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Fire Communications

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  • Fire Communications

    Our county is dispatched by one center for police fire and EMS utilizing the Hoosier Safe-T Network. The center talks to each piece of equipment, for each department on one talkgroup, there are no operation talkgroup assignements given on dispatch, unless requested. So all departments operate off of "one" talkgroup, 99% of the time.

    I feel the departments should be assigned operation talkgroups for every call and the dispatch center should monitor all (total of 5 available now).

    8 Fire Departments
    (1-paid/staffed 24/7 and the remainder volunteer)

    6 EMS Departments
    (County-wide EMS system with 2 paid/staffed ALS units 24/7 and the remainder volunteer)

    I am looking to start an adult, non-department bashing conversation to learn how other areas operate. My specific area of concern is fire/ems operational talkgroup assignment procedures/policies.

  • #2
    Welcome of the forms, Chief.

    I work for a department that assigns a tac to every incident (I'll explain more in a minute) and volunteer in a county where a tac is usually only assigned upon request from the field personnel - although the dispatcher DOES have the right to assign a tac if there's too much traffic on the main dispatch channel.

    At work our TG's are assigned as follows:
    • D1: Main dispatch - units are dispatched here, mark enroute, and then immediately go to the assigned tac.
    • D2: General non-emergency chit-chat
    • Tac 4: All EMS calls and MVA's with no entrapment
    • Tac 5: ALL single-company fire responses
    • Tacs 6-13: Each multi-company fire response gets its own tac

    This works okay, but not great. The problem we have is communications center staffing. One dispatcher is monitoring D1, D2, and the Fire Marshal channel, while another monitors all of the tacs, with some backup from the Fire Supervisor if the tac operator becomes swamped. There are many times where important radio traffic is getting missed on one TG because the dispatcher is monitoring a higher-priority call on another TG. That would be one concern that I would have with the scenario you're proposing.

    One of the things I like is done north of me, where many of the counties work the same way - the call is dispatched on one talkgroup, and it then goes go to a "response" TG, and if the incident escalates, it gets it's own dedicated TG just for that incident. However, this scenario is for large career and combination departments, and might not be the answer for VFD's with units marking enroute at different times and potentially missing vital radio traffic.

    Again, I would check with the communications center to make sure you get feedback from them before making too many drastic proposals...gotta make sure that they're on your side!
    Career Fire Captain
    Volunteer Chief Officer


    Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

    Comment


    • #3
      Hello there! Here in southeast missouri..our 911 center operates the same way (Police/fire/ems)..we have 13 fire depts in the county and one county ambulance dist with 3 houses...they also just recently took in a neighboring county's dispatching on contract..gained about 5 more fire depts and 1 more ambulance dist.

      Until now, there was a fire channel, and an ems channel, both received dispatched calls on each and could use it as talkback as well...like you said with this many, it tends to get crowded..so we also have a county fire ground channel, that alot of times, command on scene will have operations switch to that channel to free up the talkback..

      now for the new system..our new system they just implemented only changed for fire side..calls will be dispatched on one channel, and they have added a new fire talk back channel to aid in freeing up space to dispatch calls...

      we also have a neighboring county that does this..with 2 talkback channels, and several fire ground channel options
      "First In, Last Out"

      Comment


      • #4
        We have a county wide dispatch for 7 volunteer fire/EMS departments plus a medic unit and dive team. Calls are dispatched on a main channel and then transferred to another tac channel. All EMS calls are transferred to tac-3 and tac-1 and 2 are used for fire/rescue incidents. This is sufficient for our county right now, but I can see needing additional tac channels in the future.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for your replies. I would like to know of you that responded, how many are operating on a digital trunked 800 mhz system versus a conventional VHF or UHF system???

          *I am not sure the 0knowledge anyone person has of our system, so I will explain it briefly. We are on a state-wide system (search Hoosier Safe-T Network). If one a person is talking on a talkgroup (channel) then no one else can utilize that specific talkgroup. When we were on the old VHF system, I could be on one side of the county and talk to a group of people and someone could be on the other side of the county talking on the same channel and their would be no interference due to it being frequency based, non trunked system. Unfortunately we cannot do that now.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hello,

            We are operating on a 700-800 MHz DTRS with a multi-county regional dispatch center. In our county, every call is assigned an operations talkgroup and a corresponding simplex channel. Most of the time we do not use it.

            Dispatch is only expected to monitor the main Dispatch talkgroup although they have the ability to monitor the operations channels if they choose/need to. Traveling vehicles (responding/returning) and command are expected to be the only ones on the main dispatch talkgroup. All other traffic should be on the operations talkgroup.

            It works pretty well for us. Sometimes people don't here the ops talkgroup assignment and have to ask, but it is automatically sent to our phones as a text message along with the call info so its not too bad.

            It works well for us, but the neighboring county on the same dispatch talkgroup does it differently. They are only assigned on request. It is definitely not the only good way to do it.

