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United States Technology

US Sets Up Emergency Multi-Band Radio Project 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the switch-it-to-channel-danger dept.
coondoggie writes "Looking to help eliminate the dangerous and inefficient hodgepodge of communication and network technology used by emergency response personnel, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today said it had picked 14 groups from across the country to pilot an ambitious Multi-Band Radio project. In 2008, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate awarded a $6.2 million contract to Thales Communications to demonstrate the first-ever portable radio prototype that lets emergency responders — police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and others — communicate with partner agencies, regardless of the radio band they operate on."
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US Sets Up Emergency Multi-Band Radio Project

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Dons tin foil hat... Can it read brain waves too?
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Only yours.

    • Yes, but you have to be very close to an antenna. Unfortunately, They have managed to turn the entire Internet infrastructure and electrical grid into one, giant, antenna.
  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @06:59PM (#28551347)
    New government program to make us safer, managed by Homeland Security? This can only end in a very expensive disaster...
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:20PM (#28552207)

      Hey, it's only taken, what, eight years after the radio clusterfuck that was 9/11 for this to happen?

      • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:12AM (#28554057) Journal

        Policeman: So, what is this thing we have here?

        Engineer: It's a dual-band radio! See - here on one side of it, you have the normal frequency that you use as a policeman. And.. (flips device around) here you have the frequency used by the firemen! We spent $400,000 of tax dollars to develop this!

        Policeman: So let me get this straight: I have two radios in one device!? It's bigger than my normal radio...

        Engineer: Yes, that's it! Now you are no longer encumbered with just police communication!

        Policeman: But it's like twice as big as my normal radio...

        Engineer: Yes, but think about the convenience! Now you can communicate with the other departments!

        Policeman: Departments? With an "s"?

        Engineer: Well, if you want to talk with another department, like say....

        Policeman: Medical?

        Engineer: ... yeah - medical - you would need one of these! (pulls out even bigger box)

        Policeman: This one is like three times the size of my normal radio! How much weight do you want me to carry around?

        Engineer: Yes, but look at the quality! Each radio has its own independent volume and frequency knob! You can customize it to work the way that you want to!

        Policeman: And, let's say I want to include the Highway patrol...?

        Engineer: Got that too. Here's the four-band radio...

        Policeman: BUT THIS IS EVEN BIGGER?!?! This is like four times the size of my normal radio...

        Engineer: And each band has it's own volume knob, battery compartment...

        Policeman: Say, you didn't just get four normal radios and tape them together, did you?

        Engineer: Of course not! These radios are made to exacting standards -

        Policeman: Yes you did! I'm peeling them apart now!

        Engineer: Turns and runs while policeman chases him, throwing radio parts at him...

        • by laejoh (648921)

          Engineer: Yes, but look at the quality! Each radio has its own independent volume and frequency knob!

          I hope the volume knob goes at least all the way up to eleven!

      • Hey, it's only taken, what, eight years after the radio clusterfuck that was 9/11 for this to happen?

        No, they threw money at this problem early on. Around here a DHS 'grant' was used to buy a whole new local system and most of the users have radios that don't work at their homes. We have hills - whoops. The old systems still work fine for 99.998% of the problems and are thus still in use.

        Central planning FAIL, what else is new?

  • by Billy the Mountain (225541) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:00PM (#28551361) Journal

    Why don't they add in an analogue television signal?

    BTM

    • by cellurl (906920)

      $6M to stick 5 walkie-talkies in a big box.... Way to go TallToes

      • by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:55PM (#28551953)
        No, it's worse than that. It's $6 million dollars being given to a company to do something IT HAS ALREADY DONE.

        Thales already makes and sells a multi-band SDR handheld called the Liberty. It costs $5k for the simple (no trunking) version.

