Is the channel you use on the fireground monitored by a dispatcher, or is it the responsibility of the Incident Commander to monitor all transmissions? Is it safe not having that extra set of ears listening?
Unfortunately its all on the IC. Is it safe....no !!! But up where we live, your going to need a repeater to do this, and unfortunately we still have alot of dead spots with our Sheriffs Dept dispatch repeater. We normally go to a T/A channel, because you cannot rely on the fire ground repeater, which doesnt have a dispatcher listening anyways.
Had a neighboring department that uses the same dispatch call a Mayday earlier this year. The IC heard it, as did the dispatcher who was listening on either a scanner or PT. He started MA before the IC requested, as well as another ALS unit and made sure the IC heard it.
Something that needs to be addressed in our county, but hey, we finally got all departments except 2 being dispatched out of the same place now. Within the last year.
Since the changes in our county all channels are monitored except the unit to unit channels which are sort of low transmitting so are not picked up by communications.
When units are dispatched they are given a response channel to keep most of the radio traffic off the main dispatch channel. Our county has upto 10 channels with the unit to unit channels and state med radio channels part of everything.
Unfortunately our communications is done by the 911 center that also dispatches the sheriff’s department and the city fire. All channels are monitored by the 911 center. We recently switched over to the 700 System, We are dispatched on high band and everything else goes to 700. Depending on the type of the emergency depends on how many channels we use. About two weeks ago we responded to a structure fire and used 2 channels, 1 channel was for operations, 1 channel for water supply. When we use more than one channel a Second Officer takes over the second channel and communicates with the IC. I believe it to be very unsafe having the IC as the only monitor.
Thank you all for your prompt response. Some backround on my question.....We are looking into utilizing fireground channels that are not monitored by the dispatch center. We utilize a trunk system and all fireground operations would be direct. We are looking at enabling a feature that when the orange button on our radio is depressed, it would beep on every radio on the fireground followed by ten seconds of open microphone. This activation would not go through to the comm center. Since no one liked the idea of an unmonitored fireground channel, do you think this upgrade is a replacement for a dispatcher? Or, should we put our foot down and demand that the fireground channel be monitored?
Rich if it was me i would demand the channel be monitored, we recently went to the trunked system and our orange button is not activated. With recent discussion and a state certified mayday class that option is being brought into play. The sheriff’s department here has that feature and upon activation every screen in the 911 center is activated with a large red screen letting them know something is wrong. My concern is not having that extra pair of ears that may be needed. The dispatcher can start more help knowing that something is wrong when the IC maybe and can be more focused on the emergency at hand. I hope this helps
Sometimes dispatch can't monitor the tactical channel due to technology, or lack of manpower. Now, where I am it is physically impossible due to geographic terrain. Your 5 watt portable needs to reach a repeater and then transmit back via towers to the commmunications center. If you have blackout areas in your district then the "system" is not monitored 100% anyway and has a liability. Not to mention, the reason they can't monitor tactical channels is that they (tac frequencies) are not repeater channels. Our dispatch serves 80 commmunities and have only 2 or 3 dispatchers on duty, so they are not staffed enough to monitor all tactical channels being used. Another liability is if the distressed firefighter pushes his button and tries to then communicate back (via the primary dispatch channel) on the repeaters, that transmission can be easily walked over when they are dispatching another communities non-related fire or medical emergency.
Therefore, we just instituted a new system that requires the Incident Commander to manage all of his field communications and emergency distress signals. In reality it is not the dispatchers responsibility to answer or manage the EDS. It is the Incident Commander in he field. We upgraded our radio software and our EDS buttons will now default all activations to a specific tactical channel. Ours is TAC 3. So the incident commander, the safety officer, the RIT Team, are all now monitoring TAC 3 while on the fireground. The Command Post (Suburban) has a dedicated TAC 3 (100W MOBILE), the SO and RIT Company Officer get individual dedicated portables that have EDS receiver software, and can capture and read an EDS signal with a loud wobble tone, the firefighters name will appear on the portables LED screen and you can speak direct on the designated default frequency. So we have eliminated the need to make a 5W signal get all the way back to the dispatch center. It now only needs to be sent literally 300'.
I teach a class called Mayday Management for Incident Command and it has a very indepth, detailed section on radio communication modeling that includes this study. Many have spoke about the dispatcher starting more equipment when the hear things going bad. Remember, even though they are jumping the gun... it is reactive and not "pro-active", therefore a good incident commander will have figured out the potential liabilities, (longer the incident's duration) the greater the chance of a mayday occuring and have instituted the rule of 3's. I personally ask for two additional companies from the next greater alarm assignment to reduce the turnout and over the road travel time for when things go bad. You have to ask yourself, how long does it take for 3rd or 4th alarm mutual aid companies to actually get to "your" scene? Many will state way longer than the viability of the downed firefighter. Another heavily stressed part in my program. Predicting the future. My response time is 30 seconds, because they are already there.
With our dispatch covering an entire county which could be up to 50 departments + police to monitor tactical would put them in overload. Our tactical channels are low power as to not interfere with others, is it safe? I believe so if the system is set up right. At a small scene you may only have IC but each group or division has a leader so you have more then 1 set of ears. Now as an incident grows so do the ears, you may add stagging which monitors everyone or add a scribe to IC and if it gets real big bring in a mobile command which will have it's own comm center. IC should never be communicating with more then 5-7 people. Bottom line today we need to follow NIMS and have a communication plan.
Our tactical channel is not repeated, therefore the dispatcher cannot monitor us. That's a double-edged sword. It would be nice to have an extra set of ears listening, but we can use that channel anywhere we go over a very large area without ever having to worry about a repeater. On a major incident our chief would most likely have a county fire marshal assisting with command, which helps in that regard.