Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New ICOM F3031S and F4031S Series Radios - Built to YOUR specifications!

New ICOM portable- the best of the best in analog portable communications, especially designed for the needs of public safety users.  We recently asked our public safety and industrial users what they most wanted in a personal 2-way radio.

Not surprisingly, the answer was clear audio, long battery life, low operational cost and the ability to operate in high moisture and/or dusty environments. They wanted a radio that was simple to use with a display that was easy to read, and a few "hot" buttons for fast control of programmable functions.  None of them wanted a full keypad! Lastly, they wanted a radio that was reasonably priced.  Guess what?  ICOM built a radio following these guidelines.  It is called an F3031S (VHF) and the F4031S (UHF). The price is just $378 with standard 10 hour desk charger or $399 with a 3 hour rapid desk charger.  

This new radio meets MIL-SPEC 810G and IP67 protection from water and dust.  The battery life is an incredible 17.5 hours with a weight on only 10.9 ounces, up to 128 channel capability, 5 watts of power in VHF and a low cost optional AAA battery pack for extended operation.  Additional information is available by clicking here.  Better yet, go to Amazon, Best Price Radio, or eBay and buy you a couple.  Your satisfaction is guaranteed!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thinking about new narrow band radios?

Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't call and ask What's the difference between analog and digital? or Are all digital radios the same?, or Is my MotoTRBO Capacity Plus radio compatible with any other brand?
Add to this, the basic questions of What is a repeater? and Do I have to buy all new digital radios to meet the narrow band requirements? and the list goes on.  We try to answer all questions honestly with as little spin toward our own offerings as possible.  The truth is that we believe the customer DOES come first, even if that means they purchase elsewhere.  We'll get our share of the business.  Honesty, hard work, and putting the other guy first is a tried and proven principal that still works (although not nearly as often as we would like).

If you have questions like the ones above, we offer you a challenge.  We have prepared a simple one page document which you can download by clicking here. It has a lot of links and a lot of information but if you will review this information, you WILL have the straight facts that can ultimately save your THOUSANDS of dollars.  We'll go so far as to wager that if you review this information, you will learn more about the true facts in a couple of hours reading than your local vendor has given you in the last YEAR!  If you don't agree, tell us about it.  Better yet, if you DO agree, give us a shot at your business.  Fair enough?  Let us hear from you!  Our email address is or you can call us anytime at 800.489.2611.  We'll be looking forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

MotoTRBO and NEXEDGE Trunking not eligible for FEMA Funding!

The 2012 SAFECOM Guidance excludes the purchase of equipment funded with grant money provided through FEMA that is based on proprietary standards.  If you have received,or anticipate receipt, of a FEMA Assistance to Firefighter grant, you will be well advised to acquire a copy of the 2012 SAFECOM Guidance and in particular, turn to page 28 where you will read....... 

Design, construction,50 implementation, enhancement, replacement, and maintenance of emergency response communications systems and equipment. Grant funds may be used to design, construct, implement, enhance and maintain interoperable emergency communications systems. Equipment activities should focus on: Migration to approved, open-architecture, standards-based interoperable technologies.

Notice the term open-architecture.  This means equipment availability from more than one manufacturer.  This means that MotoTRBO Capacity Plus trunking is EXCLUDED since it is available from only one manufacturer.  This is a proprietary system as is the Kenwood NEXEDGE trunking system.  This same restriction applies to P25 systems that exclude all but a single manufacturer.

Speaking of interoperability, the word means what it says.  In two separate cases, system suppliers have deliberately programmed user systems to EXCLUDE interoperability. Click here for more information.

Don't take the word of any manufacturer or dealer that encourages your to violate the SAFECOM 2012 standards.  It could be a VERY costly mistake.  If you suspect you are in violation, you are encouraged to contact the  Office of the Investigator General at the Department of Homeland Security to correct the situation at your earliest convenience.

If you would like to review communications solutions that can meet both your operational objectives AND the SAFECOM 2012 standards, please contact us by calling 205.854.2611 or drop up an email to

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Have you heard about the Narrow Band Two Step?