        Why the hell is our government giving a company money to develop something already being sold?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by cellurl (906920)
          We're both gonna get fired. I work for their competitor Rockwell...
        • by AHuxley (892839)
          Why the hell is your government giving a company money with internal security like this?

          http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/04/06/1238869885378.html [smh.com.au]
          http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/defence-contractor-linked-to-neonazi-group-20090406-9ubu.html [brisbanetimes.com.au]
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Same reason they're installing Windows in mission critical applications in the military? :D

        • No, it's worse than that. It's $6 million dollars being given to a company to do something IT HAS ALREADY DONE. Thales already makes and sells a multi-band SDR handheld called the Liberty. It costs $5k for the simple (no trunking) version. Why the hell is our government giving a company money to develop something already being sold?

          Umm... they're not? If you RTFA, you'd read that they are being given $6 million to pilot field test the units with 14 different agencies, from Honolulu to Ottawa. There is

          • by Obfuscant (592200)
            I know this is /. and all, but you might want to browse the article, or at least the summary, before commenting.

            From the summary, and this appeared in TFA as well, IIRC: "In 2008, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate awarded a $6.2 million contract to Thales Communications to demonstrate the first-ever portable radio prototype that lets emergency responders -- police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and others -- communicate with partner agencies, regardless of the radio band they operate

        • by mcgrew (92797)

          Why the hell is our government giving a company money to develop something already being sold?

          Because it's legal to donate to more than one candidate in a given election. If I give money to both major parties, no matter who loses, I win. We live in a plutocracy thinly disguised as a democratic Republic, and certain forms of bribery are legal.

          After eight years of neocons I was afraid they were going to rename the USA to Ferengenar.

  • by billsf (34378) <billsf@NOsPAm.cuba.calyx.nl> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:09PM (#28551459) Homepage Journal

    The capabilities described seem to be no greater than (modified) ham radio gear. I simply don't see what all the fuss is about. Commercial products are __far__ cheaper and far easier to assess the bugs, including "birdies". (If you've ever used a spectrum analyser you why there called birdies. :)

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:54PM (#28551941) Journal

      Commercial products are __far__ cheaper and far easier to assess the bugs, including "birdies". (If you've ever used a spectrum analyser you why there called birdies.

      I've never used a spectrum analyser, so I'm going to assume it's because they drop verbs from transmissions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ralewi1 (919193)
      There are two large PDFs with qualitative and quantitative system requirements here [safecomprogram.gov]. This system goes beyond "modified ham radio gear", and few ham operators carry their equipment into burning buildings, etc.
  • by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:10PM (#28551469) Homepage

    Why don't they ask the group who has been using multiband equipment for several decades. Amateur Radio operators. They have radios that operate from below 1 MHz to over 1GHz. They have been doing (without pay) emergency radio communications for a very long time now.

    • by nametaken (610866) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:26PM (#28551659)

      Where's the money in that?

    • by zentec (204030) * <zentecNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:27PM (#28551673)

      Because hams don't use APCO25 or many of the other digital public service protocols currently in use. They also can't encrypt their communications as many agencies have the need to do.

      This is a software defined radio that can be programmed to work with any of them, and ostensibly, all of them. Including analog FM systems that hams use.

      There are many amateurs who are using their own software defined radios, so in a way, I guess you're correct. But I doubt Motorola, GE or Ericsson are going to turn over information on their communications systems to the hams. But they will give it to Thales...for a price.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Because hams don't use APCO25 or many of the other digital public service protocols currently in use

        Oh yes they do...

        http://www.florida-repeaters.org/apco25proof.pdf [florida-repeaters.org] for one example.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)
        Because hams don't use APCO25 or many of the other digital public service protocols currently in use.

        Yes, hams do use P25, in addition to D-STAR. It's not common, but there is now a P25 section in the repeater directory along with the D-STAR section.

        The goal of "interoperability" is to get rid of "many of the other digital public service protocols" and use just one.

        • Does that mean we'll have a single point of failure? Loss of heterogeneity might come at a price...
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Obfuscant (592200)
            Does that mean we'll have a single point of failure? Loss of heterogeneity might come at a price...

