We’ve been talking for over a year about the eventual expansion of our radio system’s capacity. Earlier today, Ohio State Highway Patrol moved their final district over to their new MARCS IP system, officially freeing up the 3 frequencies/channels we’ve been waiting on. We now have 20 channels, 19 open for simultaneous transmission. What this means to our users – 19 different talkgroups can be active at one time on our system, with minimal, if any, ‘busy honks’ making you wait for a line to open up.
On Tuesday, March 17th Motorola began upgrading the Primary Domain Controllers, which
▪ Controls the security of the radio system.
▪ Controls the security policies on the radio consoles for such things as username, password, and the lock down of the console to prevent tampering and additional software from being loaded.
Radio Systems Manager, Gary Hardwick monitored the progress of the update & provided feedback to the Motorola team when they reached milestones in the process. Upgrading the PDC & security policies was just another step to prepare for the big step of upgrading the statewide System software on March 24th. Contingency plans were in place in the event we had an unforeseen circumstance occur during the upgrade. The only expected interruption to dispatch was the rebooting of one console at a time.
The Radio Team started a tour of programming LE radios. After your radio is programmed it will have this tag, directing you to use LAW1 for all INQUIRY purposes. LAW1,2,3 are being added to your Zone C; so find LAW1 and get familiar. Probation and Warden will use it as their main line to Dispatch; law enforcement will use it to run plates, SOCs, etc. The temporary change is due to an encryption key transition that won’t be complete until all radios are programmed. DO NOT USE INQUIRY after being programmed. Telecom will announce the ‘Return Normal use of Inquiry” to Chiefs and known Training Officers via email and post it on our social media and website once the last agency has been programmed.
SW MATACs Explained
With more neighboring counties joining the State’s MARCS IP radio system, MATACs are becoming a hot topic among our radio users. Common questions are: Why do I have them? How does it work? How do I find them?
NOTICE: MATACs may also be referred to on-air as “SW MATACs”. SW stands for “South West” as we need to distinguish our region on the state’s radio system. If this idea takes off, other regions could mimic the design, and the state needs a way to tell OUR MATACs from OTHER MATACs. Your radio may be reprogrammed for these to display as “SW MATAC…” to clarify this if character limits allow. But just hearing “MATAC” means the same thing.
As of January 2015, only Warren, Greene and Butler Counties are operational on MARCS’ IP radio system, making them capable of talking with us on the MATACs. On May 11th & 12th 2015, Clermont joined MARCS IP. On June 9th 2015, Clinton County joined MARCS IP. The plan is for all counties that border Warren County to program these 2 zones of MATACs into their user’s radios, broadening the reach and ease of mutual aid / radio interoperability.
WHY DO I HAVE MATACS? To talk with neighboring counties without the exhaustive zones of THEIR system talkgroups. For region-wide radio communication. For mutual aid. For ease of navigation. For muscle-memory’s sake. For mind-memory’s sake.
Warren County agencies can still have their familiar neighboring county’s system talkgroups for ease of mutual aid communication, if they wish. For example, Mason has Loveland-Symmes’ “NECC” talkgroup as they are a frequent mutual aid partner, WCSO has “09 MA’s” for mutual aid with Butler County. However, for the counties that our agencies don’t typically mutual aid for (e.g. Greene County and Deerfield Twp, or Montgomery County and Harlan Twp), these 2 zones of MATACs can replace 6-8 zones of “outside county talkgroups”, significantly reducing the size and complexity of your talkgroup template. Or for “the big one” where all available units in SW Ohio are requested, MATACs are a common set of talkgroups that all will have.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Scenario: Butler County has an incident they’ve been working for 2 hours on their talkgroup “09 FIRE 05”. They decide to call in mutual aid from multiple Warren County agencies; both fire and law. Butler County’s first earmarked MATAC, as shown on the map, is “MATAC 11”. Warren County agencies would flip their radios to MATAC11 (Zone D Position 11 for Fire / Zone E Position 11 for Law). Butler County Dispatch would ‘join’ MATAC11 to the existing “09 FIRE 05” talkgroup so that incoming units can communicate with the ongoing incident AND the ongoing incident doesn’t have to switch talkgroups mid-operation.
The MATACs were assigned in a clockwise order, starting with Warren in the center (1/2), then Greene (3/4), Clinton (5/6), Clermont (7/8), Hamilton (9/10), Butler (11/12), Montgomery (13/14). You’ll notice a 2nd zone of MATACs 15-28. These are an overflow zone should the MATAC design gain heavy traction in our region as all counties build/turn on their MARCS IP radio systems.
ADDITIONAL OFFERING FOR AGENCIES Emergency Services’ Dispatch Center has agreed to verbalize the Zone that a law or fire responder needs to switch to in their radio to find the MATACs, as you become familiar with the new procedure. Law: Zone E&F | Fire: Zone D&E
LAW RADIOS [AFTER THE SWITCH] Since Butler County switched to their MARCS IP Radio System, Warren County Telecom is working to program their new talkgroups (shown below) into our users’ radios. Not only do you notice the prefix is different (from BC to 09) but you don’t have as many talkgroups moving forward. Because Butler County has a different encryption key than us, and our radios can only hold one key, we can not program their encrypted talkgroups (mainly TACs) into your portable and mobile radios. However, Dispatch’s consoles are capable of more than one encryption key, so they have access to and can patch a WC talkgroup into an encrypted BC talkgroup. The differences in encryption do not appear to affect the patch success. Also, both counties have the MATACs in their radios for mutual aid purposes. More to come as we learn the compatibility of our systems and programming.
The Many Benefits of our Digital Radio System
Leading up to the digital switch, we understand the benefit that overwhelmingly rang in our subscribers ears was ‘statewide roaming.’ Believe us, we love(d) the idea too! Being an early adopter of the State’s MARCS IP system meant a steep learning curve for all involved! What no one accounted for was the taxing load one county’s radio traffic would put on other county’s systems who also subscribe to MARCS IP. It wasn’t until we were up and running that the impact of statewide roaming was realized, by us and neighboring counties. It’s been explained to the Chiefs Associations but for the sake of boring our subscribers with ‘tech-jargon’ we
instead focused on getting straight to the end result of “Strategic Roaming” in last month’s cover article. But for those who want more explanation: with ‘statewide roaming’ set for all talkgroups, if a Warren County radio user travels into another MARCS-subscribing County, it will latch onto that County’s towers since it offers better signal strength. This results in the Warren County user ‘stealing’ one of a limited amount of radio resources from the County it’s operating in. While Warren County is fortunate to own 20 resources/ frequencies, some neighboring Counties only have 4-5. If that county has 4 dispatchers sitting 24/7 on a monitored talkgroup like we do, you’d box out a dispatcher from doing their job. While it has only been an issue between Warren and Greene Counties these recent months, the ‘stealing of resources’ is only going to become more complicated with Butler County’s recent “plugging in” to MARCS IP this past month. Clermont and Clinton are slated in the next year, with Montgomery County close behind. The counties with fewer resources/frequencies could realistically be maxed out by users who don’t even belong to their radio system! Rather than wait and play catch-up, the SW Ohio counties are being proactive in agreeing to a mutual Standard of Operations Procedure known as the “Warren County Accord.” It outlines what types of talkgroups can roam 1) County-only, 2) one-County surround, or 3) statewide just as Warren County instituted on August 18th.
So while some users mourn the ‘what might have been’ regarding Statewide roaming, we want to remind you of the several other benefits we’re receiving with the digital system. Digital isn’t synonymous with ‘statewide’. Digital is the method of HOW the radio communications are transmitted; and they’re transmitting
So here are some reasons for celebration
- Better Coverage within Warren County – remember this? The ‘Blue Team’ and ‘Red Team’ comprised of Telecom, Motorola, Mobilcomm and public safety volunteers spent a painstaking week driving into square mile grids to test signal strength, resulting in never-seen-before coverage improvement!
