Monday, August 15, 2011
Is P25 the only interoperable solution?
Over the years, we have steadfastly maintained a position of supporting P25 as the preferred standard for public safety communications. We did not come to this conclusion on our own. P25 is the ONLY standard recognized by DHS, SAFECOM and most (SCIP's).
The fact is that a standard is rarely mandatory. In the case of DHS communications grants, there is a provision to take exception to the rule for "compelling reasons". This essentially allows a department to apply for analog, or one of two other digital systems (DMR or NXDN) with some assurance that the application will be approved if a proper narrative is provided.
Having said that, we still support P25, not only from the viewpoint of technical compliance but for the goal of developing a true nationwide interoperable network. For what it's worth, we do NOT support 700 MHz except in the very largest metro areas. We believe that VHF is the best overall choice, followed by UHF under certain conditions.
As a grant applicant, you should address the need for narrow banding older radios as well as adding VTAC and/or UCALL national interoperability channels. All new radios used in your department should have VTAC and/or UCALL frequencies installed. This should be identified as a cost item in your grant application.
A second major point is interoperability with other users. If you are applying as a fire department, you should be able to talk to the police and vice versa. This should not be done on your current frequencies (which would not be permissible on some systems such as the Alabama Forestry Commission fire repeaters for police use). Rather, we suggest new P25 repeaters in each county, one for fire and one for law. This project should be a part of a regional, rather than an individual grant. This will be more fully addressed in our P25 Planning Guide.
The third consideration is wide area interoperability which would give you the capability of communicating on VHF, UHF, 700, and 800 MHz. This can be part of a communications project on either departmental or regional grants. We recommend at least two of this quad band radios per department.
Fourth, we think you should include hearing protection as required both by NFPA and OSHA (not to mention litigation avoidance) as well as a fire station security system to monitor AC, fire, and intrusion detection.
A quick planning guide is available at www.info4u.us/P25_Fire_Specials.pdf. We hope you will find this information to be useful. If you need additional assistance in preparing your application, we can recommend an excellent grant writer. His fee is $250 for a single department or $1,000 for a regional application. Call us at 205.854.2611 for additional information or for assistance in preparing an application on your own.
Additional information on budgeting a narrow band and VTAC and/or UCALL upgrades on existing equipment is available a www.info4u.us/dhsapmemo.pdf. If you prefer to apply for a less expensive DMR (Hytera or MotoTRBO) system, see www.info4u.us/LARS2001.pdf or for an even less expensive analog system, see www.info4u.us/Eligible_Products.pdf. There is not much time left to apply for the 2011 AFG program. Let us know if we can help in any way!