            Ummm, no. Just because all radios use the same digital system doesn't mean there is a single point of failure. All the radios would have to fail. It's not like all the radios using one digital mode must communicate through one node.

            Now, there IS a "single point" problem when you try to convert from simple radio systems to trunked, but "trunked" and "digital" are not synonyms.

            There is nothing to be gained f

          • Does that mean we'll have a single point of failure? Loss of heterogeneity might come at a price...

            Only if you consider things like TCP, HTTP, and SMTP single points of failure.

      • HAMs are allowed to encrypt according to a protocol than can be decrpted by a readily available, published method. The exception to this is for satellite control signals, which can be encrypted however. And this is one reason why morse code (CW) is often used with emergency communications. Many amateurs involved in emergency communications know it, btu the general public passing by won't know what all the dots and dashes mean.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Obfuscant (592200)
          HAMs are allowed to encrypt according to a protocol than can be decrpted by a readily available, published method.

          Part 97.113 says that "messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning, except as otherwise provided herein;" are prohibited. (Satellite control signals are one "otherwise" exception.) It doesn't say that "messages encrypted with a published key ..." are permitted, and encryption using a "published method" doesn't mean that the message can be decrypted. That's why it's encryption a

      • First, if an agency is encrypting their communications, there's not much hope for any other service to talk to them, unless (obviously), they all share keys. It's doubtful, though, that the FBI is going to share their encryption keys with the local volunteer fire department. So, the assumption must be made that this solution is meant for unencrypted (which is not to say, unencoded digital) communications.

        Secondly, hams are not prohibited from using encryption. Part 97.113(a)(4) prohibits "messages encoded
        • First, if an agency is encrypting their communications, there's not much hope for any other service to talk to them, unless (obviously), they all share keys. It's doubtful, though, that the FBI is going to share their encryption keys with the local volunteer fire department. So, the assumption must be made that this solution is meant for unencrypted (which is not to say, unencoded digital) communications.

          Easy,
          just set the primary channel to use $AGENCY key while secondary (and other channels) to use $OTHER_AGENCY key. Duh.
          Then, just make it SOP to transmit on primary while on $AGENCY bussiness and secondary while on cooperative work.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Who do you think developed modern communications technology? Amateurs have traditionally taken experimental concepts and technologies and methodologies and 'played' with them until they've become viable for general use. SSB, FM, VHF, UHF, microwave, TTY (wireless teletype, which became packet data communication... sound familiar? we're using an advanced version of that right now on our interwebnets). Packet plus terrestrial radio repeater networks equals cellular telephone. Oh and encryption and satell

      • by kd7fds (710150)
        It's still a waste of money. My podunk county dispatch center can flip a couple switch and bridge any radio channels we need to have done. Don't need fancy handhelds to do it. Most dispatch centers either already have bridging capability, or it can be added on for a reasonable cost. There is no need for multiband handhelds.
    • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:35PM (#28551751)

      Why don't they ask the group who has been using multiband equipment for several decades. Amateur Radio operators. They have radios that operate from below 1 MHz to over 1GHz. They have been doing (without pay) emergency radio communications for a very long time now.

      Because it doesn't involve a really bloated government contract with some DoD favorite that has obscenely paid lobbyists, with state-of-the-art equipment that has serious design issues but lots of shiny digital displays and lights and switches, that you can drop 5 stories and it STILL doesn't work right.

      No joke. That's why.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mysidia (191772)

      Because they have a budget. The last thing they want is a 'free' solution.

      Going to people who are already doing it to ask for help / information is the among the last things a government bureaucrat would dare consider doing.

      They want to pay someone to develop a technology for them. Preferably someone who has connections with them (hint hint).

    • Why don't they ask the group who has been using multiband equipment for several decades. Amateur Radio operators.

      Mostly because nobody under the age of 35 even knows what it is, let alone has an interest in it. It's a dying hobby, partly because of expense, mostly because we've let two entire generations slip past the net and failed to educate them on the importance of being trained and ready for an emergency, which is the major public service amateur radio offers.