- Encryption—digital technology allows us to block scanners from listening to our traffic on subject-matter-sensitive talkgroups like Inquiry and Drug Task Force. This was not possible on our analog system.
- More Simultaneous Conversations—our old analog system had the capacity for 14 simultaneous conversations, meaning 14 different talkgroups could be actively talking at the same time. Once we gain 5 channels from MARCS in the coming year, we’ll have capacity for 19 simultaneous conversations! Additionally, this will become important when neighboring counties join MARCS and activate their limited list of talkgroups that can roam 1-county surround and statewide like we have. Their use of our resources will have less impact on us and our conversation capacity.
- MORE In-County Towers—get it? 4 more towers! These fill in the pockets of our county that previously had less-than-stellar coverage. They also amped up our microwave link network and data network. And if you need a WIFI hotspot, here are 4 more!
- Access to State Towers—it’s because of our digital switch and affiliation with MARCS that we can access state towers for expanded coverage past Warren County. Remember, the MATACs, MAMAYDAYs, HAILING, WCSO-3 , Lebanon PD 2, and Franklin PD 2 work statewide, jumping from State tower to State tower along the way.
When mutual aiding into Butler County, switch to MATAC 11 (Zone D Fire / Zone E Law)
If the incident grows, Incident Command can first assign MATAC 12, then MATAC 1 and 2.
Programming order for getting Warren County radios compatible with Butler County MARCS IP:
- Warren Co. agencies that border Butler Co and regularly mutual aid for them
- APX portables
- XTS portables
Once your agency has the new Butler County MARCS IP talkgroups, you can begin mutual aiding on their directed talkgroup. Notice former talkgroup prefixes ‘BC’ are now ‘09’ (e.g. ‘BC MA’ is now ‘09 MA’.)
MATACs are a regional set of talkgroups that all neighboring Counties will program into their radios as they join MARCS IP. It’s an alternative to programming each other’s systems into our radios, adding endless zones of talkgroups. As of October 2014, MATACs are operational between Butler, Warren, and Greene Counties, with the remaining bordering Counties coming on board in the next 2 years.
Strategic Roaming Explained
Warren County and surrounding counties have come to an agreement/plan that went into affect on August 18th for Warren County. As neighboring counties join MARCS IP, they will implement the same roaming guidelines.
While “it’s cool” to be able to roam the state on our primary dispatch channels, we’re learning just how it impacts our neighboring counties with MARCS IP towers… and it’s not good. Simply put, we are tying up state and other county’s radio frequencies when our radios grab onto their radio towers. The same happens to us when other counties drive through/operate in Warren County. With us literally “stuck in the middle” of the green 800MHz counties, and they complete their transition to the State’s new MARCS IP radio system, the
bleed-over of talkgroups onto each other’s towers could, at times, rob counties of their frequencies, leaving their own agencies unable to talk on the radio. Simply listening to a busy primary dispatch channel is enough to cause harm, as it requires the system to light up a frequency on the towers so it can play the dispatch traffic for you.
The solution = “Strategic Roaming” – a roaming configuration that strategically allows our agencies to do their job while not negatively impacting other counties, and vice versa.
Local & primary dispatch talkgroups (in yellow) will operate with the same limitations as the old analog system, but with the technical improvements of the digital system and added tower coverage (no dead zones!)
TACs2-21 (in green) will operate as far as one county surround (plus Preble) if within reach of a MARCS IP tower.
Hailing Talkgroups, Mutual Aid TACs and Maydays, Prisoner Transport talkgroup, and a PD talkgroup for each of Franklin and Lebanon (in blue) will work state-wide for larger incidents or long-distance communication needs.
MANDATORY RADIO SYSTEM BULLETIN
This bulletin addresses several issues that our users are having with their portable and mobile radios. Please read it entirely and distribute to every member of your department that uses a radio.
- All mobile radios need tuned at Telecom!
- APX6000 Manufacturing Issue
- Your display shows ‘Out of Range’
- Setting up your Scan List
- Do you hear “BONK” on your radio? You might be talking over somebody!
- Car Antennas
- Interoperability Channel Package
- Scanning / Range Limitations
On May 29th, we distributed a Telecom Safety Alert with Motorola’s 3-page Field Service Bulletin regarding a fault in the APX6000 radio. This is a Motorola issue unrelated to Warren County’s digital radio system performance.
PROBLEM: Warren County’s APX 6000’s fall within a serial number range that need repaired. If you have a defective radio and a shoulder microphone or headset is attached, when keying up, the radio frequency energy may be directed back into the radio through the shoulder microphone or headset confusing the radio and causing an ‘ERROR’ message to appear on the radio’s display. The radio is then incapable of transmitting out. Portables need to be tested to determine if they’re defective. The root problem is that 4% of the APX6000 radios made by Motorola got glue on a connector during manufacturing, causing this problem.
PUBLIC SAFETY IMPLICATION:
■ Fire departments – do not use APX radios inside a fire until they are tested and verified okay by Mobilcomm. Do not use shoulder microphones or headsets at all.
■ Law enforcement/probation officers – cease use of shoulder microphones and headsets immediately. The quick solution is turn off / turn on your radio to remove the error. But if you’re involved in a high-risk / compromising incident when the error occurs, it’s not safe to turn your attention away from the incident and toward your faulty radio.
TEMPORARY SOLUTION: disconnect all shoulder microphones and headsets. If you see the error, turn off / turn on your radio to remove the error. Notify Glenn & Nick x3251 to get the unit repaired.
PERMANENT SOLUTION: Motorola is offering NO-COST REPAIR – Mobilcomm will perform the test procedure for Warren County agencies to determine if the radios need repaired. Telecom will not have loaner XTS radios for your department while yours are out for repair, so you may only want to send off a few at a time. Contact the Radio Systems Team at 513.695.3251 with questions.
If you are outside of Warren County and see “out of range” – that County most likely doesn’t have MARCS IP towers (YET!) The State of Ohio’s Radio System has two versions running right now: the old Version 3.5 and the new Internet Protocol (IP) version. Warren County operates on the latter.
Because this is the newest State system and Warren County is an early adopter, they are still adding towers throughout the State and neighboring Counties are following our lead to join it. Until those towers are constructed, we will experience ‘out of range’ in Counties that don’t house IP towers. This problem is out of our control but the benefits will come, as you’ll be able to roam statewide on our local talkgroups, compared to the analog system when you lost connectivity at the county border. Certain talkgroups are programmed to roam the entire State, and they will as long as they can latch onto a MARCS IP tower. See the below map for existing and future MARCS IP towers.
PROJECTIONS: Clinton County October 2014. Clermont County April 2015. Butler County September 2014.
*You can still travel to Butler County and use BC talkgroups / Hamilton County and use HC talkgroups / Montgomery County and use MC talkgroups. You will affiliate with their system towers.
Scan List Setup
When radios were reprogrammed for the digital switch, their scan lists had to be deleted, but were replaced with a default list of your Primary and Local talkgroup. Each user needs to reset their scan list (up to 10 talkgroups in XTS&XTL2500/APX6000 and 15 talkgroups in XTS5000). Even if you press the scan button (bottom side button on portable and soft key under ‘scan’ on mobiles/controls stations), there’s nothing to scan until you set it up. How to program a scan list has been in our XTS2500 and XTS5000 anatomy training videos since 2011, with an additional video solely covering scan lists – www.YouTube.com
Echo Reverb on Radio Traffic
The “echo” is digital technology’s equivalent of the old analog system’s “SQUEAL”. Like a musical performer standing too close to their speaker on stage, old analog radios would sound a squeal if you got too close to another radio user (speaker). Alerting you to move or turn down a radio. The new digital technology blocks the squeal and continues to send the distinguishable verbal audio just with an echo effect, not as audibly offensive but equally frustrating for users. This is a permanent caveat to the digital system that users will need to work around.
