Thursday, October 16, 2014

Everything you ever thought was right about Firefighter communications is probably WRONG!

There are four essential functions related to firefighter communications.  They are as follows:

1) Getting personnel to the scene - Sometimes known as the dispatching process which involves alerting available personnel and monitoring acknowledgement and updates.

2) Mobile communications between fire apparatus and dispatch,  Noise protective headsets for hearing protection and NFPA/OSHA compliance and litigation avoidance are generally recommended.

3) Incident command communications involving communications between fire officers and firefighters on the scene.

4) Confined space and/or aerial ladder communications generally requiring hands free communications capability.

For years, fire departments have been encouraged to purchase ever increasingly more expensive radios and systems to supposedly serve all, or as many functions as possible, with a single device. In twelve step addiction treatment programs, this is known as stinking thinking.  In more polite circles, it is known as tradition, or following the crowd.  Whatever you want to call it, this combined utility concept is WRONG!  Here's why!

1) Volunteer firefighters don't need, or want, to lug around a one pound, two thousand dollar radio.  What THEY want is something light, with message retention, that doesn't cost too much if they lose or damage it.  What dispatch and incident commanders want is immediate reporting that the call has been received and some idea as to how many people will be making the run.  That little blue thing in the upper left hand corner (it's called a Hornet) can do this at a cost of under $400 each AND it's ISO approved!.

2) Firefighters enroute to the scene in vehicles using sirens need hearing protection.  Most assume that expensive headset intercom systems (either wired or wireless) are required. This is not true.  Hearing protection with intercom and radio integration does NOT have to be expensive. The mobile radio used in vehicles needs to be compatible with other systems used in the area, including P25 for SAFECOM approved interoperability. Better yet, we have a simple and affordable device that gives on-scene incident commanders the full power of a mobile from their portable for about half the cost of a vehicular repeater AND, we can operate in band (VHF-VHF) or cross band (VHF-800 MHz) We call it a BlueBox.  You'll call it incredible!

3) All firefighters who are members of a fire department do NOT need permanently assigned radios for on-scene use.  What they DO need is the ability to pick up a fully charged operational radio at the station (or assigned on scene) for those who make the run.  We have some of the most rugged and affordable portable radios available anywhere for less than $400 each with your choice of analog, digital, or both!

4) All kinds of "fixes" are offered for confined space and aerial ladder communications. None of them meet the exacting requirements for fire and rescue activities.  We've got one that DOES with full duplex, hands free operation, long range, and digital audio quality in a wide choice of headsets for a variety of applications for less than the cost of traditional solutions! It's called a Multi-Voice-Radio. There's nothing else quite like it!

The 2014 AFG grant application period should be opening within the next 30 days.  We would welcome the opportunity to work with you in defining a system that works for you. Demonstration system will be available in Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, MS, and Norcross, Georgia. There is no charge for attending an orientation session at either location. Just let us know the date and time you would like to visit.  We'll have the coffee on!  We are also available for either day or evening meetings attended by multiple departments.  Just let us know where and when you would like to get together.  We'll be there! You can call us at 800.489.2611 or by email to