      If I handed the average 20-something a mobile amateur radio (like you can still buy at Radioshack), think they'd be able to find a voice on the other end be

      • by profplump (309017)
        If you're going to define a radio as something without an LCD screen or USB port then I say we should rightly let it die -- there's no reason you can't provide both entertainment and useful emergency services on radio equipment with modern interfaces. Also, if a flood wipes out power, communications and transportation, and you we're not able (and/or willing) to leave before that happened, or to prepare for it (say with a generator and a satellite Internet link) a radio is probably not going to save you whe
      • by vonart (1033056)
        There's more 20-somethings into amateur radio than you'd think. In fact, more than a good portion of our local ham radio club is younger than 35. 73, K1PUP
    • The low limit of ham radio operation is the 1750-meter band, which goes from 160 to 190 khz, and the high limit is the 1-mm band, from 21 to 250 gigahertz. Then we are able to operate at any frequency we want as long as it's above 275 ghz. We're all over the lace.
      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        136kHz in the UK. You're only allowed 1W ERP (Effective Radiated Power) in most of the world though. That's not to say that it isn't useful - CW goes a very long way and with digital modes like JT65 you can communicate (slowly) around the world with your 1W. It's worth noting that it's 1W *effective*, because efficient aerials for 136kHz tend to be extremely large - a touch over 1km long, for a half-wave dipole. To actually get 1W radiated you'd need a transmitter capable of about 1kW output...

    • Well, I imagine because this is the first step of many which will eventually allow the government to more safely take back the existing spectrum allocated for amateur use. There are a lot of commercial interests more than willing to spend handsome sums on an auction of that spectrum. If its felt civil authorities can manage emergency communications without HAMS, that auction is that much closer.

      So, there is little reason to involve the amateur community, which is on its last legs already, i.e. aging commu

  • by StikyPad (445176)

    Cue the chorus of HAM fanatics appearing from out of the woodwork in 3, 2, 1...

  • Does anyone more familiar with the system or the DHS project know if there's any advantage to pushing this new system versus pushing a complete transition to a 800Mhz trunked frequency? It seems like many agencies are just now transitioning to the 800Mhz band to provide the same type of interoperability.
    • Looking at the article, this system would allow interoperability with other systems without requiring new repeaters. Basically, they're adding everyone's bands into the radio, instead of changing out radios and repeaters. Not to say that they will never transition to an 800Mhz system, but if we can get interoperability now with a simple handset swap, why wait for it?

    • by hax4bux (209237)

      Trunked systems are an OK start, but they depend on a repeater infrastructure that might not be available (never existed, destroyed by an event, obstructed by terrain, etc). Also, there are fleet management issues that need some attention along w/vendor interoperability.

      Some of the more cynical comments are probably also true (i.e. pork award to various subs, power grabs, etc). Sad since the whole project is about sharing resources in a disaster. And of course, since this is our friendly public servants

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DarthBart (640519)

      Because 800Mhz isn't practical everywhere.

      Put an 800Mhz system in the Texas Hill Country...you'll end up with needing a repeater site on every other hilltop.

      Put an 800Mhz system in where there's lots of pine trees. You'll discover that pine needles are about 1/4wave long at 800Mhz and make excellent attenuators.

    • by wv5k (771543)
      Trunking radios are very useful a few days AFTER a disaster has occurred, and some semblence of communications discipline has been restored. Immediately after a disaster such as Katrina has happened, there is pretty much COMPLETE radio anarchy. All decent antennas for fixed station, high power, wide coverage systems have been scrubbed off their buildings. Pretty much only the mobile (car) systems are working. No centralization is possible until the cavalary shows up. DHS would do better by taking a hard loo
  • This year's Smart Radio Challenge is quite similar to this initiative http://www.radiochallenge.org/09SampleProblem.html [radiochallenge.org]
  • Oh god, no!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:38PM (#28551783)

