Friday, February 18, 2011

Which FirePager is right for YOU?

In June of 2010, we reported a Minitor V battery retention problem that forced a production shutdown for approximately one month (Click here for details). We later learned that the alleged “fix” involved nothing more than inserting a shim to force a tighter fit rather than correcting an apparently defective case mold.  

We now understand that another Minitor V voice pager problem has been reported.  This problem presumably has to do with a 455 kHz filter that fails shortly after the standard one year warranty.  We are not implying that this was a purposeful act of planned failure, but it appears to be the result of a problem that has not been corrected.

Any purchaser of a Minitor V pager would be well advised to purchase the optional 5 year extended factory warranty as a single repair after expiration of the standard warranty will cost you around ninety dollars.  Multiply that by four years, and you could be looking at a five year maintenance cost possibly exceeding the cost of the pager!

There is a good alternative pager that does not have any such problem and it has a standard 5 year warranty at no additional cost.  It’s called a WatchDog!  Additional information is available by clicking here.

Never heard of a WatchDog?  We’ll be glad to provide references on request.  Concerned about where it's made?  Unlike Minitor V ,which is made in China by Unication Co. Ltd., the WatchDog is MADE IN THE USA!  So, if you can purchase a US made pager with more features, lower cost of operation, and less initial cost, why wouldn’t you do that?

The good news is that you can order the WatchDog pager from Falcon Direct with your satisfaction guaranteed.  All you have to do is click here to get your WatchDog on the way!

Common sense may be returning to Alabama!

On February 22, 2011, the Alabama Department of Homeland Security made the startling announced that a planned 700 MHz statewide communications system would be delayed indefinitely (Click here for details).  Those of us who watch such things view this as much more than a “postponement”.  Cancellation might be the better term!  So why would I have such a thought?

Well, for one – we just had an election.  Almost immediately, the old DHS administration were out the door and gone forever more.  Now we have some local people at the top who understand that Alabama’s needs come first in Alabama, which is as it should be!  Nationwide interoperability is neither affordable, needed, or practical for local first responders.  Now we have a chance to do things the right way.  Many federal agencies have known how to do it correctly for many years.  Did you know that the DHS operations center in central Florida can communicate nationwide RIGHT NOW?  Did you know that the FBI has maintained a nationwide VHF network for DECADES?  So why do we need nationwide interoperability at the local level?

The fact is that WE DON’T!    What we need is a simple and affordable network that allows an officer in pursuit to communicate with an adjoining jurisdiction or a tactical frequency for local area mutual response fire and rescue activities.  Hospitals are well along the way with the establishment or regional disaster communications systems as are Amateur radio operators.

700 MHz trunked technology is outdated, expensive, and inefficient as was evidenced several years ago at the collapse of the Mississippi river bridge in Minneapolis. The cost over runs and coverage issues are well known in every state that has ever attempted to develop and maintain 700 MHz systems.  In simple terms, better, more affordable and efficient technology is readily available.  We are ready to discuss better alternatives to any that may be willing to listen.  We can be reached anytime at 205.854.2611 or by email at

For now, our thanks go out to the current Alabama DHS Administration for showing what appears to be the beginning of common sense.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Story of Big Red.......

Big Red is a Yard Locomotive or YL for short.  YL’s are something like railroad locomotives, but YL’s are like house pets – they never leave the yard.  They run on rails and haul heavy stuff just like other locomotives – they just don’t go very far.

Well anyway, YL-1 (as pictured here) had a problem.  They had a mobile type radio mounted in the engineers cab for communicating with on-site personnel equipped with personal 2-way radios.  The problem was that the engineer couldn’t hear anything over the noise of the locomotive.  Then along comes Falcon…..

We knew that the American Association of Railroads (AAR) had selected the VNB (6.25 kHz) technical standard for interchange rail vehicles (Click here for more information), but we decided that since we weren’t doing any interchanging that we could save some money by using conventional 12.5 kHz analog radios.  We looked at the AAR approved standard locomotive radio and found that it cost over $3,000.  By using conventional technology, we were able to bring the cost down to WELL under $1,000, but that’s not the point of this story.

You may recall that the problem was that the engineer couldn’t hear the radio.  The user came to us for a solution.  We used a desktop radio operating on 110 VAC since we had 110 VAC on the locomotive (You can see the window air conditioner just under the engineer’s windshield). It works like a charm with none of the operational problems associated with operating directly off the locomotives DC power system.  The use of an external speaker with internal amplifier gave us a significant boost over the audio output of most 2-way radios.

Can they hear now?  As Sarah Palin would say – You betcha!  Not only can they hear in the cab, they can hear outside the cab and even inside adjoining buildings!

If you’ve got a whole lot of need and not a whole lot of budget, you may want to give us a call at 205.854.2611 or drop us an email to  Simple solutions at reasonable cost is what we are all about!  Oh, by the way, if you are one those railroad users that need VNB capability, you may want to click here for some GREAT NEWS!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

FCC Compliance for MURS Radio Users

We never cease to be amazed, not only at the lack of knowledge of FCC rules, but the opinions of "experts" that are clearly in contradiction to the rules.  Worse yet, many of those who express their comments in print knowingly admit that they violate FCC Rules because they think the FCC is a toothless tiger. I sometimes wonder how they will react when the guys in the black Fords show up.  Some of the incredible comments posted on these forums are available by clicking here.

