Friday, April 1, 2011

Today is April 1, 2011

We all know that the first of April is also April Fools Day, a time for pranks, tricks, and general foolishness.  Here is a classic example!  Over a decade ago, a chemical weapons incinerator facility was constructed near Anniston, Alabama to dispose of nasty weapons containing a multitude of toxic chemicals including Serine gas.

Since even a minor leak of these gases could cause near immediate death for the general population, our government developed the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP), a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army to provide emergency preparedness assistance and resources to communities surrounding the Army’s chemical warfare agent stockpiles.

A special radio communications system was constructed for use by public safety agencies in the area.  At it’s zenith, approximately 3500 radios were in use even though the system was outrageously expensive, plagued with problems, and programmed to provide only minimal operating features for the users.  Still, a lot of agencies participated in the program since it was essentially “free”

Here’s some news for you – NOTHING IS FREE!  Many of the users, in particular volunteer fire departments, hung on to their old UHF equipment because they knew that one day the program would end and the users wouldn’t be able to afford to maintain the system.  Well guess what?  That day has come!

Here’s the April Fool’s part.  In order to continue using the system, at least 3000 user units must remain on the system and pay $15 per month for every radio used on the system – that’s $150 PER MONTH for a user with only 10 radios!  If the number using the system drops below 3000, the rate goes up on a graduated scale starting at $22.50 per month, rising to over $50 per month PER UNIT depending on the number of participants.

The incredible thing is that there are actually users who are considering this alternative when in reality, a system with much greater capability can be constructed and maintained for a fraction of the cost of maintaining a decade old system that wasn't much to talk about when it was brand new!  That’s what happens when you restrict your choices to a single vendor.

P.T. Barnum was right – There is a sucker born every minute! (Actually Barnum is not the one who made this statement.  For the real story click here). If any of our readers are over in the CSEPP area, you might want to contact us for a better alternative than the one you are now facing.  Our phone number is 205.854.2611 or email