    The Department of Homeland Security only gives the kiss of death to public works projects. Here's what's going to happen; A bunch of committees will be called, and they're going to make a whole bunch of suggestions about what it "should" do. Each organization will want to have at least one feature included, a vote, etc. Tens (possibly hundreds) of millions will be lost doing this. It'll be filed under "R&D costs". At least a third of those suggestions will be crap or impossible/unfeasible to implement. It'll be recycled a few times on the General Schedule before some hapless corporation wins the contract. Then all hell breaks loose as delays in the project force reductions in scope, and the process of defining "core features" begins. By this point, everyone will be pointing fingers, and it'll be half-implemented and broken in many places. The project's surviving assets will be quietly transferred after a GAO inquiry regarding cost overruns and lack of deliverables -- just ahead of a congressional committee being called on the matter. Two years later, someone gets the idea that the US should have a multi-band radio project...

    I only say this, because they've tried it with different scopes over [theregister.co.uk] and over [blogspot.com] and over [securitymanagement.com] and over [govtech.com] again. Their technology department is understaffed due to high turnover and leadership problems.

    Fundamentally, these things never leave the pilot phase, or if they do, they face deployment problems because the requirements are so obtuse and ambitious that existing technology can't adapt. Even if it can, bureaucratic problems usually end a project before it sees wide-scale deployment due to reluctance to adopt new technology and failures in leadership -- namely, not communicating with people in the field before trying to put something there.

  • by DarthBart (640519) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:40PM (#28551803)

    Yeah, good luck with that. If it succeeds, it'll be a portable radio that costs $10K. It'll have to license P25 and SmartNet from Motorola, a couple of protocols from EF Johnson, have MPT1324 (The only real open standard in commercial radio), it'll need wide and narrow band coverage of 150, 450, and 800Mhz.

    Sure, it can all be done with a DSP based radio, but someone's gotta pay for the Intellectual Property to make them work.

    • by DarthBart (640519)

      I should probably have RTFA first.

    • Sure, it can all be done with a DSP based radio, but someone's gotta pay for the Intellectual Property to make them work.

      Isn't that the point?

      Then our government can mandate that first responders need to have these units in order to receive DHS funding, and every municipality will cough up the funds (it's for the children!).

      That's how business works, my friend. You lean on your friends in high places to 'do a good thing' which coincidentally just happens to align with your interests. Everyone wins!

      I'

    • by MrMista_B (891430)

      "Intellectual Property"?

      This is the Government. They government controls the police, military, and courts.

      They can seize /anything/ in country, with the power of eminent domain. You either smile and nod, or are told to leave.

      • You are talking about USSR.
        This is USA.
        Know the difference.
        USA is a 250+ years old Democracy [wikipedia.org] with separate pillars of governance. [hindu.com]
        This means the Government cannot seize anything and everything with power of eminent domain.
        And you don't smile and nod. You can show the middle finger to the government, sue it and win.
        That is what a democracy is.

        • USA is a 250+ years old Democracy with separate pillars of governance.

          Used to be. Now the Congress delegates its powers to the executive and corporations, and the judiciary has this tradition of "judicial deference" in full effect which means it rarely rebukes the legislature.

          It was a good model as developed. In the US, the government does take land for public or private use (see Kelo v. New London) and patents can be declared important for national security and taken.

          If operated as designed, all you say

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant (592200)
      Yeah, good luck with that. If it succeeds, it'll be a portable radio that costs $10K.

      It's already succeeded. It costs $5k, base. No trunking. It's got a slick LCD display. Color. It's a brick. Heavy. Large.

      And Thales is getting a $6 million kickback after creating it, and $5k/radio to sell it (lots of federal grants are obtained with the keyword "interoperability").

      I used to think Thales was an innovator. Now I know they are just sucking at the public tit.

      ...it'll need wide and narrow band coverage of

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)
      Or they can use 5 Hams who are happy to do it for nothing.
  • Millions to do what Ham radio operators have been doing for decades.

    Set up a portable cross band repeater.

    Nice. Glad to see the Government is still being stupid with money.

