U-City Fire Dispatch?

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ZOU4Life

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Does anyone know who dispatches U-City now?? I know they were on North Central, but I havent heard them get dispatched in a while... Thanks!!
 

lynxrufus

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They're evidently self dispatched now. When St. Louis City does the morning mutual aid channel test, they're now calling University City separately.

I think U. City is using the 154.37 shared frequency but I've only heard them dispatch on that once or twice. U. City should be transitioning to the county P25 800MHz trunked system in the near future so whatever they're doing now is probably temporary.

They were dispatched by North County for a while but that didn't last long.
 

ZOU4Life

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What channel is the Mutual aid you were talking about?? Do you know if all of St. Louis County is going to the 800 P25 system (eg. North Central, East Central)? Will the 800 MHz amplify frequency range? Will it be encrypted? Thank you!!
 

lynxrufus

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Mutual Aid is 154.28. One dispatcher calling another.The city tests it a little after 9am every morning.

I don't know what agencies will or will not go to the trunked system. I don't know when..and I don't know exactly how it will work. We shall see.

I think I've discovered why I haven't heard much on 154.37 lately. I'm not sure I even had it enabled on the very old scanner that I use for that.
 

ZOU4Life

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Oh okay. I recorded my scanner on the mut aid channel this morning and didn't pick up anything for some reason. If I live in North County and can hardly pick up East Central or Central, and cannot pick up South Central at all, do you know the type of antenna/equipment I would need to get a strong signal from all of those?
 

lynxrufus

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I've confirmed that U. City is currently being dispatched on 154.37. I heard U. City ambulance 2627 and one of the U. City pumpers dispatched on that channel. I also heard the Clayton ambulance switch over to U. City dispatch on 154.37 in a mutual aid assist to U. City. When they arrived at the hospital they switched back to the East Central Dispatch Center frequency.

154.37 is a shared frequency that many agencies use. I've heard it called "central county core." Brentwood seems to be using it for dispatch now, too, although I had thought they were using a different frequency (which I don't remember off the top of my head).

I didn't hear the mutual aid test this morning. I didn't even hear the city's morning roll call. It's possible there were no tests this morning but I can't say for sure. If the city does the mutual aid test, you should at least hear something, North Central County's response if nothing else. I'm in Richmond Heights and I can usually hear all the responses in St. Louis County (I may not hear St. Charles County or Jefferson County although sometimes I even hear those).

Antennas are a can of worms and a whole 'nother topic. I'd suggest the radiorefernce wiki page.
Scanner Antennas - The RadioReference Wiki
I've tried many different antennas, some of which pull in more signals than I can deal with. One of my next experiments will be the simple wire version of the homebrew Off-Center Fed Dipole described on the following wiki page:
Homebrewed Off-Center Fed Dipole - The RadioReference Wiki

I love to experiment with antennas but I usually go back to a back of the set antenna or even a rubber ducky for general use. They're simple and where I live they pull in plenty for me to listen to.
 

ZOU4Life

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Okay cool. That explains a lot now. Yeah I'm in the medic program in St. Louis and we do a lot of ride alongs/clinicals on different ambulances and hospitals in St. Louis and one of them is Clayton. Pretty solid group of guys. But yeah I'm in Florissant and I can pick up St. Charles pretty clear, but seem to pick up fair amounts of static with SC, CC, and EC. So I'm wanting to pick up their frequencies for when I do my rides with them so I can have them recorded on my computer but I don't know which antenna to get. I upgraded my stock Uniden antenna to a RS Indoor Telescopic Scanner Antenna, which I did notice a little of a difference, but not by much. Do you have any recommendations for both outdoor and indoor/desktop antennas? Do you think it's even worth the investment if everyone's switching over to 800 MHz??
 

nick1427d

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ZOU

Just to clarify a few things for you as I am a FF in StLCO and have been a scanner junkie for ages

Ucity used to be dispatched by North Central but about a month ago they went back to being dispatched by their own PD. The frequency is in fact 154.370. PL Tone CTCSS 192.8. 154.370 is used by a few agencies in the central core area but they are mostly PL toned so they don't hear each other. EVERYONE is going to the new trunking system, supposed to be this winter at the latest. As far as tone outs go, that is up in air. The problem with tones on 800mhz is that there is no pager that will detect those tones. The radios themselves will alert but not sure on the effectiveness. If you look around the area, particularly IL, most FDs simulcast on the new 800 and old VHF and almost all still page out on VHF.