Ways for End Users to Avoid Echo/Reverb
■ If talking on your mobile radio, turn down your portable so that it doesn’t broadcast what you’re saying right back into your mobile’s microphone. Otherwise, you risk having to repeat your traffic because Dispatch/listeners couldn’t understand it.
■ If talking on your portable while near your mobile, turn down your mobile so that it doesn’t broadcast what you’re saying right back into your portable’s microphone.
■ If in a group of people with radios, turn away from them when transmitting.
We now have a way to reduce the background noise in your radio. Come into Telecom for a quick update to your radio.
Do you hear “BONK” on your radio? You might be talking over somebody!
■ There is no “hang-time” / “white noise” / “fuzz” like on the old analog system.
■ The new digital system doesn’t allow talking over someone like the old system did. On analog, if Officer A was transmitting on Primary 1 with their portable, and Officer B had a stronger signal with a mobile, Officer B could potentially key up on Primary 1 during Officer A’s transmission and take over the talkgroup. At the least, Officer B would think they were talking but be hitting dead air. Now on the digital system, Officer B would hear a ‘BONK’, not allowing them to talk over someone, and their radio would revert to receive-mode to only hear the ongoing Primary 1 traffic.
■ The BONK can mean 1 of 3 things:
1. Your radio isn’t reaching the system—see Page 2.
2. You are keying up over someone’s existing traffic on a talkgroup.
3. You and another person are simultaneously keying up on a talkgroup, fighting for the line. Neither
gets the line and you need to try again.
This item reiterates the rule of listening to a talkgroup for ongoing traffic before you key up. If there is back and forth dialogue between a unit and Dispatch, let them clear that conversation before you transmit. If on an incident, every transmission is important for safety and incident progression so be patient and avoid having to re-transmit.
■ Long Antennas—An ongoing issue that existed before the digital cutover, please make sure that your vehicle’s radio antennas are properly seated into their bases and aren’t corroding. We see antennas pushed too far into their bases, diminishing their reception. Proper seating is to pull it out as far as you can while keeping it securely in the base.
■ Public Works departments who purchased new XTL1500 radios received new antennas that shouldn’t experience problems. They come ready to affix to the vehicle. However, if you didn’t take our recommendation to swap antennas, make sure your existing antenna is seated properly.
■ “Pepper shaker antennas” are not appropriate for MDC’s. They only hit the 800MHz band while
MDC’s need to reach 700-2700MHz. If you do not use Telecom for your parts, below are DST’s
recommended parts to order with your supplier of choice:
MP ANTENNA 700-2700 MHz – wideband NMO mount black multi-polarized antenna. Mfg Part #: 08-ANT-0902
Larsen vehicle roof mount antenna installation hardware kit includes 25 feet of RG58/U dual shield cable.
Mfg Part #: NMOKHFUD25
AMPHENOL “RFX” series TNC connector. Nickel plated body with crimp on center pin. Crimp-on
connector. Mfg Part #: 031-2367-RFX
There has been some confusion on interoperability with the Warren County transition to MARCS iP.
Most importantly, Warren County’s Interoperability policy has not changed. Any agency that provides
mutual aid to agencies within Warren County are eligible for access to the Warren County Radio System.
Mutual Aid providers in Counties that border Warren County are not subject to the monthly MARCS users
fees. Mutual Aid providers will be provided with the Warren County Interoperability Package of talkgroups, but are not eligible for the MARCS Interoperability package of LECOMMS, SCOMMS, etc with the no-fee plan. We negotiated this into our agreement with MARCS to ensure continued communications with our Mutual Aid partners. Mutual Aid providers will be provided with all of the talkgroups they had before our transition (Primary and local TAC Channels) with the addition of the 2 zones of Mutual Aid TACs. Counties that are in the process of transitioning to MARCS will issue radio ID’s out of their ID blocks so that we don’t have multiple radio ID’s for the same system in the same radio. Clermont, Clinton, Butler, and Montgomery Counties will issue ID’s to their agencies now for radios being put on the Warren County System. Once the Counties have approved and assigned the ID, MARCS will activate the ID for them. Mobilcomm has the procedure to request radio IDs for the radios they service. We are making every effort to expedite radio activation requests on to the system.
Scanning / Range Limits
Users are reporting the inability to scan on vehicle radios. We’ve discovered that when you leave Warren County’s towers, scan stops working. You will only hear radio traffic for the channel your radio is “sitting on” as shown on your display. Radios are locking onto towers outside of Warren County, even though they are still physically inside Warren County’s borders. The map shows nearby MARCS towers that our radios are “latching onto” in lieu of our own. Come into Telecom for the quick “1.5 update” that helps lock your radio onto Warren County towers as often as possible, keeping scan enabled.
MOTOROLA APX FIELD SERVICE BULLETIN! Motorola has found an error when APX models use shoulder mics or headsets. See page 5 for more details and a link to the *TELECOM SAFETY ALERT* that has been posted to our website & emailed to every Chief and Department that we know has an APX radio.
MUTUAL AID Warren County’s Interoperability policy has not changed with our digital switch.
▪ Agencies that provides mutual aid within Warren County are eligible for Warren County Radio System access.
▪ Mutual Aid providers in Counties that border Warren County are not subject to the monthly MARCS user fee.
▪ Mutual Aid providers will receive the Warren County Interoperability Talkgroup Package but are not eligible for the MARCS Interoperability package of LECOMMS, SCOMMS, etc with the no-fee plan. We negotiated this into our agreement with MARCS to ensure continued communications with our Mutual Aid partners.
▪ Mutual Aid providers will receive all of the talkgroups they had before our transition (Primary and local TAC Channels) with the addition of the 2 Mutual Aid TAC (MATAC) Zones.
▪ Counties that are in the process of transitioning to MARCS will issue radio IDs out of their block so we don’t have multiple radio IDs for the same system in the same radio. Clermont, Clinton, Butler, and Montgomery Counties will issue IDs to their agencies now for radios being put on the Warren County System. Once the Counties have approved and assigned the ID, MARCS will activate the ID for them. Mobilcomm has the procedure to request radio IDs for the radios they service.
PROPER WAY TO UNPLUG A MOBILE/CONTROL STATION RADIO
If unplugging your radio, first unplug the power cord, then the accessory plug. The opposite order has resulted in accidental emergency button activations.
SCANNING THE NEW SYSTEM Two recent events affect whether your radio scanner can hear radio traffic from Warren County – 1) Rebanding and 2) Digital Cutover. Last year, we were mandated to reband our system. On May 13th, 2014, Warren County cut over to the P25 digital radio system. Both events will prohibit some older scanners from receiving radio traffic from Warren County and eventually other surrounding counties that join the statewide MARCS radio system. These two articles further explain rebanding and P25 digital systems:
Rebanded scanners that can receive Warren County’s new system (except encrypted talkgroups)
GRE (PSR-500, PSR-600)
Uniden (BCD296D, BCD396D, BCD396XT, BCD796D, BCD996T, BCD996XT, Home Patrol 1)
Radio Shack (Pro-96, Pro-106, Pro-197, Pro-2096)
Rebanded scanners that can receive Warren County’s new system (except encrypted talkgroups) –PLUS- a new technology called TDMA or Phase II. No counties use this technology yet but could upgrade in the future.
