BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE
Effective radio communications are vital for the successful mitigation of most fire
and rescue incidents. The safety of emergency personnel may be jeopardized if radio
signals are scratchy, unintelligible, or simply absent. Radio communications problems
have been found to be the most common operational obstacle in a majority of fire
department operations. Such problems affect the fire department’s ability to start,
coordinate and complete effective operations (Brunacini, 1985). Communications
systems allow firefighters and command officers to better protect the public during
emergency operations and to more efficiently provide routine services.
The current 154 MHz radio communications system is a VHF high band simplex
radio system that was installed in 1964. The original single channel system has grown to
three countywide base mobile channels with the addition of two mobile channels. There
are three main (dispatch) base stations operated remotely via microwave from the
communications center. The base stations were installed in 1987. In addition to these
channels, there are two fire mutual aid channels. There currently exist more than 700
mobile and portable fire department radios in use system wide.
The current 154 MHz radio system does not provide effective communications for
the Department. The three available radio channels are not enough to handle the peak
load periods. Emergency messages have not been able to be made in a timely fashion due
to multiple emergency incidents on such a limited number of available channels. Due to
the size of the county, coverage is quite poor in some areas and often messages from
emergency scenes have to be relayed by other users, increasing radio traffic further.