To help you with your receive problem you must take in account many factors that may be causing you not to hear traffic. If you are having trouble hearing tone outs from a dispatch center, getting any antenna outside of your house and high up will help. On the current VHF frequencies that FDs use for talk back, you have to realize that most VHF mobiles that are in trucks are only at 50 watts, some at 25 watts, very few anymore at 100watts. This means that if you are trying to hear trucks in SOCO in North county, it's unlikely unless your antenna was pretty far up in air (still unlikely). Remember that the trucks only need to communicate with dispatch and other mobiles that are usually within their vicinity. Jeffco and other counties that have a lot of hills and obstructions may use 100watts.

Ucity comes in pretty good for me as I am about 20 miles from them and don't have many buildings and/or trees in my way.

The cheapest options for you to increase monitoring range would be IMO a mag mounted VHF antenna, placed on something metal outside. You can find NMO mag mounts with a terminating BNC fairly cheap on eBay. Then just buy a NMO VHF antenna. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on anything fancy. A "unity gain" or even a 2-3 db gain antenna will probably work for you. If you want the antenna to pick up everything then go with a "wideband scanner antenna". You will sacrifice performance on specific bands but won't limit yourself to one band. I have a 3db gain VHF on a mag mount right outside my upstairs window and I barely pick up Trucks 10 miles away but can pick up dispatch centers about 30 to 40 miles out. As far as monitoring 800mhz, the system will be composed of multiple sites. Don't know the specifics but basically if I have an 800 in my hand in jeffco I should be able to communicate with somebody in stlcounty as if we were standing next to each other. When you transmit, it will hit nearest tower, then retransmit your message. In short, if you have a digital trunking scanner wait until the system is in use and see if you have issues monitoring. You shouldn't need a 800 antenna but we will see.

What kind of scanner do you own? I'd start saving for a digital trunk tracker if you don't own one. Make sure it does 9600 Baud. Also make sure when you are trying to monitor you have the correct frequencies and PL tones. Frequencies change sometimes and even on here they may be listed wrong. I have most of the areas frequencies confirmed so if you want a list just PM me. Hope this helps.
 

ZOU4Life

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nick1427d: Do you work in the city or county? I own a Uniden BCT15X with a RS Indoor Telescopic Antenna attached to the back of my scanner. I live in Florissant and my house is surrounded by trees so I'm sure thats why I'm having some problems.

I primarily listen to North Central since they respond to my area, but when I do my clinicals for the medic program I like to listen to CC EC and SC to record the calls I run but can barely pick up EC and CC and cannot pick up SC or Jeff Co at all. Stl area dispatching is all I care about/listen to, so I don't need an antenna that picks up anything else (UHF or low band) if it helps improve my signal. When I listen to North Central, I can only sometimes pick up Florissant or Hazelwood trucks. Do North Central's trucks transmit on the dispatch channel or a separate channel? I'm just concerned with dispatch, but if I can pick up the trucks that's an added bonus.

I'm fairly new with scanning and know nothing about antennas or digital trunking, so I'm gonna apologize up front about that. What do you mean by IMO or NMO antennas? What exact antenna/set up do you have to give me an idea of what I'm wanting?

Also, what pros/cons does an 800 MHz system bring compared to the current 154.375/154.22 VHF frequencies? And just to clarify, you were saying that the pagers themselves (Minitor V) will not alert to 800 MHz house tones, but the house system will?

Thank you!!
 
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nick1427d

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Zou,

I'm going to try and answer all of your questions the best I can and going to apologize in advance for the length.

North Central trucks to my knowledge actually transmit on 154.400 but dispatch callsback on 154.325. You probably don't recall but StL City was this way. Basically if you were sitting in North Centrals dispatch center, you would hear the trucks on 154.400, but would answer them on 154.325. Again I dk if this is accurate as I can't hear trucks as far as I am anyway. However I occasionally hear dispatch answering on 154.400. Best bet Zou is program both.

IMO in forum talk is "In My Opinion"
NMO is a type of antenna mount it stands for "New Motorola Mount". If you were to unscrew an antenna on 99% of the trucks around here, it would be on this type of mount. Now this can be permanently installed on a roof of a vehicle or on a magnetic, trunk, mirror, gutter mount.

