• Effective immediately we will be deleting, without notice, any negative threads or posts that deal with the use of encryption and streaming of scanner audio.

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Why the Forsyth County fire department has decided to encrypt its radios, and why that concerns First Amendment expert

scseh

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Why the Forsyth County fire department has decided to encrypt its radios, and why that concerns First Amendment expert

Kelly Whitmire
FCN staff
Updated: Feb. 1, 2019, 4:52 p.m.

For years, local residents have had the ability to monitor fire and law enforcement traffic on radio scanners and, more recently, scanner apps for smartphones.

Frequent listeners might have noticed a change in recent months: Though traffic is still available from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, transmissions from the Forsyth County Fire Department are no longer accessible, instead going through encrypted channels after recent upgrades to the county’s E-911 radio system.

“I think we’re trying to have a balanced approach to this while still having the capabilities of encrypted channels but dealing with it different between the medical calls, the suppression calls and the law enforcement calls,” said County Manager Eric Johnson.

Since law enforcement is under Sheriff Ron Freeman and fire is a county department, the two are not required to both either encrypt or not encrypt.


Continue Reading Story at following URL:

https://www.forsythnews.com/local/local-government/why-forsyth-county-fire-department-has-decided-encrypt-its-radios-and-why-concerns-first-amendment-expert/
 

dave3825

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“In the case of the fire department, it’s a different nature of calls,” he said. “Most of our calls are not structure fires. Most of our calls are medical emergencies.”

For those medical calls, Johnson said there is concern from county officials about how pertinent that information is and whether sensitive information might get out.

“I respect the fact that since most of our calls are medical calls, I think that there is a lot of logic in those being encrypted so that we’re not inadvertently on an open channel allowing people to kind of monitor medical calls,” Johnson said.

However, some feel the encryption of the radios can impede the public’s ability to get information.

Richard T. Griffiths, president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said there was “no argument” that some radio traffic needed to be encrypted and saw “no rational reason for fire or public health services to be encrypted.”
The solution is simple. Have a new channel or tg for medical related calls. Then encrypt that channel. Does this fire service still use pagers?

There is another story about their fire service but it thinks I am running an ad blocker and wont let me view it..
Forsyth County commissioners consider countywide fire service district
 

yardbird

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There is no rhyme or reason for fire dispatches to be encrypted.

Sounds like they are trying to hide something.

I think agencies that do encryption are hiding something they don't want anybody to know about.

I sort of agree law enforcement swat, bomb, and surveillance should be encrypted. Give me a break dispatch come on.

Just like I said it is a way to stop the honest man from having a hobby.

Time for law makers like in Colorado to draft legislation to outlaw encryption of any sorts.

Especially for public safety. (Excluding cell phones and other means of personal communications devices).

Better yet somebody needs to come up with away to bust encryption.

Just my thoughts

David
 

kruser

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Years ago there was a chlorine leak from a rail tanker car in the yard in Dupo, IL.
Those with scanners immediately knew how bad the leak was, the direction the chlorine gas was moving as well as how fast it was moving.
This was not a daily thing but I heard these leak warning on several occasions.

I do think they had some type of siren system that basically just told the residents to evacuate but those with scanners often knew all the important detail as much as an hour before it was broadcast by any kind of media or possibly alerted by warning sirens.
I did not live there but knew several that did and they all relied upon scanners for this info. It was kind of like having a WX radio but for hazardous gas leaks from one of the rail yards tanker cars.
I could monitor them from my side of the river and heard plenty of evacuation orders that the PD would announce with PA speakers on their cars. By the time I'd hear this evac order, I already knew long ago what was leaking as well as the direction it was moving.

I'd guess today that Dupo, IL PD and Fire are both on Starcom's P25 system but I have no idea if they still broadcast this info for the local public's benefit. Fire may still broadcast the info but probably more for the safety of their first responders.
 

chill30240

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The solution is simple. Have a new channel or tg for medical related calls. Then encrypt that channel. Does this fire service still use pagers?

There is another story about their fire service but it thinks I am running an ad blocker and wont let me view it..
Forsyth County commissioners consider countywide fire service district
That's what I've always thought. Due HIPPA I agree that medial calls should be encrypted. Even though they don't use names and SS numbers, they do use addresses with a description of the individual in need of help and what the problem is. All someone has to do is look up the address and figure from there. To encrypt the whole department is just plain ridiculous. I was reading the the database last night, don't remember where it was, the whole city was encrypted including pubic works. Heaven knows that we don't need to listening to where the garbage trucks are located. LOL. Sensitive info yes regular calls no. They've encrypted the whole county except for 3 talkgroups. That's just plain silly.
 
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N8IAA

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The biggest problem with living in the Metro ATL area, is that there is a feed frenzy by the major TV news stations to be the first on the scene of a house fire or accident. It causes multiple problems for the first responders.

Do I like that the FD and SO/PD's have gone silent. Absolutely not. Where I live, the county went silent almost eleven years ago. Same with the county just north of me.

