5 ways fire departments can improve their radio communications

It doesn’t always take a lot of money to make a big difference in your fire departments communications efficiency. Here are some simple ways to maximize the investment you are already committed to, without breaking the bank.

1) Add some color

Lime green High Vis Tait RadioAn easy way to improve the safety of firefighters is to use high visibility, colored radios that are available from leading P25 digital radio manufacturers.

Brightly colored radios are more visible in dark or smoky conditions. If a hi-visibility green radio is dropped, it can be much more quickly seen and recovered, keeping the firefighter in communication. EMS and EMT hygiene is also improved with the addition of color. Blood is more visible on green radios than it is on black radios.

For agencies using multiple frequency bands, different colored mobile control heads in your vehicles easily differentiates the radios by frequency. As an example, for multiband mobiles, using a green control head for VHF and a yellow control head for 700 MHz is a very easy way to improve usability.

2) Have a back-up plan

Many states are moving onto statewide or large regional radio networks, bringing economic benefits and improved interoperability. Most statewide networks will charge an annual fee per radio for joining the network which may be less expensive than investing in a stand-alone network.

However, when radio traffic is heavy, channel capacity on statewide networks may be allocated to larger agencies. Where funding is possible, the best solution is to utilize the statewide network for interoperability, but also to have a back-up, standalone network to meet your local communication and paging needs. A stand-alone network is more likely to meet your agency’s unique needs.

3) Make it a double

Mobile radios offer increasing options for fire crews including dual control head radios and the ability to transmit on two frequencies simultaneously. These options help ensure important conversations are heard and communicated.

Dual control head mobiles can have one control head in the cab of the fire trunk and another control head at the pumper. This allows several firefighters to listen or communicate on the same channel, without having to return to the cab.

Meanwhile, dual band mobiles can receive on two frequency bands simultaneously, allowing users to monitor activity across two networks. This might be a statewide network and a local network. Dual band mobiles also enable radio users to transmit on two bands, so they can send messages to a broader range of users.

Fire departments - 5 ways of improving comms
4) Future-proof your investment

Here are two easy ways to protect your investment:

  • Purchase only CAP-certified products. The P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) ensures interoperability with current and future technology. CAP ensures products comply with P25 standards and meets performance requirements.
  • Purchase products with a Phase 2 upgrade path. Leading P25 radio manufacturers offer a migration path to P25 phase 2, either through a software or hardware upgrade.

5) Match your radios to your users

Obviously, your radios must be compatible with the requirements of your organization, but you should also consider the individuals who use them. The differing usability requirements are frequently overlooked when investing in hundreds – or thousands – of radios.

A benefit of the P25 standard is the choice of form factors and functional complexity now available from multiple vendors. Take advantage of this broadening choice to find radios that meet the needs of your user groups precisely.


Tait Connection - Issue 5 This article is taken from Connection Magazine, Issue 5. Connection is a collection of educational and thought-leading articles focusing on critical communications, wireless and radio technology.

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