I have a NMO magnetic mount with coax that was already attached and then I crimped on a BNC (what connects to a scanner). If you're not good at crimping and stripping wire appropriately then just search online or ebay for a NMO mag mount and make sure it has a female BNC on the end. THEN search for a NMO VHF antenna. Make sure it list the frequency range and at least covers the 146-174 mhz area. Some vhf antennas for sale are trimmed to transmit on the ham bands of 140s so your coverage on the FD frequencies will suffer. I have an Antenex B1443 VHF 5/8 wave 3db gain antenna screwed onto a NMO mag mount. I haven't trimmed it either. I have a metal bracing outside my upstairs window that it's holding onto. Then I just ran the cable through my window I keep slightly cracked. It works until I get a more permanent install.

I can't tell you what will be best for your situation because there are many many factors involved with antenna reception. I've bought many many antennas throughout my years, most used and on ebay. You could always buy one mount and a few antennas until you've found one that works. I've never transmitted, only received with them. I have found that some I had, worked better when I lived in the country, that all of sudden were junk in suburbs. Without getting too technical if you have an antenna that is "unity gain" then it's signal propagation (and receiving characteristics) are fairly uniform throughout the horizon. Basically your antenna will pick up signals in equal (or close to equal distance) in all directions. If you have a higher gain antenna (7-9db) such as most "yagi" types, the signal is more narrow like a cone but you gain distance. So for you it may mean that if your antenna will be on roof then probably a 0-3db gain would be sufficient. I'm reluctant to suggest a yagi as they are quite expensive and even though your reception will be better in the direction it's pointing, you will sacrifice in other directions. Here's a link that explains it a bit better.

Antenna Gain Explained : Will a high gain antenna actually suit your purpose ?

I'm by no means an antenna expert, only can offer experience in what i've used. Try asking questions regarding antenna setup on the antenna forum, there's some really sharp guys over there. Remember that everyone is going to ask and suggest you get your antenna outside and higher. If you're in a basement and using a back of set antenna, you're very very limited, to the point of screwed trying to monitor anything other than North Central. If whoever owns the house doesn't mind, look around your basement for an outlet for cable tv. Trace the cable and see where it goes. It may go up to roof to a satellite or antenna for tv. If it's not in use find where it terminates and we can help you from there on how to hook up antenna. Even if the antenna can be placed in attic you will pick up a lot more. If they'll let you I'd say mount an antenna outside on roof and drill hole and run cable to basement that would do wonders for you. Again outdoors and height are your friends, then worry about what type of antenna. Also a high gain antenna in basement will not help as it's going to be blocked by not only house but trees and such. Antenna theory will give you a headache after awhile but search the internet and learn before spending boat loads of money. I know you're a medic student, i've been there, as tempting as it may be, save your money cause things change so quick with radios around here. Not to bum you out even more but North central will be moving to Central county so no more dispatch center up north. But for now try placing you scanner and/or antenna with orientation to St. John since that's where they are located. They have a feed on here as well.


To answer your 800 mhz question I'm going to try and be as polite regarding the situation and non-political. I however am a very honest person so here it goes.

The new 800 mhz system does have some factors that are an improvement over older systems.

The fact that everyone is going to it is the #1 benefit, in that interop problems SHOULD be a thing of the past (although doubtful). Your communication distance is fantastic. On certain talkgroups that use statewide towers, you can talk all over country. We tested it and were communicating with a tech in KY from here in IL. If the system is installed properly, you should never have any issue with anyone including portables to comm centers in hearing you crystal clear. At 700mhz (where you will transmit, i'll get to it later) you have better chance on getting signal out of buildings and through obstacles but you lose power. Therefore repeaters and amplifiers need to be placed strategically in buildings, in trucks etc. The new system is digital so it's supposed to sound better but I disagree. Another advantage to some is it makes it harder for the public to monitor.

