Monday, January 21, 2008

Some interesting follow up thoughts on this weeks scanner net 

Frank K3FSS posted this following comment to the TRAMA list concerning discussions on last nights net. Perhaps we will pick up this conversation again next week. By the way if you are reading this blog and don't subscribe to the TRAMA Mailing list you should.

"I couldn't get to a radio last night, but I was listening.

Some comments. First, yes any delay is bad. However, not listening to Bellevue you can't be sure they didn't send both out. Not along ago this would not have happened. You had to dial the now ten digit number for who you wanted. In some places this was three different numbers. If you managed to dial the ten digit number and got disconnected no further action would have been taken, or it would have taken much longer to track it down. Also not long ago if you called 911 you got the city. Again if you were disconnected, nothing further would have been done, or again it would have been a much slower process. Today, call 911 and hang up or get disconnected, and very soon afterwards an officer will be checking.

The database is supplied by the telephone company. They give out the numbers. The county does correct things they happen to find. EVERYONE should have by now checked to make sure 911 is getting the correct info. The county explains this on their site :
If in doubt call the number at the bottom to make sure. I have done this. My address has been listed incorrectly in the phone book for at least seven years, yet they get the right address for billing every month. I called then South Hills Regional, and checked the info they were getting, and it was correct.

Interoperability. The county is making great progress in getting everyone moved to UHF. There are two freqs, one VHF (155.880), and one UHF (471.1375) that ALL agencies should have programmed in their radios (dispatched by county or not). There are more agencies on UHF than ever. One UHF portable can contact more agencies than ever before in the county, and its getting better, slowly. Keep in mind Plum police is on a ring down center, so there is some delay, and that is Plum's fault. I've heard the county set up numerous UHF-UHF, UHF-VHF high and low crosslinks for both police and fire incidents. The officers involved didn't need to change channels, the county brought them all together by a cross link. I can tell you, that right now there is only one agency nearby that we need a VHF-high radio for. All others are on UHF, and we can talk to them. A big improvement from not too long ago. Also remember there are simplex police and fire tac channels from the county as well.

The only limited experience I've had does not support your delay claims. I've called them twice for minor things. Once on a walk I called my wife to call the boro building about something (it was minor). She had to call 911 anyway. Soon afterwards my cell phone rang, and it was the county. The officer was at the location and wanted more info. They sent him to meet me at my location. This all took place in about a five minute span. Lately I've been hearing very quick if not instantaneous relays of messages between agencies. There can be some delay, and its always been that way.

So, in general its an improvement. Some, if not most police dispatchers were fair at best. For those agencies this is an improvement. There were some, a small minority, that were run very well, and those agencies had some changes, some good, some bad. I can tell you, that in this area there were several fire departments doing what they could to switch, due to the quality of what they had.

The pluses :
You and anyone visiting you can call 911 and get help. No longer do you need to remember up to three different ten digit numbers to get help. I can remember looking up police department numbers to call for help, when I needed to get help for someone on the radio.

More and more users are on the same band. It is definitely getting easier to get who you need. One UHF portable can contact more agencies than not now. If you can't, the county can cross link you to who you need.

Its not perfect, and never will be. Its run by and operated (on both 911 and public sides) by humans, and they make mistakes. Just keep in mind some of the people they have to deal with. Allegheny County is no different than any other county in the country, and these types of systems work there. There are some dispatching things I don't care for, but thats the way it goes. The fire chiefs have the say in those procedures.

I just thought it was time to look at some other aspects of it. Its not all good, but its also not all bad.

I'll step off the old soap box now.

Frank K3FSS"


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