I have been working on a committee that is investigating the LODD our department suffered on April 4th. While investigating, it came up in interviews that Robin was attempting to transmit a Mayday and was unable to get out on the new Motorola 800 radio she was using. She kept getting the infamous "busy signal" due to heavy fireground traffic.
My thought is this: Are we teaching our people to utilize the red emergency buttons on the radios which give your traffic priority, or are we teaching them to key the mic and transmit like any other traffic?
Both Cincinnati and Colerain have been teaching their people to key the mic rather than depress the button. As we all know - we'll do in real life what we have done in training.
Just a thought that could potentially save someone's butt TONIGHT.
If you get on the US Fire Administrations website...they offer (FREE OF CHARGE) a CD and it is all about "Calling a MayDay"....Pretty good stuff and not as boring as some might think (I feel anything that can save my ass isn't boring)....They are actually under the Dept of Homeland Security....Might want to check it out....Stay safe and remember to keep the faith.......Paul
Excellent point, Jason. We've got radios with the red (actually I think it's orange) button, but we've done zero training on how to use the button! I will bring this up at our next training meeting. It's a shame that someone trying to transmit a MAYDAY is unable to due to heavy radio traffic. It's an even bigger shame when they have the technology to make their radio transmission a priority but have never been trained how to do so. Stay safe!
We have trained on this in Beachwood a couple of times. You would be amazed at how hard, nearly impossible, to hit the button is. Most guys have had to remove a glove. Now, if that is the difference between dying and a burnt hand, there is not a choice here. However, there are two things to consider. One, the button was probably designed to a police officer to be able to call for help silently or during a scuffle. Two, unless you have your radios assigned and programmed with a personal identifier, it really isn't a good idea to use. We have the programmed and issue to each member. What acutally happens is that the dispatch gets an alarm that radio 2, me, is transmitting a distress alarm. Then they call back to check if there is a problem. They way that she was trying to transmit herself over the air, is probably the more effective way to do it. Unfortunately, we all have run into situations where you just can't get a word in edgewise sometimes. There has to be a better way. I like you idea that if you transmit a trouble signal it would lock the channel. I am not sure if that is the case with the red button though. I do not beileve that this is how they work.
First my condolences on the LODD that you and your department have suffered. God Speed to the brother.
Kudos, for not letting a brother die in vain also. In respect to your question, my department has done an extensive study on the exact issue of the EDS - emergency distress signal for our Motorola XTS 2500 portables or the little orange button on the portable radios.
It is far to difficult to explain on this forum as the report was 3 pages long. But I will just throw out a few points to ponder to the Nation, and look to see what others think.
Start with these questions on the EDS. Is the Emergency Distress Signal even programmed on our radios? Seen some that were NOT. Do you know who is monitoring it? What does the digital display say on the console of the receiver, (your name or radio id #), Does anyone have a chart to convert from ID# to names? IF the radios are assigned to a seat, does anybody have a clue who was riding Ladder 1's rear seat #2? What channel does the EDS broadcast the EDS Alert on? Is it different than the channel you are using for the fireground? Is the EDS alert broadcasting on the dispatch frequency? If so, what if they are toning a call at the same time of the distress signal? Will the EDS even reach dispatch geographically from terrain EVRYWHERE in town(s)? These are just a few questions from our study. There are many more!
We did testing in all many different locations and many different buildings. Our system was setup originally to send the EDS signal to dispatch on the primary dispatch channel. Meaning you are working a fire on channel 4, press the EDS button and the radio changes frequencies without turning the knob to Channel 1, therefore once you pressed the button, no more talking to command on the fireground frequency. Geographically, our radios have to go to a repeater, then back to dispatch. One test I did, I was standing in dispatch and they never recieved it due to geography, the EDS alert never made the repeater on the tower to get back to dispatch.
We currently have a very unique system that not many are using in the fire service. We changed the entire programming of our EDS, we purchased special software to program other radios to receive our EDS distress signals in the Command Post, RIT Officer and the Safety Officer's Radios ON THE FIREGROUND and not in dispatch.
For all who want to, check out my FFN page, drop me a note that you want more information on the EDS set-up that we are using and I will forward the report later.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. And, as always, thanks for the kind words. Losing 2 friends is something we weren't prepared for. We are doing all we can to try to keep this from happening again.