The two step is well known to beginning dancers.  It is the foundation for later success in the art of navigating around the dance floor.  It is also important that you know about two stepping when you get ready to narrow band existing VHF or UHF 2-way radios. Contrary to what you may think, just converting from 15 to 7.5 kHz channel spacing does not always satisfy your needs, either operationally or in compliance with FCC Regulations.

The problem is that your mobile, portable, or even your base or repeater radio may not be able to operate on new narrow band frequencies even if it is narrow band capable!  In simple terms, if your new VHF narrow band frequency  is a seven digit number that ends in a "5" (151.4525 for example), your radios must be capable of something MORE than narrow banding.  UHF users have fewer issues than VHF users. To learn more, click here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The ABC's of Community Policing!

Our law enforcement readers are aware of the COPS program, developed by the Department of Justice to promote more efficient crime prevention programs by building community partnerships.  Departments that work with community participants can acquire federal matching funds to make our neighborhoods safer through the suppression of criminal activities such as Armed robbery, Burglary, and Copper Theft, along with Drug distribution suppression, and Emergency assistance.

Falcon Direct has developed the tools and procedures to implement effective community partnerships with law enforcement.  We call it the Guardian program.  The objective is to specifically address more efficient methods of dealing with armed robbery, burglary, copper theft, drug distribution suppression, and emergency assistance for those in need of help in a hurry.

If you would like to know more about how you can implement the Guardian program in your community, just give us a call at 800.489.2611 or email  In the meantime, your can learn more about the Guardian Program developed especially for churches by clicking here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Got pagers that won't narrow band?

Dreaming about how to upgrade your fire pagers to narrow band? Think of the world's most popular fire pager!  Now, think about price and features you would like.  As a fire and rescue volunteer first responder, we would think that you would need at least two channels - one for dispatch and one for use on the fireground.  Scan would be nice as well.

Obviously, you need good clear audio and selectable audible or vibrate alert. That's a given!  Good battery life, light weight and compact size is an absolute requirement.  Low operational cost is on our wish list.  Reliability is on the top of the list along with good operating range, rugged MIL-SPEC construction and water resistance are required as well.

If we are looking at a new pager, it should be comparable to the pager that we have used over the years.  We know we have to upgrade to a pager with narrow band capability, but we don't want to change functionality or even the alerting sounds.  And one final item - we would like to be able to record and playback messages since alert calls are known to come in at the absolute most inopportune times, like when we are asleep, in church, in a restaurant, or a few other places and situations that are well known to us all.

Now, what's all that going to cost you?  Our search on the Internet reveals that the best advertised price is $407 with free shipping and a one year warranty.  You have a choice or purchasing a programmer (average price $249) or having the pager programmed for $10 additional.  Adding a five year warranty will cost you another $78.  Want to add a 5 watt transmitter?  Just add $92.

Yes, you read it right - the pager of your dreams WITH a 5 watt transmitter for 2-way communications for only $92 more than the lowest advertised price on a two frequency tone/vibrate alert pager with stored voice (message record and playback).  Want to see one?  Click here!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

First Doofus Award for 2012 - "The Channel"!

Interoperability - A good idea gone terribly wrong! 

It is very popular these days to bring Congress and lesser government agencies under the gun as being responsible for all of our woes. While I am no fan of politics in general, I have to occasionally give those who serve us the benefit of the doubt.  Case in point - Interoperability!

After the terrorists attacks in NY and Washington, it became very clear that we had to improve our emergency communications capability and do it quickly.  Congress was asked to provide funding to make it happen.  Unfortunately, in emergency situations, there is not a lot of time to do proper planning.  Some of us call it the fire-aim-ready decision making process.  The intent may have been honorable, but the results have been somewhat less than successful.

We all know about the relationships between government and large corporations as well as the abuses that often occur.  There is nothing new about this.  What IS new iS a relatively new kind of corruption at a much lower level that has essentially destroyed any hope of efficient communications interoperability.