  • And fewer bands to jam.

  • As a fire officer, I work closely with several other nearby towns. We are all on different radio frequencies. There are strategies to work well that mitigate the potential issues:

    1. For neighboring towns, we have each other's frequencies available on our own radios.

    2. When operating more distantly, we use a state wide non-repeated frequency for larger incidents to cover the incident scene, while operations command will use their repeated systems to communicate out to dispatch or with other agencies.

    Number two is very important -- span of control is optimally at "5" (meaning you shouldn't be trying to manage more than 5 direct reports). At anything above 7 you become very inefficient. When the number of people you're trying to work directly with grows above that number you should be subdividing that span of control and instead talking to a single representation of each sector or division. ** That means, not everyone on scene should be attempting to communicate back to a central point at all once.

    The modern public safety sector is all trained (or being trained) on NIMS (National Incident Management System). As an officer, I'm required to hold three different certifications within that program. Firefighters, police, ems workers, town managers, and public service workers (the town guys who fix things and make your city work) are all part of the program. The purpose of NIMS is to define and common and understandable method of managing incidents from the smallest (where I may have incident command at a car accident with one or two responding units) but that also scale up as needed to the very largest (e.g. I arrive on scene to find the reported car accident was actually caused by a train derailing and landing on the car, spilling toxic material into a river which crosses state lines). NIMS defines common language, common command structures, and even common paperwork standards for doing things like leasing a bulldozer to build a dike or a bunch of outhouses to use at a work camp.

    My point is that the radio technology is only one challenge, and one that can be solved by working together in a well coordinated manner. More important is building and practicing the strategies to manage incidents in a coordinated manner.

    If you're in the public safety sector and haven't had NIMS training yet, you will. It is rapidly becoming a requirement for any organization receiving federal grants or other funding. If you've heard bad things about it, ignore them. NIMS is actually fairly simple and uses good common sense strategies (e.g. drop obscure 10 codes and speak in plain language) for most of what it does. It is based on an incredibly successful management strategy used by the teams that run the huge wildfire operations. Their system used something like 1/3 the number of back end support people for every front line person when compared with the military.

    For our department, about 90% of what NIMS requires was already very similar to what we were already doing. Very little had to change.

    • by ProfM (91314)

      1. For neighboring towns, we have each other's frequencies available on our own radios.

      I work for a local two-way radio shop and this happens all the time. But this isn't what they're meaning.

      If you have a VHF system, you cannot talk to someone on UHF ... period. With the Thales' radio, you can, it has multiple bands built inside the radio.

      I remember seeing this last year in a "what's new and upcoming" in a trade magazine, and they mentioned it could have VHF (136-174 Mhz) UHF1 (405-430 Mhz), UHF2 (450-52

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        I remember seeing this last year in a "what's new and upcoming" in a trade magazine, and they mentioned it could have VHF (136-174 Mhz) UHF1 (405-430 Mhz), UHF2 (450-520 Mhz), 700 Mhz band, and 800 Mhz band all in one radio.

        I don't see why that's so hard. I have a Kenwood TH-F7E which in "normal" form transmits on 144-146MHz and 430-440MHz. The TH-F6A is the American version which has band limits appropriate to the US and includes 220MHz operation. The same basic chassis is used for VHF highband radios

    • by WOV (652967)
      God Yes, NIMS training was by far the most useful and relevant training I've received in the fire service...in the current era, the problem with interagency communications is not *tech*, it's *rules*, and I was thoroughly impressed by NIMS' common sense, 6th grade reading level, scalability, and "rules for new rules". It's a very realistic framework that accomodates, among other things, the fact that you and everyone else has other things to do and to remember, that your personnel are going to have IQs fro
      • by Nethead (1563)

        But as an EmCommie I LOVE my command van!

