back to article US starts emergency radio tests

The Department of Homeland Security has announced preliminary tests of a radio designed to use all the frequencies where first responders hang out, which might prove easier than getting them all to use one network. In an attempt to unify the radio systems used by American emergency teams, the Department of Homeland Security …


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  1. Nebulo

    OK, not actually a bad idea ...

    ... but perhaps a bit of a high price to pay for what would seem to be a rather limited scanner. Why don't the powers that be just decree that from such-and-such a date all emergency comms equipment *will* be common and interoperable? One range of hardware, their own special encryption, the relative economy of scale: if a policeman needs an ambulance he only has to tune to Ambulance Control. Trivial. If the UK can stuff the entire public into digital, I'm sure the USA could convince its own officials to tidy up this problem more rationally.

  2. GeorgeTuk

    2010 Olympic Security Committee?

    Last time I heard we were having the Olympics in London, whats with last minute change of plans?

    And its nice to see it is French so should have a built in white flag in the event of any military emergency. In all seriousness though what happened to Obama's buy American, I suppose could be designed before that.

    And in more seriousness sounds like a good idea.

  3. Bassey
    Thumb Up

    Re GeorgeTuk

    The 2012 Summer Olympics are in London. The 2010 Winter Olympics are in Canada (Vancouver, I think).

    As for the radio, that is a good idea. Oh, hang on, we've been using a common, encrypted radio system across all emergency services (and most other services) for several years now. Still, nice to see you youngsters catching up.

  4. Dán

    Not quite!

    @George: That'd be the Winter olympics in Vancouver. Not exactly the USA, but close enough for concern in this day and age.

    @Nebulo: Not that I disagree with you completely, but calling it a "limited scanner" is a bit of an understatement. It can also transmit on that range of frequencies, something which isn't trivial for the cheap money and handheld kit.

    I do agree digital would've been the better option, but probably more expensive in the end. But even now, police wouldn't just 'tune into' Ambulance Control - our inter-service kit is also designed for major incidents with a clear command and control structure.

  5. Andy Livingstone

    We don't need Passports, do we?

    I've driven through (thro?) London, Kentucky.

    That's where most of them expect to find the Games and use the radios.

    If only.!!

    Real radios - not "scanners"

  6. Matt 32

    Mostly BS

    Being able to talk to each other != effective communications

    Most of these interoperability schemes try to push the level of communication down far too low.

    As a rule, a police officer does not need to talk directly, by radio, to a firefighter. They can follow their normal chain of communications and have the dispatchers organize and deliver the messages in a manner everyone understands. There may need to be improvements in how that dispatch-to-dispatch communication process works, but that's where the improvements can be focused.

    On certain tactical assignments you can coordinate in person whose going to do what, and hand out compatible radios to all involved.

    There is, no doubt, the need for compatible communication equipment between senior managers. While this often can be accomplished by this wonderful interoperability device called a telephone, there is a need for radio systems as well. In my state that is the I-TAC system that allows local police & fire chiefs, state agencies like State Police, Environmental Protection, and Transportation to all have a common radio channel assigned to coordinate their activities. I-TAC is 800mhz; there are also V-TAC (VHF 140-ish mhz) and U-TAC (UHF 400-ish mhz) standards out there to allow national capabilities.

    Most of this radio stuff is far to complicated and does not meet the real needs. We need systems like I-TAC to coordinate between managers at multi-agency incidents. We need a Resource Management System to coordinate responses to disasters -- no radio system, no matter how fancy is going to overcome the problem that disasters overwhelm human's abilities to collect and sort through the volume of information generated. That's a computer problem, to allow local agencies to punch into the computer their needs, have the computer match the requests with available resources, and simply give a human the final approval to make sure the computer program didn't spit out something wildly unrealistic.

    Part of the shame of Katrina was you had requests going unmatched becasue agencies were relying on inter-personal phone calls from one contact to another, and on faxing lists to one another. State Emergency Management Agencies which are responsible for coordinating large resource requests in such situations failed not due to communication technologies but because people were at their human limits. They need much better computer systems, not radios.

  7. Simon 39

    "The Liberty"

    Isn't that the name of a battery powered wheelchair in the US now too?

    and a high tech flashlight.

    and most likely a firearm of some sort.

    and a stun gun.

    and a ship.

    And rolling out a brand new radio system a few short months before a big event?

    Nah, nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

  8. JeffyPooh
    Thumb Down

    Now, where's my SW-defined antenna?

    SW-defined radios are a world of over-hyped promises. The promises included almost DC-to-daylight frequency coverage from one box. But that one box is connected to one antenna, which covers one (or maybe three) bands - poorly.

  9. Jeremy 2


    Erm. The 2010 *Winter* Olympics are being held in Vancouver. The 2012 *Summer* Olympics are in London. Although to be fair, your point still stands!

  10. JMB

    US starts emergency radio tests

    It reminiscent of all the hype when AIRWAVE was forced on the Uk emergency services, "all emergency services must be able to talk to each other". I am very tempted to do a FOIA request when eventually all the UK emergency services are on AIRWAVE (as expected it is years behind schedule). Each one has their own command and control so they rarely have to speak to each other directly, they all carry mobile phones if it is absolutely necessary.

    It is not impossible to interconnect different networks anyway - the telephone companies have been managing for years (you don't hear calls for all the emergency services to be on the same mobile phone network so they can speak to each other).

    The UK is heading fast for a "all eggs in one basket" situation where every emergency service as well as Emergency Planning, some parts of the armed services etc will be on the one network. It is claimed to be resilient but I have my doubts.

  11. Dick

    It ain't that simple.

    "Why don't the powers that be just decree that from such-and-such a date all emergency comms equipment *will* be common and interoperable?"

    Because, unlike the UK, the US doesn't have a government structure to do that. There's a whole bunch of "government" entities that the feds don't control, the states, the tribal (native american) entities, the counties, the cities, to name a few.

    "Digital would be better"

    Huh? It is digital, it's also analog, trunked etc. etc.

  12. Doug Glass

    Great Idea

    And it'll work if the proper homework and preparations are done. But assuming it can actually be put into operation as planned there's the burden of keeping the system "pure". Too many times proper long term followup is never planned and therefore the system drifts into total chaos. Sooner or later a local organization, for example, will be strapped for cash and opt for cheaper replacements that aren't the standard.

    I hope it works, but it reeks of trying to herd cats. Theoretically possible, just isn't practical.

    If you want a single source, world-wide, communication already in place and standardized use ham radio HF. We've been doing it for years and have the system in place. But, no matter how professional our communications are, we're just amateurs and so unworthy. And that's fine. I for one love a good clown act and Homeland Security provides more than enough of that.

  13. Francis Offord

    Male bovine ordure

    Only the Yanks could think up the idea of utilizing such equipment feasable. Emergency frequencies, by their very nature, are used by operators who use verbal shorthand and it goes without saying, or should do, that one operators shorthand might well block essential informnation from another source. I realise that this will not be popular with those who's business is making money from selling off spectrum use to the highest bidder BUT it surely does make good sense to limit the damage done by outsiders using life saving airspace. For god's sake do noy let this catch on or Gordon and his merry men will insist that all aeronautical conversatioons must take place on a single frequency and devil take anyone who thinks differently

    The result will be chaotic super babble and multipole deaths. Not that that would bother Gordon and his discredited band of brothers, it would merely prove, in his eyes, that he was correct all along and we are all out of step with his "Thoughts of Chairman Brown".

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