Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tribute to a Policeman

I recently came across a posting on You Tube that I thought was worthy of sharing.  It is narrated by now deceased Paul Harvey, a radio news commentator with a career spanning over half a century.  This particular broadcast was a tribute to Okaloosa County (FL) Sheriff's Deputies Tony Forgione, Burt Lopez, and Skip York who died in the line of duty several years ago. 

The son of a policeman, Mr. Harvey understood, better than most, the sacrafices made by law enforcment officers and their families. He connected very well to those of us in the communications industry with an interest in building radios going back to his childhood.

As for me personally, I met Mr. Harvey back in the late 60's when I was involved in broadcast radio.  There has never been, nor ever will there be, another Paul Harvey. Click here for Mr. Harvey's commentary.  It will give you a new or renewed perspective and respect for those who give so much for so little.  I know it did for me!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The End of Pager Problems!

We all know about the problems associated with alerting voice monitor pagers.  Over the past decade, the price of fire pagers, unlike every other form of electronics has gone UP, not down!  Further, the inefficiencies of an internal antenna, coupled with the range and audio degradation associated with narrow banding have cut the operating range significantly.  Couple this with reliability issues, battery and charger problems, and you have a compelling reason to look at other alternatives. 

Today, August 26, 2011 at the Alabama Association of Volunteer Fire Departments (AAVFD) conference in Fairhope, Alabama we announced our new DMR pager!  For the first time ever, you can purchase a pager/radio that can function as a pager plus the ability to communicate on VHF or UHF national interoperability channels plus fire ground tactical channels.  It can operate on standard 25 kHz or 12.5 kHz narrow band channels with both audible and vibrate alert.  AND it can communicate with MotoTRBO radios in the digital mode for extended range, superior audio, and longer battery life.

Now - are you ready for the price?  It is the same as a Minitor V and the price includes a FIVE YEAR FACTORY WARRANTY!  We'll be glad to tell you more, even let you try one!  For more information, just give us a call at 800.489.2611 or drop us an email to  You'll be glad you did!

Minitor VÔ and MotoTRBOÔ are registered trademarks of Motorola SolutionsÔ 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thumbs Up Award to the Alabama Department of Homeland Security

As many of our readers know, we pass out awards from time to time to those we engage in our endeavors.  There are both good and bad awards.  There are two classifications of each – Doofus being the worst and Thumbs Up being the best. Sometimes we alternately use the Bouquet and Brickbat Award where we criticize and congratulate at the same time.

It is now time for a Thumbs Up Award to the Alabama Department of Homeland Security  (ADHS) who only recently was the recipient of our infamous Doofus Award.  This rarely happens, but we are as quick to congratulate, as we are to criticize.  This time we not only congratulate ADHS, but also retract our earlier Doofus Award.  How’s that for being fair and balanced?

The basis for our Thumbs Up Award is the offer made by ADHS to all Alabama County Points of Contacts (POC’s) to allow them to assist agencies in their county to use federal funds for narrow banding and interoperability.  They didn’t tell the POC’s what they had to do. They gave them the option of choosing what was best in their local area.

The response time was a little tight, but more than adequate for a POC to respond in a timely manner.  We developed a number of different solutions, all of which were within the maximum allowable amount of $37,500 ($30,000 from DHS with a $7,500 match by the entity receiving the benefit). A partial listing of the alternatives offered by Falcon Direct are available at

Thank you Alabama DHS for doing a very good thing.  You provided every county in the State of Alabama the opportunity to fund both narrow banding and interoperability.  Unfortunately, many of the Point of Contacts statewide were unwilling to take the time to respond to your offer.  Somehow, I think there may be another Doofus award in the works, but it will not be for ADHS.  Thanks guys - the effort was, and is, appreciated.  In the meantime, for others seeking affordable alternatives for meeting narrow banding and interoperability solutions, you may want to review the  products and services available on the link above.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New MiniCom Portable Dispatch Center!

One of our 911 customers got hit by lightning the other day.  The console was knocked out as well as a repeater control radio.  They had insurance, which was good, but there were still the delays associated with the unforeseen disruption.  Events such as this are all too common.  One customer (not ours) waited almost a year to get a repeater station replaced.  

