Several questions have been posted on the blog and asked in meetings as to the status of the emergency button for the fire departments. The emergency button functionality is currently disabled on fire service 800 MHz radios. The decision to disable the button occurred due to events that occurred during training that caused DPS great concern. Prior to fire service transition to the 800 MHz radio system – a number of exercises were conducted on the training profile with the emergency button function enabled. During the exercises a number of accidental activations occurred while the current P800 series radios were is use. Individual activation results in a 10 second open microphone not allowing the assigned talk group to be used. At times there were multiple activations occurring at the same time. During these situations – the emergencies are queued or “stacked” - each resulting in ten second open microphones occurring one after another – again rendering the assigned talk group unusable for the duration until all emergency activations was processed by the system.
The functionality of vehicle repeaters also weighed in the decision process. Vehicle repeaters have two deployable methods in the radio system. One mode is called “XCOV” – this functionality allows scanning of talk groups for portables attached to the repeater; however – this mode only allows a maximum of eight portable radios to attach to the vehicle repeater. The second mode, and the mode used for fire service radios, is called “XCOV-TG”. This mode does not allow scanning by portables attached to a vehicle repeater but allows for a maximum of 30 portables to attach to a vehicle repeater – more appropriate for fire service applications than the “XCOV” mode. Since scanning of talk groups cannot be done on the “XCOV-TG” – default emergency talk group – where the emergency raised moves it to a pre-determined talk group – would not be supported on a portable attached to the vehicular repeater. The only practical way to deploy emergency function in “XCOV-TG” is by raising the operations talk group to emergency status allowing only the emergency activation and ten seconds of open microphone on the talk group. All other tactical communications is preempted and will remain preempted until all emergency activations are processed if more than one activation occurs at the same time.
These happenings were alarming to DPS and presented a situation in which responders may not have the ability to communicate during a true emergency. It is for these reasons and safety concerns the decision was made to not enable the emergency button function on fire services radios when the transition to the 800 MHz radio system occurred in July 2007.
It is important to note that DPS has not completely abandoned the idea of enabling the emergency button with the release of the P7200 series portables. We are looking for user feedback through the blog regarding this issue. What concerns do you have? What are you feelings regarding the button? How could we improve training, to avoid these multiple activations? Your comments and input are extremely important to us regarding this issue and we thank you in advance for your help!