            If I can answer any questions for you let me know.


            Lump

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by 12chief View Post
              Thanks for your replies. I would like to know of you that responded, how many are operating on a digital trunked 800 mhz system versus a conventional VHF or UHF system???
              We are at work. Large 800MHz digital radio system that covers three counties and has about 8000 subscribers from various agencies on it.

              Radio systems are a finicky thing when it comes to how they're set up. We operate a VHF system at home, but it's county-wide with multiple repeaters and system voting, so as far as using the same frequency at the same time on two opposite ends of the county, it would never happen unless we were using one of our two talk-around (line of site) channels, but then the dispatcher can't monitor any of that traffic. It's a give-and-take, I suppose.
              Career Fire Captain
              Volunteer Chief Officer


              Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

              Comment


              • #8
                I definately appreciate the responses. I think everyone does some form of operations based assignments per call, so that is good to hear.

                My concern for my department and the county is this. Not routinely switching to operational talkgroups will lead to confusion in adverse conditions, when communications are of the essence. A person not being able to communicate an vital message due to another call being dispatched, making the talkgroup busy.

                The dispatch center says we can have one if we wish to have one, which is great, but my problem with that situation is this. If we are dispatched to a motor vehicle accident, our district BLS EMS unit is sent, as well as one of the County ALS EMS units. Three separate agencies responding to "one" crash. If I as Chief of one department request an ops, which they will do, nothing requires the other two departments to switch, therefor lilmiting communications.

                Thanks for your responses and anyone with procedures in PDF that I could look at I would appreciate them. Also if anyone has a situation they have encountered, documented, outlining the need for operational talkgroups assignments, I would enjoy those as well.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by 12chief View Post
                  If I as Chief of one department request an ops, which they will do, nothing requires the other two departments to switch, therefor lilmiting communications.
                  I think the key is to get everyone on the same page. They shouldn't be "required" to switch, they should agree to switch. Our plan was developed as a county with all agencies working together. If someone is on the wrong talkgroup they will be asked to move over.

                  Maybe I am lucky that I work in a county were we work together well and most of us look out for firefighter safety and the good of the public, not our egos or territories. I have worked in places that were not like that. It sucks.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Basically in a nutshell, we talked on an 800Mhz GE/Ericsson style system which is actually a multi-agency system run (and repaired) by the Sheriff's Office in our county, and was shared by us (primarily paid Fire & Rescue with some volunteer stations) and also several smaller agencies, along with the main user, the SO.

                    Calls were dispatched by the Lead Dispatcher voicing a call and causing the CAD to dispatch the call also, and the system also used an overhead voice alert system for the firehouses and also the Walkie-Talkies as well as alert printers in each station.

                    Like I said, calls were dispatched by the Lead Dispatcher, and the respective TAC channel operators would then handle the units (East and South was TAC 1 and West and North was TAC 2) with the entire county divided by a diagonal line [ / ].

                    As a short note, before 800Mhz came on board in our county, the county was a mix mash of different systems, as each individual agency had it own radio system on different frequencies (usually VHF) and almost no intercity communication, so in cases of mutual aid, you just got a W/T from one of the host units and talked on it.

                    So now when the s**t hits the fan, they try to switch major incidents to an un-used TAC channel, but because of staffing levels in there, often have NO one to monitor the scene of the incident.

                    The Communication Center (as well as the field units) is currently going through an "experience drain" in that the seasoned old timers are retiring left and right, taking their experience and knowledge with them right out the door.

                    I am in no way bragging when I admit that I was one of those old timers (32 years service) who retired, and while I was still there, they were hounding me to be a Shift Supervisor, but I did the math, and for a 7% raise in pay, I was expected to take 300% worth of BS, so I told them NO, but unofficially I helped mentor several new people and gave advice to the new supervisor when it was needed.

                    Now retirement is also a rough job, but somebody has to do it!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Chief,

                      Two things if you are the IC then regardless of which agencies are responding you as the IC make the decissions o TAC channel assignments untill such time as you delegate a Communication Leader in the Logistic section of the command.

                      Second, all public safety bands have Analog / Convential Mutual Aid channels, In your case refered to as I-TAC and 8-TAC by the communications NIFOG. These assignments are meant to enable departments and responders who do not normally respond together or have radios that are not cross / commonly programmed to talk with each other and the IC.

                      http://digitalebookden.com/interoperability.html

                      http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/n...or-viewing.pdf

                      http://www.npstc.org/commUnitLeader.jsp

                      ----------------------

                      Originally posted by 12chief View Post
                      The dispatch center says we can have one if we wish to have one, which is great, but my problem with that situation is this. If we are dispatched to a motor vehicle accident, our district BLS EMS unit is sent, as well as one of the County ALS EMS units. Three separate agencies responding to "one" crash. If I as Chief of one department request an ops, which they will do, nothing requires the other two departments to switch, therefor lilmiting communications.

                      Comment

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