time you cannot see a thing due to the smoke. When you take an attack line ( Fire hose ) and hit the fire with water, the water turning into steam hits your SCBA mask...then vision problems is ten fold what it was when you made "Entry" into the structure. Firefighters get seperated on incidents. It is not uncommon, most especially when the inital response shows up and manpower is limited. Interior attack, search for victims ( if you are unsure of occupantws inside a burning house - a search is done while an interior attack occurs. Initial fireground personnel is limited in numbers till additional units arrrive.)

EVERYONE on the fireground, at sometime will have something to offer. Interior firefighters, or exterior firefighters. Inside the "Hot Zone" , or in the clean "Cold Zone". A problem may arise, a rescue may need to occur, a situation report may be requisted by the Incident Commander and someone may be able to answer. When you limit radios at the scene of an emerency, you limit effective communications containing important assessments, information, hazards, situation reports, and status reports. Think of every Firefighter - EMS and Law Enforcement at the scene of an emergency having portable radio communications, and able to contribute meaningful and important radio transmissions, and from everyone being on the "Same Channel" the emergency at hand ( Structure Fire - Car Accident - Haz Mat ) the "situation" is resolved sooner. But this also means that if you do not have "Emergency" traffic, or information of importance to broadcast....then you need to keep your mouth shut. But by a firefighter having a radio, they may be made alert by a radio broadcast of a - Structure Collapse, Explosion - Explosive hazard, Haz Mat inside the structure - active shooter - "FireFighter Down" - Firefighter or civilain entrapment - EMS assist requested - Incident Commanders order of "Evacuate" the building ( Surround and drown ) , and a host of other useful peice of information. At any incident or event involving "Public Safety ( Fire - EMS - Police ) everyone needs a radio to "BE on the same sheet of music".

Remember the "Incident Command System " ( Some or all of the following "Sectors" = Incident Commander - EMS Sector along with seperate Medevac, Triage and Treatment sectors - Police Sector - Interior Building Sector - Exterior Building Sector - Rescue Sector - Staging Sector for additioinal Fire / EMS and Rescue units). Each sector is assigned its own "Tac Channel" and has a Sector Commander or Leader. Each Firefighter on scene has the ability to communicate with a radio so things move more rapidly, and the event is minimized as quickly as possible, not only to save time, but to minimize multiple dangers and hazards.

Every major fire I have ever monitored, in every jurisdiction where everybody and his mother has a portable, is plagued by stuck portable mics on the working channel. Every one. Not to mention the feedback when someone is trying to communicate important information. There are too many radios present...
"EVERY major fire". Seems like alot of stuck microphones. How come the stuck microphones only happen on major fires, as you say, and not the small fires and incidents such as car accidents.

IF there is a problem with stuck microphones - then the leadership needs to address the issue and maybe have a class or "Inservice" as we say in Public Safety, on effective radio communications. A stuck microphone may prevent an emergency radio transmission from being broadcasted, such as entrapment - medical request - additional manpower with rescue equipment or fire hoses.

"Some" people do not understand what we actually do and go through to get a paycheck. Our job is hazardous. It is very dangerous at times. And there are times when we face trouble that we just take a deep breath and "Move Out". The seen....and the unseen dangers that we deal with on the "Fireground". Our job does not need hampered more by limiting radio communications, so that we may deal with the threat, and dispatch that threat, in a timely manner.


FF - Medic !!! ( Firefighter - Paramedic - Haz Mat Tech )
 

ff-medic

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If your leader fails to notice........
Leadership means accepting responsibility, among alot of other things.

The "Leader" is ultimately responsible. The "Leader" is the one in charge of everyone. Rescue, EMS, Police - Fire - Power and Utilities companies, and other assets. If something goes wrong, a firefighter gets hurt, a utility worker gets electricuted, then the "Leader" is "Ultimately" responsible.

He....Or she...delegates authority to the different "Sectors" on the scene. And those sector leaders report to them. The Leader ( Incident Commander" ) delegates authority to different areas on the scene. This is not pawning their responsibilities off to someone else.....in this situation, but it creates more eyes and ears for the "Leader" or Incident Commander, so they do not overstep their "Span of Control". Not overstepping the bounds of "Span of Control" is important...and is just as basic as the A-B-C's of CPR.