Now the problems with digital 800

It's expensive. It uses more computers. When you key up a radio you are transmitting in the 700mhz range. The signal hits closest tower, goes to computer, is assigned a frequency and is retransmitted on the talkgroup on 800mhz. So if computers are down, no system. Everyone will argue that this is uncommon but I wouldn't rule it out. Also if you are in a building or somewhere and key up and don't hit a tower then no one will hear you. It's complicated to program and motorola doesn't allow depts to program themselves anymore with this system. I could program a Vhf radio in 10 minutes but have no clue when it comes to the new radios and wouldn't be able to if I could cause motorola is strict with it. Part of this is motorola not wanting everyone to be able to program the radios and making you spend more money (it's the truth).

Now why has everyone gone to P25 digital TRS 800Mhz. Motorola was losing money in the VHF/UHF world. I've been in this field for years and VHF around here was the single most used bandwidth for public safety. Radios could be purchased used, programming cables and software had over internet for cheap. Therefore nobody really had to use motorola for anything anymore. Not to mention companies like Relm, vertex, Icom etc that sold vhf and uhf radios for dirt cheap and offered programming software for free at times. My volunteer department at one time had 3 different manufacturers of radios and never had any issues. Trunking itself is not new. StL PD has been trunked for a long time and FD was once trunked for short time but they didn't like it.

Now here comes my biased opinion and I know some who may read this will argue but it is what it is. Motorola needed a way to have control over the programming and sale of radios and maintain a monopoly over two-radios and public safety. They developed the P25 or Project 25 system. The radios have GPS, over air programming, encryption blah blah blah. Motorola sells it as a new improved way of communicating, hitting people with how it'll enhance interop, clarity, scanner heads can't monitor, again blah blah. Their angle, now they have full control over every radio they sell. They can track and kill radios that are not "legal" just like a cell phone, in fact they are basically a nextel. Sure you can buy a XTS portable that'll get on systems but once the admin sees an unauthorized radio, bye bye, now you have an expensive paperweight.

Now I will say that the old Vhf had problems. Distance at times was limited especially rural, some installed repeaters but they come with issues too. Like I said earlier anyone could buy a radio and program it. I remember one night at my old FD where we listened to a guy preach about the end of the world on our dispatch frequency. The problem always seemed to be interop and certain people not having appropriate frequencies to communicate. It'll be interesting to see if the new radios will even have interop channels. Were apparently getting dual band radios that can transmit on both VHF and 800 mhz but I'm skeptical on how this will be used. To answer your question about the station alerting. At my FD for example we have our lights and what not hooked up to a plectron that monitors VHF not 800. There's also no minitor pager that does 800. But guess who has a station alerting system they are pushing lately.......Motorola

As a FF who has used the new system and will be again soon I'm excited but nervous.
As a scanner nut I'm furious. I become more and more upset when I hear of a state going to this system some of whom are going encrypted. What's funny is hearing about cities and states that went to this system or similar and went back to old cause it had bugs, but not a common thing. And I applaud those who basically tell motorola to shove it and they stay with what's been working for them.

Hope this helps clarify a few things. Remember to use the search and look on the missouri forums cause a lot of this digital trunking system talk is on there as well.
 

kruser

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Zou,


Now the problems with digital 800

It's expensive. It uses more computers. When you key up a radio you are transmitting in the 700mhz range. The signal hits closest tower, goes to computer, is assigned a frequency and is retransmitted on the talkgroup on 800mhz. . StL PD has been trunked for a long time and FD was once trunked for short time but they didn't like it.
Nick,

Not really true. If you are associated and talking on an 800 MHz systems site, your radio will also transmit in the 800 MHz band, NOT the 700 MHz band.
There is a 45 MHz split between the output and input frequencies. Take any 800 MHz repeater output frequency and subtract 45 MHz from that and you will see the input it still in the 800 MHz band.
700 and 800 MHz systems are two seperate animals.
There are dual band radios that will switch your radio to the 700 band depending on which site is giving you the best signal but then your radio will both transmit and receive in the 700 MHz band and NOT 800.
On 800 MHz systems, the repeater output will be in the upper part of the band and your portable or mobile will transmit in the lower part of the 800 MHz band but NOT 700 MHz. Your audio could be heard on a 700 MHz site if there are users on the same talkgroup in the 700 MHz sites area and the sites are affiliated with one another but your radio will only operate on the band it is using to receive the signal.
The same is true on 700 MHz trunked systems, You talk and receive on 700 MHz and not 800. The 700 systems also have the same 45 MHz split but I think the split is reversed with repeater outputs in the lower part of the band and the portables or mobiles transmitting on the upper 700 frequencies.