We've got a better way to quickly restore emergency dispatch communications! We call it a MiniCom Portable Dispatch Center (MPDC).  This system consists of a multi-band radio (that's it on the left), a mini operator console (no microphone or headset required) with 2-tone page sending capability, and a multi-band antenna. The MPDC can simultaneously monitor VHF, UHF, 700 MHz, and 800 MHz, analog or P25 digital, 25 kHz or narrow band, conventional, or trunked operation with a single radio!  Better yet, it automatically selects the received frequency and allows the operator to talk back at the push of a button - no channel flipping required. 

The MPDC allows an operator to select any of up to 2608 channels to initiate a VHF, UHF, 700 MHz or 800 MHz call or even to listen on one frequency band and transmit on another!  The price is just $7,495 installed anywhere in the State of Alabama, and it's available on the GSA contract, fully approved by the Dept. of Homeland Security! See for radio specifications.

So, what do you do about repeater site failures?  Not a problem!  We offer choice of a P25  portable incident command or full powered tactical repeater that can be set up in a matter of minutes with prices starting at UNDER $4,000!  And, just to cap things off, how about a field programmable P25 portable for around $1,200 that has features and functionality surpassing other similar radios costing twice as much or more!  Additional information is available at

By the way, if you would like to know more about our service capabilities, see's.pdf or call us at 800.489.2611 for more information or a demonstration.

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 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 If you prefer to apply for a less expensive DMR (Hytera or MotoTRBO) system, see or for an even less expensive analog system, see  There is not much time left to apply for the 2011 AFG program.  Let us know if we can help in any way!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Doofus Award for August!

In 2007, all Alabama public safety agencies agreed to sign over their individual rights for direct Homeland Security funds to the State DHS office for the common good of all concerned.  We now see the results of that decision.

The original amount (around 12 million dollars plus or minus a few) sat with the Alabama DHS drawing no interest and doing nothing toward the development of a Statewide interoperable communications system until 2011.  Well, maybe that's not being totally fair.  They did have some vendor meetings, allegedly spent some money on consultants and actually drew up a State Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP), which no one, including State agencies followed.

In the fall of 2011, the money had to be spent or returned.  So what did they do?  Maybe put in a P25 repeater in each county linked by fiber, microwave, or the Internet?  Nah!  Maybe a cache of radios in each county capable of talking on VHF, UHF, 700 and 800 MHz, analog, P25, conventional and trunked so that each county would have command system capability?  Nah!

So what did the DHS leaders in the State of Alabama do?  They gave the money to our two southernmost counties (Baldwin and Mobile) to build a network of 700 MHz stations with no mobile or portable radios to talk to - Absolutely brilliant!    The fact that the repeater stations cost an average of a half million dollars each, portables around $2,500 and mobiles around $3,500 didn't seem to be a concern even though far less expensive systems could do the job better.

And now, the beneficiaries of this grant are wanting to apply for a federal fire grant to pay for portables, mobiles, and extension of the network.  Can it be that anyone wonders why our government is broke? Congratulations to the Alabama Department of Homeland Security.  You are the hands down winner of the Doofus Award for August!

An Introduction to Flow Dynamics, aka Narrow Banding.......

Much has been written about the real world effects of narrow banding.  Yet, almost without exception, users are shocked at the degradation in performance that occurs when the change is made.

Mostly, the problem is with portable talk-back range.  They just generally don't work well anymore! We have written much about this subject but many of our readers are still having a problem of grasping why performance suffers.  Here is an example that our fireman friends will quickly understand.

Think of standard 25 kHz channel spacing (what most of us have now) as a 3" hose.  Now let's cut that in half and reduce our bandwidth to 12.5 kHz (narrow band) and our hose diameter to 1.5".  Question - Can you get as much water through a 1.5" hose as a 3" hose?  We rest our case - physics is physics whether it's water or radios!

The good news is that have addressed this situation and we can offer affordable alternatives to allow you to make the narrow band conversion as painless as possible.  If you are experiencing portable radio talk back range since switching to narrow band, give us a call at 800.480.2611 or email for a report entitled Living With Less And Still Being Best!