MARCS in SCHOOLS SECURITY RADIO UPDATE – With 51 of Warren County’s public school facilities slated to install a security radio, plans continue forward with all districts and public safety chiefs receiving the final Memorandum of Understanding in mid-May. The draft was shared at every school meeting, giving all parties a chance to offer suggestions and procedural requests. The final version is a compilation of all parties’ input and best practices from a radio discipline standpoint. Drafted by Telecom and approved by the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office, we feel confident that schools and public safety agencies will agree to the simple, straight-forward guidelines. Given two weeks to review with legal counsel if desired, Telecom will begin gathering the necessary signatures at June’s Police Chief and Fire Chief meetings. The hope is to then mail the MOUs to each school district’s Business Manager (or equivalent) to get the school Superintendent’s signature and mail/drop it back off to Telecom. From there, Dispatch Centers will sign the MOUs followed by a final signature and resolution by the Board of Warren County Commissioners, completing this phase of the project. As stated in the MOU, a school can not have their radio(s) installed/programmed until the MOU is signed by all parties. Mobilcomm, a qualified third-party vendor has been contracted by the State of Ohio to facilitate the programming/installation of Warren County school radios. Telecom met with Mobilcomm on May 22nd to organize their portion of this project— as a school district ‘s MOU is completely signed, Telecom will alert Mobilcomm to schedule that district’s radio install(s). The hope is for all MOUs to be signed and radios installed by July 31st, so that we can activate all radios on August 1st, the first day of your testing window.
If all radios are programmed by this date, here’s the plan:
- 9:30 ‘Agency Conference Phone Bridge’ starts for Chiefs + Supervisors to dial in and represent their dept.
- 9:45 ‘Dispatch Conference Phone Bridge’ starts for the 3 dispatch centers to coordinate their steps.
- 9:55 all radio users switch their portables ONLY to their digital primary talkgroup in Zone A. (Police Primary 1/2, Fire Primary, Inquiry)
- 10:00 if no major incidents or technical hiccups, Dispatch Centers will announce that all 800MHz radio use is restricted and drop alert tones / countywide all-call on the analog system notifying all users that the cutover has begun. Tower crews begin moving antennas from the analog to the digital radio equipment.
- 10:05ish Dispatch centers begin roll calling their on-duty law enforcement officers and fire stations to ensure they successfully moved over to the digital system and can transmit.
- 10:15ish all roll calls should be complete, and Dispatch announces on the new digital system, ‘Return to Routine Radio Use’, ceasing use of the old analog system. Radio users can now switch their mobiles to the digital zones as well.
During the cutover process, Telecom’s Trainer will be available for troubleshooting via the 695-HELP line, MDC Chat, MDC Email, and regular email. An easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide outlining the above process will be distributed so that everyone is comfortable with the procedure. The PIN codes for the conference calls will not be shared until closer to the event and not via public postings so that media and unrelated parties don’t join in on the conference call.
Radio Programming The Radio Team has been working 12+ hour days and weekends to ensure all radios are ready for the cutover! Programming is in full swing with teams from Telecom and MARCS knocking out full department fleets. Once the public safety agencies are finished, the remaining radio users will be scheduled to bring their radios in for alignment/programming.
Non-Public Safety Agencies remember it is your responsibility to install new mobile radios radios / hire a third party vendor to do it. We announced this several months back and produced a ’HOW-TO’ video walking you through the mobile radio install on our www.youtube.com/warrencountytelecom channel.
School Security Radios – All of Warren County’s public schools have now met with Telecom for its one-on-one work session. The consistent response plan continues to be a Countywide All-Call for law enforcement and for fire departments to follow their Mass Casualty Incident plan which allows for incident growth up to 5 alarms. Now that all schools have seen the Memorandum of Understanding, we can finalize and submit to the Prosecutor’s Office for approval. After, we’ll distribute to the schools and agencies for signing / review by your School Boards, Trustees, etc. The MARCS-in-Schools radio program will go live at the start of the 2014-2015 school year, giving facilities time to install the radios and train their faculty on proper use.
Public Safety Radios The Radio Team is continuing to write templates with the help from Mobilcomm. Programming has begun on several departments’ mobiles as we enter the home stretch before the digital cutover.
THE PLAN (as shared last month): Once a department’s programming is written, Telecom will contact its Chief to arrange drop-off of up to (12) portable radios at a time here at Telecom. Please get them to us ASAP to keep our programming schedule on track. Because of an added step to the programming/configuring setup (never done before), the time to update each radio is significantly longer than in times past (10-20 minutes each vs. 2 minutes). We only want to take small quantities of your radios at a time so that you can use the rest of your fleet for daily operations. The benefit to this is that you are not stuck at Telecom waiting around for your radios to be finished. You can continue on with your day and we will notify you when they’re ready for pick-up.
Telecom will be utilizing every spare employee we can get to program and align these radios. All hands will be on deck to turn these radios over as quickly as possible for our subscribers. Please be patient with us as we physically program 3000 radios.
Digital Cutover Plan We continue to flesh out the cutover plan, taking into account the various departments it impacts: fire, law, non-public safety, departments not dispatched by Warren County, and those with radios that can only be analog or digital. We are now aiming for a Tuesday in May at 10AM to cut over, barring any large-scale incidents or technical obstacles. The current plan includes (3) three, simultaneous conference calls to corral representatives from the various disciplines to allow instant sharing of any hiccups or questions:
- Technical Conference Bridge for tower crews facilitated by Mobilcomm.
- Agency Conference Bridge for End-User Chiefs/Supervisors facilitated by Telecom’s DST
Manager. He will give a cutover play-by-play and field issues from the user agencies.
- Dispatch Conference Bridge for the (3) Communications Centers facilitated by Telecom’s CAD/RMS Manager. He will ensure before the go-live, that all dispatch centers are free from any
incidents that would cause safety concerns during the cutover and will guide them through their conversion from analog equipment to digital.
In addition to the conference bridges, Telecom’s Trainer will be available for troubleshooting via the
695-HELP line, MDC Chat, MDC Email, and regular email. An easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide will be distributed so that everyone is comfortable with the process. The PIN codes for the conference calls will not be shared until closer to the event and not via public postings so that media and unrelated parties don’t join in on the conference call.
We can not emphasize enough—PLEASE read the literature we put out via email, social media, and this newsletter so that you know the cutover status. We are looking at this from every angle possible to cover every potential point-of-failure so that no one is confused or unrepresented.
School Security Radios – All of Warren County’s public schools have now applied for the State of Ohio’s MARCS-in-Schools Security Radio. Telecom is scheduling our final work session with the last of the schools to ensure all County users are on the same page and aware of operational policies/programming/usage. The consistent response plan continues to be a Countywide All-Call for law enforcement and for fire departments to follow their Mass Casualty Incident plan which allows for incident growth up to 5 alarms. The MARCS-in-Schools radio program will go live at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
A PowerPoint for Warren County Dispatch is almost done – explaining the differences between their current Centracom Gold Elite consoles and the new MCC 7500 Consoles. Luckily, both products are Motorola so the
learning curve is incredibly short! Telecom’s Allison Lyons, Emergency Services’ Melissa Bour, and Dispatch’s Brian Holtel joined forces to learn the new console with help from Mobilcomm’s Chip Donaldson who has been integral in configuring and installing the radio system. 30-minute training sessions are available during the following days/times to cover all 3 Dispatch shifts.
Wednesday May 7th 7:30-8:00am 8:00-8:30am 3:30-4:00pm 4:00-4:30pm
School Security Radios
Background: The State released this grant to Ohio’s public schools independent from the Counties. Because of Telecom’s working relationship with MARCS and their knowledge of our in-house radio team, the State reached out to Telecom to conduct one-on-one meetings with our schools as they were approved for in-school radios. They also requested that we share our print collateral to offer other Counties a jumping off point as they try to wrap their heads around this project. This has included the PowerPoint presentation and draft MOU that is still being fine tuned. We are learning this right along side the schools and public safety agencies as nothing like this has ever been done before. We’re figuring out the best way to design the radio side to achieve the safest and quickest response and be compatible with the County’s existing radio infrastructure.
We have met with Mason, Springboro, Wayne, Kings, Carlisle, Warren County Career Center, WC Educational Services Center and Lebanon. Each work session has created new ideas and discoveries. The consistent response plan has been a Countywide All-Call for law enforcement and for fire departments to follow their Mass Casualty Incident plan which allows for incident growth up to 5 alarms. The MARCS-in-Schools radio program will go live at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
Public Safety Radios
The Radio Team is continuing to write templates with the help from Mobilcomm. Programming has begun on WCSO mobiles and a few other departments.