        I agree about NIS/ICS training, the 300-400 class was the best week of training I've ever had. About a month ago we had a DHS regional meeting on interop. Each group listed what systems they have. Boy, do we have issues! In our case, the state patrol is taking the lead to get interop figured for our region. Then we have a border with Canada.

        tribalhams.net

    • by kd7fds (710150)
      Yep, sounds like what my department does too.

      One thing that our dispatch center added recently was bridge capability. They can bridge a variety of different frequencies and sources so that people with handhelds don't have to have new radios to talk to someone on a different channel. They can even bridge in phone calls to the command net on hazmat incidents, if we need to bring in State level resources

      A couple years ago, DHS was offering a portable radio bridge device through their CEDAP program.
    • by kd7fds (710150)
      I did some more reading about this radios capabilities. On a small scale, 5 or 6 in my department might actually be useful. It appears that they have the capability to be teamed together to field assemble a local repeater or a bridge on the fly. There actually might be some use for that.

      They also have a link on their website to sign up for a demo radio. I talked to my Chief and we are going to do exactly that. Maybe in a few months, I will actually get my hands on one and can do a full review.
    • I guess before the NIMS, we all just had to die?.

      Admittedly that is a smartass remark, but it points out a huge problem and part of the reason why we have some serious failures.

      Too much structure!

      • NIMS -- and programs like it -- seek to standardize and make interoperability more smooth. Before it, things happened because good people made them happen on the ground -- but it was less smooth.

        Prior to the great Chicago fire, there were virtually no standards between departments on things like hose fitting sizes and thread types. You literally could not use one fire hose in another town.

        The fire service has a long history of moving ever more in cooperation with its neighbors in new ways. It takes time,

  • by shidarin'ou (762483) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:46PM (#28552421) Homepage

    "Radios were sent to -Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (Ottawa, ON Canada)"

    Dear god. What are we going to do when we go to war with those french speaking queen loving northerners?! They will even be able to listen in on the Department of Defense frequencies! They will know our every move!

    I demand that only DEFECTIVE radios are sent to Canada.

    For maximum effect, I recommend that the radios only receive communications in the form of a poor impression of a Canadian accent- notably every word should be "Ay?"

    (This post was a joke)

  • Many towns and cities have been burned by spending millions on a proprietary system only to discover they can't talk to the next town over.

    It would be nice if the DHS actually did something useful and put an end to that kind of crap.

    This article http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2005/09/b1029179.html [americanprogress.org] from 2005 stresses the importance ans suggests using WiFi. Maybe. But the most important aspect is "one digital protocol to rule them all", no matter what band you're on.

    • by mcgrew (92797)

      It would be nice if the DHS actually did something useful and put an end to that kind of crap.

      Yeah, and it would be nice if I found a winning lottery ticket laying on the ground, too, but that ain't gonna happen either.

  • Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    I'm surprised that no one has yet pointed out the fact that Thales already released a multi-band radio called the Liberty, competitor to Motorola's APX7000. http://www.thalesliberty.com/ [thalesliberty.com]
  • by speedlaw (878924) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @09:24PM (#28552689) Homepage
    I'm a ham. We worked with an Airshow a few years back. We coordinated between NYSP (155 mhz), the local fire brigade (46 mhz), the County Sheriff (46? mhz). The ambulance crew was on still another frequency. While this clearly was not an emergency, the person between them all was a ham, relaying messages between the agencies. All the ham equipment at the main table cost less than one walkie talkie from the mighty motorola. Some cop cars will have channels from adjoining jurisdictions, but it is patchwork and if you are on VHF and your other agency is on UHF, there will have to be phone calls between dispatchers to co ordinate. See, an agency has a budget. They then get sold by Motorola the best and latest, no matter what the actual needs of the agency are. This results in everyone having different stuff as they all buy at different times. Once an agency gets working radio, they almost never change it, as it can be a life or death thing. Bureaucratic Ossification takes over. Here in NY, there was an attempt by Tyco to come up with an IP radio system. It was met with great distrust by the police and other agencies that were supposed to toss the patchwork radios and all use the MA/COM system. You can easier change a service pistol on cops than their radios. It is far, far too simple and cheap to designate a few VHF or UHF channels, in FM and have everyone program them in...we have to buy new equipment and re invent wheels. You don't need encryption for the vast majority of "interops". So, let's come up with a new system, at great cost...it is what Motorola is selling today. Whether you need it or not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by adolf (21054)

      The problems solved by your airshow HAM are easily fixed by one of the ACU units [raytheon.com] from Raytheon JPS.