STL City FD is most certainly using the city P25 800 MHz trunked system full time now. They may still simulcast on VHF but I've not monitored the old VHF FD frequencies for a couple months now so I'm not for certain on that. I never had super coverage of city fire on VHF other than dispatch out here in the county so I did not monitor them very often.
I was glad when they did switch fire to the P25 system as I can now hear them but at the same time, I was worried it may cause problems or injuries for the firefighters knowing the probems that can come from a digital communications system.
Or, maybe it is the other way around and they are using VHF and simulcasting on the P25 system. Either way, I hear all fire comms on the P25 system today. All the city fire P25 talkgroups are well documented on the cities P25 system page: St. Louis Regional Communications (P25) Trunking System, St Louis Metro Area, Missouri - Scanner Frequencies

edit: I could be wrong on the STL Fire being all P25. I gave it a listen tonight and I'm seeing Dispatch with truck response but no command channel talkgroups have lit up. Maybe no activity for the command talkgroups to be used.

2nd edit: The command channels are active on the P25 system. It appears all city fire is active on P25.

edit: There are a few low power (2 watt) interop channels that do have inputs in the very low part of the 800 band with 700 MHz outputs but these are not trunked system channels.
 
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lynxrufus

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Yes. St. Louis FD is on the 800 MHz P25 trunked system full time now. The switch happened quickly and is pretty complete. They do not simulcast on the old VHF frequencies. At night, they've been using tones on the old VHF dispatch frequency (154.13) but it's just the tones, no voice. Dispatch is on the trunked system 24/7. The tone on VHF is different from the tone on the trunked system.

They use command talkgroups regularly, usually just command A but if they have two incidents at the same time, they'll use command B. I've never heard them use the district talkgroups or command C, D, etc. I don't know if they use any ops talkgroups. EMS has separate talkgroups which I don't monitor.

On VHF I used to hear just dispatch. Now I hear mobiles and portables and even identify them through radio IDs, although I haven't identified all the radios yet.

On another topic, I'm hearing U. City fire dispatch fine now that I've unlocked the frequency. LOL Lockout also explains why I haven't been hearing the mutual aid channel lately.
 

kruser

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Yes. St. Louis FD is on the 800 MHz P25 trunked system full time now. The switch happened quickly and is pretty complete. They do not simulcast on the old VHF frequencies. At night, they've been using tones on the old VHF dispatch frequency (154.13) but it's just the tones, no voice. Dispatch is on the trunked system 24/7. The tone on VHF is different from the tone on the trunked system.

On VHF I used to hear just dispatch. Now I hear mobiles and portables and even identify them through radio IDs, although I haven't identified all the radios yet.
Thanks for the confirmation!
I thought the same but then when I monitored for a while tonight, I was only hearing dispatch. It turned out being just a slow early evening.

Do you know if they still use 460.175? I think that was just broadcast dispatch audio into one or more of the station houses perhaps with poor reception of the VHF signals. It was only one way and nobody ever talked back on that frequency. That's the one I monitored when they did the morning roll calls but I've not had it programmed in a while now.
 

lynxrufus

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Do you know if they still use 460.175?
I don't know but I seriously doubt it. I get the impression that the St. Louis FD has moved on and does not have any serious problems with the new system (except that they still need the tone out feature of the old system at night). The speed with which they seemed to adapt to the new system kind of surprised me.

To answer your 800 mhz question I'm going to try and be as polite regarding the situation and non-political. I however am a very honest person so here it goes...
Excellent analysis and I agree with what you said. It's all about Motorola establishing a monopoly and taking advantage of people who know very little about what they're buying with taxpayer money. The move to digital trunked systems is one of the great con jobs of our time. Motorola is the big winner and everybody else is a loser. What bothers me most is the extent to which it seems to be government policy to make sure Motorola has a monopoly. Motorola evidently has the best lobyists and the best legislators money can buy. I can't wait for Frontline to do a story on this.

But I've said too much. This is a subject for another place anyway.

North Central trucks to my knowledge actually transmit on 154.400 but dispatch callsback on 154.325.
That's one way of looking at it but I think the opposite terminology is more common. Perhaps it's nit-picking but I think it's common to say that dispatch transmits on 154.325 and that the callback frequency is 154.4. I think most databases list the truck frequency as the response or callback frequency, not the other way around.