THE PLAN: Once a department’s programming is written, Telecom will contact its Chief to arrange drop-off of up to (12) portable radios at a time here at Telecom. Please get them to us ASAP to keep our programming schedule on track. Because of an added step to the programming/configuring setup (never done before), the time to update each radio is significantly longer than in times past (15-20 minutes each vs. 2 minutes). We only want to take small quantities of your radios at a time so that you can use the rest of your fleet for daily operations. The benefit to this is that you are not stuck at Telecom waiting around for your radios to be finished. You can continue on with your day and we will notify you when they’re ready for pick-up.
Telecom will be utilizing every spare employee we can get to program and align these radios. All hands will be on deck to turn these radios over as quickly as possible for our subscribers. Please be patient with us as we physically program 3000 radios.
Digital Cutover Plan
We continue to flesh out the cutover plan, taking into account the various departments it impacts: fire, law, non-public safety, departments not dispatched by Warren County, and those with radios that can only be analog or digital.
We still plan to cut over on a Tuesday (DATE TBD) at 10am, barring any large-scale incidents. The cutover will no longer include a ceremony, allowing us to solely focus on achieving a seamless transition. The current plan includes multiple, simultaneous conference calls to corral representatives from the various disciplines to allow instant sharing of any hiccups or questions. There will be teams at all tower sites physically moving antennas from the analog to the digital system. A Telecom rep will also man a HELP center utilizing the “HELP’ talkgroup, MDC email, and MDC chat in case someone has problems.
An easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide will be distributed so that everyone is comfortable with the process. Note that the PIN code for the conference calls will not be shared until closer to the event and not via public postings so that media and scanners don’t join in on the conference call. Telecom will even have someone on the ‘HELP’ talkgroup to receive reports from departments having issues once the cutover begins.
We can not emphasize enough—PLEASE read the literature we put out via email, social media, and this newsletter so that you know the cutover status. We are looking at this from every angle possible to cover every potential point-of-failure so that no one is confused or unrepresented.
Radio System’s Reduced Capacity – The radio system is running at reduced capacity. The new radio system has taken capacity away from the old while we test and configure the new system. It is not possible to quickly move the resources back to the old system for the winter storms we’ve been experiencing. As we know, storms mean increased activity on the radio and system busies are possible. We ask that everyone keep routine radio traffic off the radio system during storms so that it is available for emergency traffic. A reminder that the mutual aid channels: 8TAC91D, 8TAC92D, 8TAC93D, and 8TAC94D are available if you are working in close proximity to one another. The mutual aid channels do not put any additional loading on the radio system.
School Security Radios – So far, we have met with Mason, Springboro, Wayne Local, and Kings Local. Warren County Career Center, Carlisle, WC ESC and Lebanon are in the works. All work sessions have had great discussion and questions from all parties. There is a collective agreement that these radios will be beneficial for the schools’ safety and that training is IMPERATIVE to make these effective.
Public Safety Radios – The Radio Team is continuing to write templates with the help from Mobilcomm. We intend to start programming in the next couple weeks with law enforcement, followed by fire, then non-public safety last.
THE PLAN: agencies need to arrange a time to drop-off small batches of their portable radios. Because of an added step to the programming/configuring setup (never done before), the time to update each radio is significantly longer than in times past (20-30 minutes each). It will be up to the departments to grab the radios they can spare for a day and drop them off. The benefit to this is that you are not stuck at Telecom, waiting around for your radios to be finished. You can continue on with your day and we will notify you when they’re ready for pick-up.
Telecom will be utilizing every spare hand they can get to program and AeroFlex these radios. All hands will be on deck to turn these radios over as quickly as possible for our subscribers. Please be patient with us as we physically program more than 2,500 radios.
Digital Switch – Besides some auto-toning adjustments, the digital system is up and running! Now the big step is to program the 2,500+ radios that will be talking on it! We mentioned this above. Chiefs, be looking for a radio drop-off calendar from Allison or Nick with time windows to drop off batches of up to (12) radios at a time. With each portable taking 20-30 minutes to align/program, we only want to take small quantities at a time so that you can use the rest of your radio fleet for daily operations.
Cutover Plan – Tentatively, we’re planning on a Tuesday at 10am to coincide with existing Commissioners meetings. This will allow us to hold a small ceremony as we make the literal switch from the current analog system to the new digital system. Picture 5 teams at 5 different tower sites getting the signal to unscrew antennas from the analog equipment, walk over a few feet, and screw those antennas into the new digital system. It will be that simple (knock on wood). Please keep your eyes on the literature we put out via email, social media, and this newsletter so that you know the cutover plan. The alternative will be your department left with no radio communication or solution to fix it.
Mutual Aid TACs (MATACs) – Here’s an example of how a mutual aid incident can start small in Warren County (center red dot) and grow with additional needed MATACs.
School Security Radios – Apply for the grant / radio if you want to participate http://osfc.ohio.gov/Home/SchoolSecurityGrantProgram.aspx
Reply to Allison’s request for a work session: To give each school district undivided attention, I will schedule one session per district so that all our ducks are in a row. This will require aligning several people’s schedules on a Wednesday or Thursday so when you get my email of proposed dates, please check your calendar and respond with all days that work! In our work session, you will roundtable with your community’s fire and police chiefs to work out an Incident Action Plan (or share your existing ones) for each school building. It will also be decided where each building’s radio will be housed, if you want ‘remote’ emergency buttons, if your building requires an external antenna, and your chiefs will decide how large the fire/law response needs to be. This response is then configured into the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD)
system here in Telecom so that when the emergency button is pressed, the necessary type & quantity of units are automatically dispatched to your school building!
Be prepared to send your staff that may use this radio to a 1-hour hands-on training class before the radios go live!
Non-Public Safety Radios – Most, if not all of our non-public safety agencies have paid their 1 or 2-year payback. While this does mean you can pick up your radios from our hallway, we suggest you leave them with us. Otherwise, you would have to bring them back to us in a few short weeks or month. Reminder: you are responsible for getting your mobile radios installed by the third-party vendor of your choice.
Public Safety Radios – The Radio Team has begun writing your programming for the digital switch. Law enforcement will be programmed first, followed by fire, then non-public safety last.
Radio System Coverage Testing is Complete! 4 Days + 2 Road Teams + 1 Prime Site Team + 1069 Map Tiles!
Team Red & Team Blue split the County into north/south halves, then took to the streets (in 1/2 mile x 1/2 mile grids). Each team consisted of 4 people: 1) driver, 2) radio operator, 3) map navigator, 4) paper log recorder. Motorola’s computer was connected to the portable radio and a navigation software so that as a team drove into a grid ‘tile’, the computer would make 2
consecutive tones, prompting the radio operator to key up and say, “Blue/Red Team [insert tile # here]”. Back at Telecom’s office, someone manning a radio console (normally Paul Bernard, Glenn McKeehan, or Heather Mason) would hear the transmission, audio quality check it, read back the tile number and confirm pass or fail. The vehicle’s radio operator would then confirm, “Blue Pass” or “Red Pass”. Two log books were maintained to document a passing status for that tile, and Mobilcomm’s Chip Donaldson would color in the tile on a large map.
One by one that map filled up, with some tiles taking 10-15 minutes just to find a way into (think corn fields, long country drives, gated access roads, and trees just feet from where we needed to be.) But in all, the coverage test was a raving success with results never seen before – NO FAILS! Not one grid had unacceptable reception! And only 3 tiles had to be marked ‘inaccessible’ aka ‘untestable’ because a vehicle simply couldn’t safely reach the tile. We’re one step closer to operating on the new digital system!
- Coverage Testing – Testing has been delayed due to licensing and the government shut down. We are now planning for the 2nd week of November.