Contrary to popular opinion (including my own until recently), the available MURS radios approved for sale by the FCC is VERY limited.  The problem is that many suppliers (in particular those in China and  many dealers selling products such as the Puxing  Model PX-777 "assume" that a Part 90 commercial grade radio approved for business and public safety use is acceptable for MURS use - NOT SO!

Commercial and public safety grade radios are built and approved by the FCC under Part 90 of the FCC Rules and Regulations.  MURS specifications are different, generally favoring the production of a low cost consumer radios such as those available from Dakota Alert.  MURS radios are approved only for Part 95, Subpart J of the FCC Rules. A Part 90 approved radio is NOT approved for Part 95 any more than a Part 95 radio is approved for Part 90.  The radio used must be Type Accepted for the service in which it is used.  And, for what it's worth, a MURS radio can NOT be used on anything but MURS channels as per the following direct quote from the FCC with the exception of radios approved for both Part 90 and 95.

Re: CIMS00002972229 - Question on MURS

The MURS frequencies are 151.820 MHz, 151.880 MHz, 151.940 MHz, 154.570 MHz, and 154.600.  Output power is 2 watts or less. Under Part 95 for MURS, you can only operate on the above frequencies.

I am not trying to teach a course in communications law, but I think it is important to point out that there is a LOT of misinformation on the Internet and the ultimate responsibility for FCC compliance lies with the USER! 

Having said that, I think it also important to know the intended use of the radios.  If it is for personal use, you have very limited, but affordable alternatives in MURS. To my knowledge, NONE of the commercial radio manufacturers (HYT, ICOM, Kenwood, Midland, or Vertex) with the exception of Motorola and Ritron produce MURS radios.  While the USE of the radio does not require a license, the use of the radio DOES require the use of an FCC Part 95 Type Accepted product.  If in doubt, ask the supplier to send you a copy of the FCC Part 95 Type Acceptance Certificate.  If they don't send a copy of the official FCC certification, you can assume that they do not have Type Acceptance when they don't provide the requested documentation.

And, just in case you feel that MURS is best for your individual needs, we invite you to visit our special MURS web site at for the best values in personal communications.

A Comment on Fire Grants

The 2010 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant (FP&S) closed on February 4, 2011 (Why a 2010 grant closed in 2011 is a topic for another day).  

It is commonly known that this grant is the orphan stepchild of the FEMA Fire grant program, sometimes referred to as the coloring book and smoke detector program. 

This year, we noted a declining interest in this program, partly because of some misconceptions as to what could be done, the funding available, and pent up anger in the inefficiencies of government in general.

At one county fire association meeting, I noted a level of anger and frustration by many of the attendees that reflected the feelings of many whom we serve.  In essence, what I was hearing was I had rather be poor and proud than endowed and indebted.  This represents a quantum shift in the thinking of many who have benefited from government sponsored assistance programs.

The net result was the lowest level of interest in an available federal grant program that I can recall, and that is a LONG time since I go back to the days of LEAA (A law enforcement grant program developed in the 70’s).

While it is true that most of us have been conditioned to exist on government subsidies, and many have benefited from those subsidies, it is equally true that a return to common sense is needed.  I see signs of that happening.  I also see signs of increasing responsibility as government watchdog agencies, such as the DHS Inspector General’s Office take a more proactive role in the investigation of cases of abuse and fraud by some grant recipients.  I see these changes as positive and beneficial for us all.

To say that I am somewhat disappointed that more of those we serve did not take advantage of a program we developed for safer communities would be untrue.  On the other hand, I am delighted to announce that a significant number of communities DID apply for funding to make their communities safer for their citizens and first responders.  To these folks, we extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your concern for those you serve, and those who serve you.

For what it’s worth, a non-grant funded version of the referenced program is available at no cost to communities who wish to offer enhanced fire/intrusion detection and notification services to those who would benefit.  Additional information is available by clicking here.

A Comment on Conferences!

We have just returned from the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police (AACOP) Conference recently held at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Montgomery, Alabama.  

I thought that a few comments were in order. Those of us who remember the AACOP conferences of just a few years ago were absolutely astounded at the changes that can be made by making the right selection for the management of association affairs.  The current team is as good at what they do as anyone anywhere in the USA.  They actually came up with a plan that virtually guaranteed that every attendee would visit EVERY vendor present!

What a change from the days of standing in the hall at a business motel spending most of our time talking to other vendors.  This year we were talking to those we serve (or those we wish to serve as the case may be).  Thanks guys – Your effort is MUCH appreciated!

An additional comment on the facilities is in order.  Over the years, we have attended conferences all over Alabama and elsewhere.  The selection of the Renaissance Center was perfect.  The location is generally centralized; the accommodations are first class, and the convention facilities are among the best in the USA.  This was and is an excellent choice!

All too often, we spend too much time complaining.  This is an exception.  On behalf of Midland Radio Corporation and Falcon Direct, we just wanted those who need to know that best effort professionalism is appreciated.  It was a great conference!

Oh, by the way – you may be wondering what the picture has to do with these comments.  It is just a reminder that this winter of snow and ice, WILL end, sometime (I think, maybe)!  Can you stay warm and stay cool at the same time?

Oh by the way #2.  For those who were unable to attend, we would be remise not to mention that one of hot topics of conversation was the move to narrow band and the choosing of the best operating system for today and tomorrow’s communications needs. Very shortly, we will be scheduling meetings around the state to honestly and objectively address these issues.  We will keep you posted, or you can call 800.489.2611 for a private meeting at your convienence.