It's full duplex. A radio transmits on one frequency (Tx) and receives on another frequency (Rx). There is no repeater. If you tune to the dispatch frequency, you won't hear the trucks.

Do you have any recommendations for both outdoor and indoor/desktop antennas? Do you think it's even worth the investment if everyone's switching over to 800 MHz??
That's the real question, isn't it? If everyone will be switching to a P25 digital trunked system in a few months, then maybe what you should be thinking about is a digital scanner and not a better antenna. You can probably rig up a better antenna for very little money. Sometimes simply moving a scanner a little bit helps a lot. Putting an antenna higher may help a lot. Those things cost nothing. A digital scanner can be expensive. The "word on the street," at least for now, is that fire talkgroups in St. Louis County will not be encrypted. But I don't believe it 'til it happens.

Am I being non-commital enough?

I think things will be changing soon. As I say before, we shall see. I don't have a crystal ball.

I have a "fire" webpage. Here's a link.
Fire Departments, Radio Scanning Frequencies, Fires and Firefighting
There's a good deal of information about St. Louis area fire agencies on there.
I made that page for my own use. I put it on the web because I can.
I just uploaded some new informtion for the first time since last November. I know I haven't updated the information about U. City and I know the VHF frequency information will soon be obsolete and I know there's no squelch code information (most of the old scanners I use don't know nuthin' 'bout squelch codes), but still, somebody might find something that's useful.
 
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nick1427d

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I agree with the suggestion that anyone monitoring the stl area needs to look into getting a digital scanner of some sort. And to reiterate what you suggested earlier, if he ends up with a digital and can get his antenna near a window, I don't see him having an issue with hearing 800 talk as long as he is near a tower.

Being a future user of this new system I can tell you that encryption was brought up but only a few PD channels are supposed to go to encryption and that would be mostly TAC channels and ops for stake outs and what not. I hope this is true.

There are many stories out there about fireground commands not hearing guys inside call maydays but a scanner listener nearby hearing it and contacting 911. I think it was Rochester or maybe Hackensack that had guys trapped in a ford dealership and dispatch and fireground couldn't make out what was being transmitted but somebody close with a scanner was.

I just feel like we're (FDs especially) focusing too much on keeping comms secure and having what's new and supposed to be "better" and not thinking about whether the system will be safe for us. I can tell you from first hand experience that I used the Starcom system inside fire conditions in buildings and had numerous issues with hitting towers. Our own FDs way around it was to go to what was called a scene of action channel that was strictly off the system and radio to radio. This was met with a lot of resistance as these channels were not allocated for that (from Moto techs). But in the end you have to do what's best for the guys inside.

I don't disagree with encryption for Police as there are instances where being secure in that aspect is key, but fire side, alittle unnecessary and frankly dangerous IMO.

I'm very upset that we never tested this system for everyday use, just basically told this is what you're getting. The chiefs can have meetings all day about what motorola says will work but until it's out in the field you don't know for certain. They keep saying that all the trucks and a few buildings will be getting repeaters but again it was done that way in IL and we were still having problems.

I still don't see how they can totally disband VHF for paging. All of the county FD house tones are VHF with some alert systems being activated from dispatch. My department has already stated they don't want to disband it for alerting.

City is using VHF for their house alerts at night because the trucks are usually in house, therefore the houses can still be alerted.

I think we've beat this one to death and you guys will just keep me ranting. :)

Zou,

I think you best bet bud is to wait, save up, and buy a digital and go from there. You could sell your BCT15 and use that money towards one, or keep it to monitor tones and other VHF frequencies. I don't know many scanner junkies that only have one scanner. I have 3 and miss traffic all day long. I wouldn't waste time and money going for new antennas that may not help at all. Like I said previous you could "help" your situation a little and not break the bank by going with a simple NMO VHF setup, but in a basement I doubt it will help much. And like was said earlier if you can pick up the 800 traffic in your basement when it's implemented, then you will most certainly hear truck talkbacks and what not. Again just have to wait and see.

I'll try and keep you guys posted when I know more about when this is going online. I heard October but were thinking more like early 2013. They can't figure out talkgroups.....go figure
 
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