Pay attention to detail, maintain situational awareness, be aware of your surroundings, and plan ahead as to what you believe will need to be done "In time" on the fireground. Make predictions as to the spread of teh fire and how it will act. Contrmplate briefly =possible emergencys / troubles / setbacks / contigencies. And again.....as I was trained....minimize the "On scene" time the best that can possibly be done - as to minimize dangers to the Firefighters, and minimize other possible hazards.

FF - Medic !!!
 

ff-medic

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EVERY member who enters IDLH environment needs to have a portable radio. Period.
"IDLH" ( Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health ) describes alot of environments...To me.

OSHA, MSHA and a host of other state adn U.S.Govt agencies descibe IDLH as a " Toxic atmosphere" or "Low Oxygen" environment.

To me...... IDLH is a Chemical spill, a Structure Fire - A car accident, a search and rescue, or a simple brush fire ; because I can get injured or killed on any one of them.

And yes you are correct, every Firefighter who enters a IDLH environment needs a radio.


FF - Medic !!!
 

ff-medic

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Radio work worries firefighters


"Communications are a big deal," said Rochester Fire Capt. Michael Dobbertin. "They're our lifeline."
Yes. Radio communications are a big deal.


In some cases, the new radios could cost at least twice as much as the ones firefighters use now.
Shop around and / or send out bids. Even go out of state if you have to. Most of the time, initial bids / pricing will be high, and I am almost certain that someone will out bid the proposal you have in your hand.


"It is important to note that given the size and scope of the new digital radio system, it is, by design, being deployed in phases as we seek to add new groups to it," he said. "It has been anticipated from the beginning that specific tweaks will have to be made as we receive feedback from those who will be the end users."
Get a GOOD contract, with everything detailed and itemized right down to the last penny. Research the radio folks doing the work. Just beacuse they done the lowest bid, does most certaily mean that they are not the correct ones for the job. Like I said - you may have to go 150 to 250 miles out of your locale, but it just may be worth it.....both financially and radio wise.


Harris RF Communications has largely finished building for the county what in technical lingo is called a digital trunked radio network — a roughly $30 million system of towers, antennas and fiber-optic cables.

The county has made other upgrades to public safety communications since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including new police and fire radios to comply with new federal radio mandates, but this is perhaps the most sweeping change.
I am not there, BUT 30 million seems pretty cheap....to me, for what is described in the article.


When firefighters tried to transmit from spots where they would be most likely to respond inside buildings, as well as from basements, their current VHF radios failed nearly half the time, blocked by walls or ceilings. But on the new digital system, 86 percent of their messages got through — a huge improvement.
86% does not even come within my standards...especially when my life is on the line. I hope that there is a "Backup" analog channel(s) - so if there is a problem with the digital comms, they can fall back on analog.

The county's digital system works more like a cellphone network, routing each message through a tower.
Not all messages have to go through the tower. That saves the headache of the dispatcher having to retransmit information. Dispatchers are dispatchers, not secretaries. Call the other unit on the radio, switch channels to talk to the agency you want to talk to - that is what multi channel radios with sometimes hundreds of channels, and all of their programming is for - is so the user can switch channels or "Change Frequencies" to talk to whom they need to talk to......INSTEAD of using the dispatchers as secretaries and delivery people. Some people begged for those 512 channel radios...they need to use them instead of manupulating the dispatch centers time.

If a firefighter's transmission cannot reach a tower, it will not reach anyone.
Poor in my opinion. Simplex on scene, or a portable repeater on one of the fire appratus. "RAT PACKS" like Troopers and Deputies use. Most Rescue units roll with a Fire Engine for traffic accidents and structure fires. Install a portable repeater in the Rescue Truck. Poor and ineffective comms at an incident....especially a fire...needs to be remedied real quick.


Onondaga County, which also uses digital radios, uses a system that allows firefighters to switch back to analog if need be, said Bill Bleyle, emergency communications commissioner.
"Switch back to analog if need be" ---- GOOD for them. Someone was thinking.


Moore said the county is looking at funding opportunities
Grants are handed out every day. That is what we pay taxs for. Write the Federal Representative that they elected adn ask for help and or guidance in Government Grants. Money is most always there, you just have to know where to go get it = Local - State - Federal - Business / Industry contributions.

FF - Medic !!!
 
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