Life and scanning go on regardless.

Larry
 

TailGator911

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I had no idea that the after-fire businesses were chasing fire trucks via scanners to sell people on their services. But I am not surprised. Years ago I was with a friend one night and we decided to check out a big fire happening in the warehouse district in South Gate (LA area) that we heard on the scanner, and I was shocked at the amount of news channel stringers that showed up at the incident. We were up on a hill overlooking the whole scene as to not get in the way, and there were as many people with cameras down there as there were first responders. Opened my eyes.

It's easy to see the points on both sides of the argument, but no matter the debate, there is no debating the Constitution and our rights as citizens. We have a right to listen as the tax-paying citizens who pay their salaries.

My question is, in areas/cities with full digital encryption on their public safety channels, how is the media adapting to the changes in scanner coverage?

JD
kf4anc
 

ts442k9

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I usually donate something to my local LEO each year. The day that they decide encrypt will be the last day I donate. If everyone would quit donating money to those entities who encrypt, then that might cause them to change their minds about going silent.
Unless you donate 10's to 100's of thousands of dollars, they don't and won't care.
 

ts442k9

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Our County went full encryption for about six months and here’s how it rose and fell.
It started when our counties Chief Deputy started a fight at Walmart on a black Friday. County units were there, local units were there and State units were there. The sheriffs department attempted to sweep the incident under the rug, however, because of a scanner page and broadcastify, it was brought to the news’ attention. Shortly after this they encrypted ALL radio communications for LEO in the county. This wouldn’t have been a problem however the fire departments use some of the same talkgroups on the scene of incidents. New talkgroups were assigned to fire units for on scene communication, however they couldn’t directly contact LEO on the same scene due to the SO having a policy that ALL their communications must be encrypted, with the only exception that command staff could talk on fire talkgroups. This all went on for a couple of months, other than it being a gigantic pain in the ass, it worked okay. After a while fire and ems were responding to incidents that they weren’t needed at. They had been paged, but LEO had called them off. Because fire couldn’t monitor the law channels, and dispatch didn’t relay the information (they couldn’t because they didn’t have time, or so they claimed.) Eventually, the local PD’s and FD’s got fed up with the counties BS. ALL of the chiefs went to the county board and voiced their concerns and threated to have someone else dispatch everyone in the county except the sheriffs department. (The sheriff ran the dispatch center) After a couple of meetings, the sheriff and chief deputy were removed from office, the dispatch center was transferred to the county, all encryption was removed with the exception of the TRT channels and everyone is now using the same CAD. It was a huge pain in the ass and not a lot of fun for a while.
 

N8IAA

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My question is, in areas/cities with full digital encryption on their public safety channels, how is the media adapting to the changes in scanner coverage?

JD
kf4anc
Facebook and Twitter. Most all agencies have accounts and PIO's. That's how info is gathered in the social media age.
 

TailGator911

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So a call goes out for a 911 event. In the past, media agencies got that call on a scanner at the time it was dispatched. I am not understanding how they are still getting the call in real time. How do they hear it to Tweet it? Who Tweets it? I have my local PD on FB and Twitter but they do not rebroadcast their dispatches on social media. Forgive me, but I am still coping with the New Age of Digital hah

JD
kf4anc
 

ipfd320

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a big problem also with the streaming was that the cell app users were instantly tweeting the calls and blowing the calls out of proportion for posting gains and getting the public in a frenzy with misinformation--

Unless the whole country / scanning community opens there mouths and has petitions going to decrypt--its just gonna get worse in a few years
 

yardbird

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Just so I'm clear here, you're all-in for breaking Federal law? To me, that sounds *exactly* like a reason why public-safety might want to encrypt their comms.
I think if you go back and read the communications privacy act.

If I am wrong, but I don't think there is anything mentioned in the act except for cell phones, alpha pagers, cordless phones and baby monitors.

David
 

N8IAA

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So a call goes out for a 911 event. In the past, media agencies got that call on a scanner at the time it was dispatched. I am not understanding how they are still getting the call in real time. How do they hear it to Tweet it? Who Tweets it? I have my local PD on FB and Twitter but they do not rebroadcast their dispatches on social media. Forgive me, but I am still coping with the New Age of Digital hah

JD
kf4anc
No. They do not broadcast their dispatches on social media. The PIO gives out a report of what happened. Now, realize there are those out there that still follow fire engines to sites and then go on social media, and a lot that are, are the news stations. When was the last time that you saw a reporter without a phone in their hands?
 

N8IAA

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The unication pagers solve the E issue from those that wonder about pagers. They have as available.
So, you're saying that if you have a G4/5, and a system programmed in, you will hear the encrypted TGID's? And you're not a LE or FD? How is that possible?
 

belvdr

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So, you're saying that if you have a G4/5, and a system programmed in, you will hear the encrypted TGID's? And you're not a LE or FD? How is that possible?
It's not possible unless you have the key and a way to program it. I'm not sure if the Unication pagers support an encryption key.
 
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