- Programming – Nick and Glenn have begun writing their programming templates and will start with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, then work through the rest of law before beginning fire departments. Public Works will be the last to be programmed before going live in the new year. Check page 2 for a full explanation of how your radio will look after this touch.
- Temporary Procedure for Dispatch between 1st and 2nd Programming Touch – Just a heads up while it’s on Telecom’s mind – there will be a time between the first programming touch this fall/winter and the second programming touch once digital where there are both analog and digital talkgroups in user’s radios. To keep people from picking the now-inactive analog talkgroups, Dispatcher’s should include the ‘X’ in their verbalizing of which talkgroup a unit should use. E.G. “All units use X TAC 4” or “All units hold traffic on X Police Primary 1”. This will remind users to operate on the digital frequencies and not get lost in ‘no man’s land!”
- Tower Site Updates – All tower sites are equipped and ready to go except for the two newly-acquired towers from MARCS (Washington Twp and ODOT on St Rt 63).
- Radio NOC details – Motorola and Mobilcomm continue to be regulars in the Radio NOC, testing the equipment, fine-tuning the racks and getting Warren County ready for the big switch!
- Introduction Video – Trainer Allison has begun scripting an Introduction Video that can be played at your community events, trustee & city council meetings, department meetings, etc.
MARCS in the SCHOOLS
There are currently over 47,500 voice units and 1,800 mobile data units on the MARCS system with over 1200 public safety/public service agencies statewide. This includes local, state and federal agencies.”
Taking a step further and a major leap for safety, MARCS radios can now be in the schools! With increasing
incidents of school violence, “MARCS offers a user-friendly radio for use in school buildings. The radios provide easy and immediate access to the appropriate local law enforcement first responder. The state-of-the-art radio was designed through a collaboration among school officials, law enforcement first responders, Motorola Solutions and the MARCS Program Office.” While several of our local schools have resource officers already equipped with a portable (hand-held) radio, this will allow multiple people access to that important lifeline!
Better still, the website reveals that “Grants are available for public schools to purchase emergency communication systems through the School Security Grant Program administered by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.”
For more information, contact Rebecca Vanest of the MARCS Program Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 614.995.0839.
Answers to FAQ’s
| Since the Warren County Radio System is a ‘Tier 4’ MARCS partner, our County’s schools don’t pay any MARCS user fee.
| The grant covers an operational, turnkey APX4500 radio that includes a power supply, desk mic, mag mount antenna, and radio template programming. The radio will be delivered to the school and would only require it be plugged in and the antenna deployed. The School is responsible for additional expenses such as an outside antenna if it is required (for signal strength) and additional ‘remote’ emergency buttons that can be wire throughout the building.
| Additional radios may be purchased by the School District for buildings not covered by the grant. Radios not covered by the grant will not receive the grant discount and cost approximately $3,000.
| Non Public Schools may participate by purchasing radios at the non grant discounted rate.
| Additional emergency buttons can be wired into the back of the radio and deployed in other locations within the same building at an additional expense to the school by an authorized Motorola Service Shop.
| The radios should not be used for any other purpose.
| The local PSAP will determine what talkgroup will be programmed into the radios for operation on their console.
| Radio does not have to be installed onto the MARCS System. Local 800MHz system owners are encouraged to program the equipment on to their systems so the emergency buttons will alert on their consoles and provide the Dispatch Center with the School Building Alias on the console.
Meetings + Trainings
| Telecom will facilitate meetings between the schools, police, fire, and dispatch, as recommended by MARCS. This will develop an incident response plan. Having Telecom organize this meeting, we can ensure the capabilities of the system are correctly implemented in the incident response plan.
| Telecom will develop training materials to inform school personnel on the operation of the system and when and how it should be used. It’s recommended by MARCS to include monthly testing to ensure operation of the equipment.
Schools Already Approved
Kings Local, Mason City, Springboro, and Wayne Local have already applied for the grant and have been approved by MARCS for their free radios! We will be reaching out to you with training opportunities and to schedule your work session with Telecom and your Fire + Law chief to set up your emergency response tables.
Installation at tower sites has been full speed ahead, as Blackhawk achieved connectivity on Sept 17th, RF antennas were installed at ODOT and Washington Twp the week of Sept 23rd, and optimization was successful. Next up – Coverage testing during the week of October 7th! A crucial component to the timely activation of the digital system, this will happen before the leaves fall, letting Warren County test the radio signal strength in the heaviest of conditions with trees full of leaves. How does it work? 2 teams armed with a Voyager kit and portable radios programmed for the digital system will grid out the county. All lines will start green and as they drive the roads, the voyager kit will beep to indicate a coverage sample has been taken then change grid line colors. It’s a very meticulous and redundant (but necessary) test.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT CHANNEL AVAILABILITY
The week of August 19th, we entered a period of removing radio channels from the old system (current analog) to begin tuning and testing the new digital system. Initially, we disabled 5 of our 15 channels on the analog radio system to use them on the new. Because of the way they are wired, we have to disable them in blocks of 5. This has reduced the capacity of the old system by 1/3.
SPREAD THE WORD through your departments that everyone needs to keep radio traffic to a minimum when possible. Rather than discuss routine traffic on the radio, move off to the telephone when possible. By keeping routine traffic off of the system, we can keep it available for those involved in incidents that need it the most. This will remain the case until we cut over to the new system.
Automatic Prioritization on the System
▪ Primary Dispatch Channels (Police Primary 1, Police Primary 2, Fire Primary, Inquiry) will receive a channel instead of a lower priority user when the system is busy.
▪ Emergency buttons have the highest priority of all.
▪ If you receive a busy [honk] signal, the system will signal you by sending 3 beeps to your radio to let you know you can now proceed. If you have important traffic at that time, immediately key your radio and proceed with it, if you do not, let the channel drop so someone else with important traffic can take the channel.
We don’t expect to have issues, however, during a storm we generally run very busy. If possible, take advantage of the 8TACs (in most Zone C’s or D’s) when operating in a close area where line-of-sight communication is possible.
All radios will require programming to add the new system. Until then, you will not be able to access or listen to the new system. We will soon begin adding the new system to Law radios followed by Fire and EMS. It is our hope to “Go Live” and switch to the new system sometime in early January. At that time we will move the remaining radio channels over to the new system.
We will begin to put out more information the closer we get to go live, please watch for emails, social media posts, website announcements, and the newsletter for the information you need to know to transition to the new system.
If you have been looking for Glenn and Nick, they have been out working at the tower sites every day. We hope to have them back in the office writing the new radio programming in September.
It is an exciting time that we have now progressed to actually putting the new system on the air to begin testing. We have much testing to do, and we expect that it will take us through November to complete it. Thank you for your support in this transition! If you have questions or comments, please contact Director, Paul Kindell. We will try and do everything we can to make the transition as smooth and painless as possible.
Alternate Failsoft Actions Required for some Agencies
During these final months of operating on the analog system, radio channels are slowly being rolled over to the new digital environment. Remember the County’s 300+ talkgroups share airtime on 15 channels. So far, channels 1/6/7/8/10 have been transferred to the
digital system, affecting the listed agencies’ routing during failsoft. Should the analog system go into failsoft, these agencies’ radios will display ‘out of range’ with no radio communication, because the default channel is disabled. Therefore, you must follow the solution below to manually change your talkgroup and maintain radio communication. This is effective until we switch to the new digital system.
POLICE PRIMARIES, INQUIRY & LOCALS – Channel 1
LEBANON FD / PD – Channel 7
FRANKLIN FD / PD – Channel 8
TAC 2, TAC 6, TAC 10, TAC 14, TAC 18 – Channel 10
SOLUTION WHEN COUNTY GOES INTO FAILSOFT
■ All County-dispatched Police go to NIMS first. If NIMS is down, switch to TAC 12.