I thought I'd answer a couple of your questions and request a copy of your report, if that would be okay with you. We are in the process of getting this together to distribute to the departments here.
I copied and pasted your questions and followed with my answers:
Start with these questions on the EDS. Is the Emergency Distress Signal even programmed on our radios?
It is programmed on ours (Both Cincinnati and Colerain). I understand that you can program these radios pretty much an unlimited number of configurations.
Do you know who is monitoring it?
Our Dispatch Towers are monitoring the traffic. Upon depressing the button, the frequency is locked down for ten seconds and the mic is opened up "priority" for whatever traffic you have.
What does the digital display say on the console of the receiver, (your name or radio id #)?
The radios are numbered and assigned to particular seats on the trucks (Truck 3, FF 2 or Truck 3, OIC, etc.) I believe in Cincinnati, some of the officer's radios are assigned to people, but most are seat assignments.
Does anyone have a chart to convert from ID# to names?
Our accountability passports have tags on them that identify everyone on the apparatus and should reflect who is in which seat (for the most part). Otherwise, the officer should be able to relate whoever is on duty in which seat. (unless of course, the officer is the one in trouble... )
IF the radios are assigned to a seat, does anybody have a clue who was riding Ladder 1's rear seat #2?
What channel does the EDS broadcast the EDS Alert on?
The Alert goes over Main Dispatch which is being monitored by the Tower and anyone else in station who is listening to the radio. (All houses have a radio on 24/7 that is SUPPOSED to be louder than the televisions, etc.)
Is it different than the channel you are using for the fireground?
Yes. The fireground channel is assigned to the incident and varies up to something like 27 channels.
Is the EDS alert broadcasting on the dispatch frequency? If so, what if they are toning a call at the same time of the distress signal?
I don't know for sure, but I am almost certain that it is set up as "Priority" and should override the dispatch.
Will the EDS even reach dispatch geographically from terrain EVRYWHERE in town(s)?
Okay - this one is just one of the problems inherent with these radios. They can pick us up in Dayton, but have trouble when we are inspecting the basement of the courthouse. Geographically they seem to do pretty well. I am unaware of any real geographical dead spots, but like I mentioned, some buildings prove to be a bit of a challenge for these things.
These are indeed police radios and designed as such.
Again, thanks for the dialogue. We are in a unique position to change some things for our department and any information gathered will certainly be considered and hopefully go toward making some positive changes.
Sorry for the loss of one of your own Jason. I will definitely ask my Chief officers at our next drill about this. Paul that is great also and I will look into that so we can have it at the department and be able to train better about using Mayday...
Stay strong and stay safe Jason.
Not sure how ur dispatch center works, but here is an idea how it works in Berkeley WV. If I press the button it will switch my radio to channle 14 and will remain there till it is cleared out. Dispatch will come onto this channle and let me know they recieved the mayday and the OIC has to go to 14 to be able to speak with me. Now, I had to call a mayday about 3 weeks ago, and I did not waste time to hit the button, I called mayday and dispatch held all traffic on the tac 1 ( fire ground ops) and everyone else switched to another channle. This seemed to work better for me cause when we use the button, dispatch has to confirm the mayday and then tell the OIC to get him to come up to that channle. I found it better to go direct with the OIC. By doing this I think we saved time and the life of a brother. If your dispatch is anything like ours, god be with you, we have alot of problems with new people being placed on the air with very little training, and even some of the older ones don't seem to have a clue, it's pretty sad to have to say that but I also belive you get what you pay for, our county only pays about 21,000 to start as a dispatcher.
Glad it worked Smith... My point is a problem here locally, county wise geographically, dispatch can't monitor the tactical channels because of terrain and a 5 watt portable, as the primary dispatch channels work on a repeator system. EDS function is great, if monitored. If not, then you would have a potenial liability where a firefighter would push the little copper button and automatically change channels to talk to no one, like mine and that is a problem.
Sorry to hear of your loss, but I will share some insight. On my department all teams that are assigned to interior operations utilize the "talk around" channel on 800 radios. This feature basically turns your radio into in 800mhz walkie talkie. This takes the repeater out of the equation and this channel is utilized for the interior ops to talk straight to command. If any other communication needs to take place its on a tactical repeater based channel. All pertinent information is relayed between the groups via the command staff on an as needed basis.
Keep in mind this is a small combination department so your mileage may vary.