Archive for the Law Enforcement Category

NTIA/IAFC report reveals serious fire service concerns with digital-radio systems

Posted in Ham Radio, Law Enforcement, Radio Communications with tags , , , , , on September 10, 2008 by WA4ZKO

Fringe range performance and spectrum efficiency are often the only advantages to going digital.

A recent NTIA study concerning issues with digital 2-way radio usage in the fire service has revealed some very serious issues.  The study itself can be found here.  MRT’s article on it can be found here.  Some interesting comments on this topic can be found here, take ’em for what they’re worth.

For those that know me, know I’ve preached on this topic for about 2 years now. Just because something is “digital” doesn’t mean it’s automatically better. For sure, digital-radio has it’s place in communications, but it’s not without it’s own pros and cons. You have to weigh these factors in first and not just jump into the “latest and greatest” mindset that is so pervasive in our society today. Often the “latest” is just that and not the “greatest.” The often over-hyped marketing of this technology does not help folks/agencies make wise choices either.

I’ve personally heard vocoder performance failures outside of the fire service. A local city PD in Connecticut had a post vehicle pursuit incident where background noise created a communications mess. As the pursuit ended, they had several officers jumping out of cruisers quickly to contain the suspects. Several units still had their sirens running and you can probably guess what resulted on their UHF digital system.

Yes, the vocoders have come a long ways in the last few years. I’m sure they will improve things even further, but folks there are certain fundamental laws of physics that apply to audio and THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE.  Without widening the bandwidth, there is only so much sampling and DSP work you can do and keep things contained in a few KHz of channel width. It will be interesting to see how the technology plays out, but for now it is what it is.

Yes user education/training is also needed. From my public safety background I’ve been on both ends of these communication circuits (dispatch & in the field). One of my big radio communication pet peeves is the trend toward “plain language” public safety radio communication techniques, the errors this introduces, and the negative radio discipline that often creeps in. If I had a dollar for every “repeat” or out right misunderstandings caused by poor radio discipline I’ve heard, I’d be retiring at age 40, grin. That’s true even considering I don’t listen to local public safety radio that much anymore as it’s too annoying to monitor daily.


Help save SBFD’s Arson Dog “Diesel” from budget cuts.

Posted in California, Law Enforcement with tags , , , on June 2, 2008 by WA4ZKO

UPDATE: June 7th- Diesel has his own website here. Check it out!

For the dog/public safety working dog lovers out there….

Budget cuts suck, but this one could really suck for the department and community. A 20 million dollar budget shortfall in San Bernadino, California may put one of the city’s top arson investigators out of a job. Diesel, a Lab/Golden Retriever mix, is the San Bernadino Fire Dept’s only arson dog. Unfortunately in the department/city’s list of priorities (which I’m not going to debate) the arson dog program is on the list of programs they can’t fund this time around.

Chief Michael Conrad has given the dog’s handler, Arson Investigator Michael Koster, a chance to raise the funds to support the program. Koster has even offered to give up any overtime pay to help out, but for legal reasons that isn’t an option. They need about $20,000 to save the program and apparently they are at least a quarter of the way there.

So instead of flipping your $20-$50 donations to useless (IMHO) politicians, consider sending a few bucks to a good cause. If you wish to donate, send a check to:

  • San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters Union Local 891
  • Attn: The Arson Dog Program
  • 371 W. 14th Street
  • San Bernardino, CA 92405

For more info you can check out this story.

The departments web site can be found here.

UPDATE: June 7th- Diesel has his own website here. Check it out!

PS – I know several public safety dog handlers and know first hand how much they adore these dogs, care for them like a family member, and these dogs love what they do. My family has a 6 month old lab/collie mix (mostly lab) named “Rascal” and he is truly one of a kind.