*The dispatchers monitoring Police Primaries and Inquiry will have to switch to NIMS and share traffic on this channel. Traffic should be kept to a minimum, with EMERGENCY TRAFFIC ONLY!
■ All County-dispatched Fire use Fire Primary first. If Fire Primary is down, go to TAC 12. If TAC 12 is down, switch to NIMS.
■ Lebanon Dispatch, Lebanon Fire, Lebanon Police go to TAC 4.
*If there is an incident already using TAC4, you will now be mixed in to that ongoing communication along with TACs 8, 12, 16, and 20.
■ Franklin Dispatch, Franklin Fire, Franklin Police go to TAC 5.
*If there is an incident already using TAC5, you will now be mixed in to that ongoing communication along with TACs 9, 13, 17, and 21.
The Radio NOC, located at Telecom’s main office is coming together nicely, thanks to Mobilcomm, Motorola, and our trusty Radio Systems Team!
Black Hawk Tower, formerly used for data and microwave links, has received a new building and is currently being outfitted with digital radio system pieces. On July 16th, remote site equipment was delivered to the following towers: Snider, Black Hawk, Lytle, and Washington Twp.
Check out Telecom’s Radio Team, Glenn & Nick hard at work installing the components that will hold the racks of radio equipment. It may have been 90 degrees outside, but they kept cool in 65 degree temps (a must to keep the radio equipment from overheating).
Have one of these talk groups in your radio? Mason Public Safety, InterTwp, Harlan Morrow, PF Link
Did you know this talkgroup is shared between one or more of fire, law, public works, and government administration for that area? It saves you from having to request a TAC channel from Dispatch if the incident only involves your neighboring communities.
June 20-21: Telecom traveled to Schaumburg, IL to see the radio system in staging (all components assembled and tested at remote site). In attendance were Telecom Director, Paul Kindell; Radio Systems Manager, Gary Hardwick; CAD/RMS Manager, Paul Bernard; County Administrator, Dave Gully; County Commissioner, Tom Ariss.
– Wednesday: Toured alarm & monitoring center that is connected to our system for 24/7 monitoring. Should something happen to the system, Telecom and Mobilcomm are both dispatched to the problem.
– Thursday: met at CCSi and saw some videos and introductory meeting, then went to the test floor where the system is set up. Walked through a 3-ring binder of test procedures all day for the system (emergency button, talk groups, what if’s.) Was able to hit someone on a portable north of Columbus from Schaumburg.
– Friday: tested new audiolog recording system with Verint that was purchased to go with the new digital radio system. Nick drove up to Lytle Tower and talked to the people in Schaumburg with crystal clear reception.
After staging, the radio system components were wrapped up and shipped on two trucks to Warren County where they arrived on June 27th. More photos and videos are available on our facebook page! Site walks are currently happening to make sure the tower sites are up to the latest specifications necessary to install equipment (grounding, safety concerns).
The first step before final configurations and testing from June 10-17 then Telecom’s trip to Schaumburg, IL for staging on June 20 & 21. We will actually bring some portable radios with the digital Police Primaries and Fire Primary talkgroups programmed into them and test on the digital system.
Telecom maintains their bi-weekly status meetings with Motorola Project Manager, Heather Mason to stay on top of the project’s timeline and action items. Within these meetings, the
typical topics of discussion include project time line, staging time frame, installation, fleet mapping, status of civil work @ Warren County sites, status of 5 frequencies, logging system, and punch list.
Tower Site Update
RST Manager, Gary Hardwick will be letting Motorola know when sites are ready for walk-throughs before the end of May. Once ready, representatives from Motorola, Mobilcomm, and Telecom will collectively tour them. Motorola equipment is onsite at the new ODOT site (Rt 741 & Rt63). Black Hawk just need wire racks in and the site is ready for Motorola.
Nick & Glenn have been hustling through the fleet of fire radios across the County. All but Deerfield Twp and Hamilton Twp have received the duo of updates including:
1. Removal of pre-rebanded 8iTACs and 8iCALL.
2. Programming changes such as button functions, additional TACs, Mayday channels, etc.
Digital Radio System Update
June 10-17: Final configuration and testing
June 20-21: Staging in Schaumburg, Illinois. We will take 4-5 Warren County portable radios with us, install the new Police/Fire Primary talkgroups and live test the digital system.
Curious if a digital system reacts to catastrophes differently? Here’s what we know – in the event of a catastrophic failure that severs the connection to the master controller at MARCS, our System will fall back to site trunking (Just like our analog operation today) and still provide communications in and around our County. On the new System, there is a Failsoft feature that works in a similar fashion to our current system. For both of these recovery modes, Telecom should physically see them demonstrated during the trip to Schaumburg, IL.
MAJOR BENEFIT: The design of the new system provides layers of redundancy that should make it much more robust, with the added advantage of a very large mean-time between failures.
As for Tower site preparation for the new System, March happenings included the BlackHawk site in Harlan Twp. being outfitted with antennas and transmission lines & the Site grounding was upgraded to the required standards. Work continues at the other sites as the weather permits. Our Motorola Program Manager and Systems Design Engineer
recently toured and documented the improvements made to Zoar, BlackHawk, Hatfield and Goose Creek sites. The Site prep work to add new buildings for the Lytle & Washington Twp. (MARCS) sites is underway. The Systems design and layout for the new equipment and racks has been completed. Our new equipment is being stockpiled at the manufacturer and final assembly and cabling, to meet our requirements, should be underway in April. We are
making progress daily to prepare the sites for the new System.
My fire radio was reprogrammed… what’s different?”
Nick and Glenn from Telecom’s Radio Systems Division have been working non-stop to complete the ‘2nd touch’ of rebanding paired with a slew of programming updates! Working one department at a time, they are updating your portables, mobiles, and control stations to reflect the latest changes approved by Chiefs and discussed in the
Communications Work Group. Here are the big changes you need to be aware of:
– Can’t power off when in emergency activation (will prohibit the improper and unsafe practice of turning off a radio when in emergency mode.)
– If on a TAC when you press the emergency button, you stay on the TAC and
communicate with Dispatch there.
– ½ second delay to reduce accidental bumps and activations. Various delay durations were tested and ultimately approved by the Chiefs Association.
– ABC switch is now zone access instead of keypad lock. This will offer quicker and safer channel navigation, not having to remove the radio from your holster or pocket to ZNUP / ZNDN between zones A, B, and C.
– ½ second delay on all buttons except PTT to make up for not having hard keypad lock.
– Scanning disabled when on a TAC to require more focus on incident.
– More TACS (2-21 instead of 2-13, to account for more spacing during assignment in case
incidents grow. This will allow consecutive TACs and less radio navigation).
– Mayday 1 (position A15) and Mayday 2 (position B15) – for use within the zone of TAC you’re using. If operating on TAC and a Mayday is declared, all personnel on incident except person in danger, RIT team, and Incident command should drop down to Mayday to continue operation. (Policy writing is in progress but programming efforts needed to stay as scheduled. Radio is set for when the policy takes affect.)
– Zone C is ‘user defined’ as discussed and approved by Chiefs last year. This decision began in April 2012 when the radio channel lineup subcommittee of the FCWG.
Fresh off a signed change order and meeting with Motorola, here’s the latest!
Telecom is in the process of securing a 2,000 ft2 warehouse space in Lebanon which will house the radio system equipment post-staging.
Also in the project timeline are the following:
▪ March/April – Telecom, Motorola, and Mobilcomm to tour the tower sites for post-audit.
▪ May – the system will be assembled and tested in staging in Schaumberg, IL. The components will be laid out to simulate each tower site and connected by phone line to the state of Ohio’s master site just like when operational in Warren County. Portable radios will be tested and we will talk to Columbus just like once live. All will be verified before breaking down, bubble wrapping, and transporting to Warren County.