While the P25 technical standard may not be perfect, the intent of providing the ability to efficiently MIGRATE to narrow band was a primary consideration of the planners.  They knew that users would not be able to just flip a switch to convert to narrow band.  They knew as bandwidth was reduced from 25 to 12.5 to 6.25 kHz, that all VHF and UHF 2-way radio systems would ultimately be digital.  The objective was to allow these users to gradually phase out analog systems with digital as budgetary and operational needs required.

Then along comes "the channel".  That is the insider name for those of us involved in the planning, sales, and service of communications equipment.  Our customers trust us to help them through the process.  Instead of helping them, all too many of us have been helping OURSELVES, and in the process, effectively destroyed any hope of successful interoperability.  Not all of us our guilty, but far too many have placed their own interests above that of serving our nation and our customers.  For this, "the channel" is today's recipient of our infamous Doofus Award.  Here are a few examples.

A Motorola channel partner (think dealer) upgraded the Sheriff's radio system to P25 using federal grant money for interoperability.  Instead of setting up the system for mixed mode operation which would allow the use of BOTH analog and digital radios, he locked the system to digital only, effectively disabling the Sheriff's ability to utilize analog surveillance equipment, not to mention being able to communicate with other agencies that were utilizing analog.

Then, there is the Kenwood channel partner that told users in a small rural county that they HAD to convert to digital to meet new rules.  It scared the public safety users in the county seat so badly that they switched to digital before they had enough money to convert all their radios.  In effect, they REDUCED the capability of their old system and completely lost the ability to talk to the Sheriff.  Now everyone in the county is scrambling to come up with the money to go all digital.  You KNOW that the radios are NOT programmed for mixed mode operation don't you?

The user doesn't even have the option of calling someone else in to program their repeater for mixed mode operation as the dealer has them on a contract that prohibits access to the system by anyone but him.  Brilliant marketing strategy or fraud?  You be the judge.

Customers being locked in to proprietary systems, vendors controlling what customers can and cannot do WITH THEIR OWN SYSTEM, ignoring the real objective of interoperability and sacrificing the interest of the user for the preservation of the dealers self interest - Shame on us!  Our industry and "the channel" DESERVES the Doofus award.  We've earned it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tired of trying to get the answer on analog versus digital communications technology?

The study continues (even though some have given up), but every once in awhile we experience a real life comparison that answer a lot of questions as to which is the best communications technology - analog or digital?  We were  recently asked to provide pricing for twenty portable radios to cover a multi-building industrial complex. We were a little dubious as to whether this system would perform to the customers expectations without the use of a repeater.

They wanted three work groups working separately from each other although on occasion, they wanted the ability for the work groups to be able to talk to each other.  They also wanted all work groups to be able to talk at the same time without waiting for the channel to clear.  Not, a problem UNLESS a repeater was required.  If a repeater was required, it meant that we needed at least two repeaters trunked, and possibly, three repeaters for conventional operation! Our technical friends out there already know that two repeaters with dynamic (automatic) channel selection can do the work of three repeaters with user selectable channel switching. Is has something to do with what engineers call Erlanger curves (a topic for another time). Now, back to our story.......

We delivered some demo portables to these throughout the plant - good top quality brand name models.  They didn't cover the entire plant area.  Clearly a two channel trunked or three channel conventional repeater system was required.  We figured around fifteen thousand dollars for either system.  Now it was time to test the digital radios.

Guess what, the digital radios covered the entire plant area WITHOUT the need for a repeater - a fifteen thousand dollar savings!  The analog radios cost the user around two-hundred fifty dollars each - the digital radios around four hundred dollars each.  That meant the analog system would cost twenty thousand dollars compared to the digital system at eight thousand dollars.  The digital system worked out to be twelve thousand dollars LESS than the analog system!

We concede this is not a fair comparison.  So the question is, what happens if we DO require a repeater for the digital system?  The answer is that a five thousand dollar investment buys a two channel trunking repeater (you can do that with digital).  So we add five thousand dollars to eight thousand dollars (the cost of twenty digital portables) and we come up with a total cost of thirteen thousand dollars.  The digital system is still seven thousand dollars less than the analog system.

Did we forget anything?  Oh yeah - the cost of maintenance!  The analog radios had a two year warranty while the digital radios had a five year warranty.  Any more questions?