      Just plug in radios for NYSP, local fire brigade, county sheriff, ambulance service, links back to one or more repeated channels with a real dispatcher (probably on a tac channel, or a P25 talkgroup), plus one that the local HAMs are legally allowed to use, and call it a day.

      It's easy to bring the whole system up or down, or to add and remove individual radios, or to tie in other systems over telephone lines

  • Grenada (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sum0 (1245284) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:11PM (#28553091) Journal

    The US Army and Navy had this problem...came to light during the Grenada invasion. If I remember correctly, a forward observer wound up calling in a naval artillery strike by phone via US operator because he couldn't reach the ship by radio. Might be apocryphal, but it rings true. That's when military radios became AN-PRC-77s, the AN standing for Army/Navy. Amazing it has taken the civilians another 25 years to even consider implementing this.

    • The story as told to me (at various times):

      During the Grenada invasion, a team from the 82nd Airborne (Army) got pinned down inside a house by unarmed Cuban construction workers. When they tried to call for air support they found that they couldn't contact the command center (Marines). The officer on the spot used his AT&T calling card to place a long distance call to his commanding officer in Ft. Bragg, NC to explain the situation and request that things get expedited. The commander in Ft. Bragg then
    • by mcgrew (92797)

      Might be apocryphal

      Heartbreak Ridge [wikipedia.org]

      • by Sum0 (1245284)
        No, I knew it was in the movie. They used the incident in the movie because of the actual event, not the other way around. I was in the 82nd in the late 80s, so it was still something that was talked about in training etc. I found a seemingly reliable footnoted reference here: Fall From Glory [google.com]
  • This looks like a radio vendor grand plan to suck big bucks out of local governments across the land without actually solving the problem.

    What is the incentive for a local PD or FD that is operating on, say, 39.58 Mhz or 46.06 Mhz, where these super-expensive, $6K handi-talkies conspicuously do not operate, to buy them? Zip, that's what - they would not be used without changing the entire remainder of their system over to one of the higher-frequency VHF bands, and - guess what - those frequencies are ALREA

  • One thing that has always puzzled me about multiband public-service radios is how access to the various networks would be managed.

    Traditionally, the reason agencies have different networks on different radio channels is for efficiency and security. By having separate networks, the firemen and the city road maintenance crews aren't bothered by each others' communications, nearly all of which are irrelevant to the other organization. It's easy to see that the policemen usually don't want to be bothered by t

  • by LatencyKills (1213908) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @07:58AM (#28556005)
    This is actually a pretty serious problem for us. We began with two radios in our trucks - one for our general fire frequencies (36.64MHz primary, nearby secondaries) and local police band (something like 600MHz). Things were good; we could go mutual aid to nearby towns and talk to them, and they could talk to us. Then a nearby town got a federal grant and went midband, and all our trucks got a third radio. Then another town got another federal grant and went highband - four radios. A large fire scene, like a recent fire at a pallet recycling plant that called in 22 towns for water supply, became nothing short of absurd. Try driving down a winding dirt road carrying 12 tons of water in a truck 34 feet long and picking the right handset out of that pile.

    Then we got these new boxes that find the frequencies in use and let everyone talk on their native radios, except that they kind of don't work. Guys inside substantial (steel frame) buildings can't seem to talk to anyone. If the water hole is more than 1/2 a mile away, they're out of the loop too. And operations that you'd like to keep on their own frequencies like water supply or medical services get sucked into the network anyway. There's also the problem of too many people trying to talk on the radio at once and stepping all over each other. We do need a solution to this problem, but this isn't it.

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