Besides Illinois, equipment is also being sent to Texas – switches that self-heal the network should a microwave link failure occur. This equipment will be staged and pre-configured in Texas to represent all our tower sites. There are 3 self-healing loops so that if one path goes down, the towers will stay up for radio transmissions.
Further, all cables (like those pictured with manager Wally) are pre-measured and cut so they fit snugly and accurately once in the tower buildings.
▪ May 1st – Antenna sweep followed by electrical installation at tower sites.
▪ May/June: Once the system arrives from Illinois, the racks will be put back together and we will test talking on Dispatch’s consoles as well.
▪ June – Installation to begin, a few sites at a time since this is a live system.
▪ September – Coverage testing. The system needs to test with leaves still on the trees so that
radio signal strengths can be measured in these covered conditions. If signal strength is good with leaves, it will be good when the trees are bare.
▪ November – hopefully go live.
The Motorola XTS1500 model radios can be analog or digital, but not both. Telecom will work with each Public Works department to coordinate the radio programming so they’re ready to cutover by November 1st.
If departments buy equipment today, their warranty clock starts ticking.
It is Telecom’s recommendation to not take delivery or purchase until July/August or else you’re wasting warranty.
Telecom is waiting on Motorola to complete the first change order which will:
▪ Reduce the cost of the system from $9.1M to $8.15.
▪ Add the two state towers on SR 741 and Wilmington Rd.
▪ Remove the WC master controller and configure the system to use the State’s master controller saving us almost a million dollars and $250K in annual maintenance costs.
▪ Greene County has signed with MARCS – once both counties’ radio projects are completed, we will be able to roam for mutual aid without having to move the selector switch on our radios. We will both be “on the MARCS system”.
▪ Clermont County purchased a standalone system on December 19th 2012 and is evaluating if they want to connect their master to MARCS. If they connect, we will enjoy the same roaming as with Greene County.
▪ Clinton County is evaluating a partnership with MARCS.
▪ Montgomery County is developing an RFP to upgrade their system hoping to connect with MARCS.
▪ Butler County is exploring connecting their master controller to MARCS.
▪ Hamilton County is examining their options on upgrading their system, they have a consultant on board studying all possibilities.
▪ Each of the 5 existing radio sites (Zoar, Manchester, Hatfield, Snider and Goose Creek) need several upgrades to be ready for the new equipment – commercial AC power, emergency power systems, -48 volt power & the site grounding system are all being brought up to the latest recommended standards & codes.
▪ Upgrades to the physical buildings and locations to insure they are clean, safe, secure, protected from the weather/lightning, and provide a dry, dust-free, climate-controlled environment that’s suitable for sensitive electronic equipment.
▪ The ‘standard’ necessities for remote sites (Fences, Lighting and Alarm Systems) are being reviewed and upgraded if needed.
▪ Additional antennas and transmission lines are being added to incorporate the 5 additional MARCS channels into our radio system for each site.
▪ Changing the Black Hawk and Lytle sites from ‘data only’ to full featured remote sites receiving all the previously listed features PLUS new communications shelters, generators, tower upgrades (antennas, transmission lines, etc.) and all the necessary physical site upgrades to commercial power, communications conduits and fuel (LPG or natural gas) for the generators.
▪ Working with contractors to ‘do’ the site improvement at the Washington Twp MARCS tower site. The MARCS site at ODOT is nearly “plug and play”. I just have to change a couple items on the tower and verify that the site meets the standards and codes.
▪ Remote sites will receive direction & control from a new Radio System Network Operations Center (NOC) to be located in the old Telecom radio tech office. That site has the same systems development and physical needs as a remote site, plus the need for secure, redundant & diverse communications pathways to the MARCS control center in Columbus. This will allow our system to become part of the “System of Systems” regional and state-wide communications plan that can provide a greater level of interoperability for our agencies and system users.
▪ We still provide 24/7 service for our existing analog radio system, microwave backbone & dispatch equipment.
▪ When the new system comes online we will have 9 tower sites with overlapping simulcast coverage of 20 channels. That’s a total of 180 transmitters & receivers, piped into 45 antennas, networked together & orchestrated to provide instantaneous communications coverage for all of our public safety, public works, and County users.
▪ Coming down the pipeline – The next major phase will be the assembly, testing and acceptance of the system at the factory prior to installation in mid to late 2nd quarter 2013.
Radio Team Adjusts Hours to Cover all Law Shifts
Nick 7a-4p | Glenn 8a-5p
Radio Changes for 2013
With the upcoming switch to digital, this is a perfect time to tweak the
buttons and functions of Warren County radios. After much polling and discussion, below are some changes coming your way the next time Nick and Glenn touch your radios!
▪ 1/2 second delay on emergency button will eliminate a lot of accidental bumps but was tested to ensure it won’t delay intentional activations.
▪ ABC switch will revert back to quick access to Zones A-C instead of keypad lock.
▪ 1/2 second delay on soft keys and side buttons (except PTT) will make up for not having ABC keypad lock anymore.
▪ Additional TACs and MAYDAY channels
▪ Proposed and awaiting final approval: Consistent layout for all agencies with fewer duplicates and Zone C holding all your agency’s user defined channels.
▪ Additional TACs
▪ Proposed and awaiting final approval: Consistent layout for all agencies with fewer duplicates and Zone C holding all your agency’s user defined channels.
Warren County welcomed more than 55 guests on August 7th to learn about the collaboration between Telecom and the Ohio MARCS radio system. Organized by Telecom Trainer, Allison Lyons and featuring our very own director, Paul Kindell on the speaker list, the history of Telecom’s entry in the radio system business was outlined with the future also laid out for all to understand. Paul did a great job of representing Telecom and the interest of the public safety agencies that we serve. Other speakers included Commissioner Dave Young, Randy Cole (State Controlling Board President & Policy Advisor, OBM), Darryl Anderson (Ohio MARCS Program Director), Mike Bunner (Emergency Services Director), and Stu Davis -(State Chief Information Officer and Assistant Director of DAS).
The state is very excited to partner with Warren County as they gain access to our existing 7 towers while we gain access to 2 of their towers which perfectly fill existing gaps in our coverage area. Warren County subscribers will also see seamless roaming when the leave the County borders as they will then operate on the MARCS network of towers. Commissioner Young beside Stu Davis signed the Memorandum of Understanding that put the collaboration in ink.
Expect to see the effects of this collaboration in 2013 when we switch to the digital system!
Governor’s Administration to visit Warren County & Recognize New Radio System.
We invite you on August 7th, from 1-2pm to a forum in the Warren County Commissioners Meeting Room. Representatives from the County, Telecom, MARCS, and the state will gather to discuss the collaborative work between our Incredible County and the state’s MARCS radio system. This event is just one stop of a series of events highlighting the release of Governor Kasich’s Beyond Boundaries: A Shared Services Action Plan for Ohio’s Schools and Governments. Speakers include Commissioner Dave Young, Paul Kindell (Telecom Director), Darryl Anderson (MARCS), Mike Bunner (Emergency Services Director), Randy Cole (State Controlling Board President & Policy Advisor), and Stu Davis (State Chief Information Officer, DAS). Light refreshments will be available with the program expected to last 1 hour with time for questions and answers. As this is a great opportunity to show off our new radio system, we invite you to attend the event and see how this tie-in with MARCS will benefit your radio service and the taxpayers.
– Replaced Canopy power supply at Goose Creek
– Protected Channel 11 after Franklin reported trouble with radio clarity.
– Changed back-up batteries on Zoar’s USCI.
– Rebooted Manchester Site Controller
– Discovered Air Conditioner #1 frozen solid and entered for service ASAP.
- All Agencies with M-Series Radios– MTS Portable & MCS Mobile Radios will NOT WORK on DIGITAL SYSTEM! If you have County-purchased M-series radios, Telecom has free replacements for you. If you purchased M-series radios on your own, it will be at your expense to replace them if you choose.
- Public Works – If you currently use a XTS1500 portable or XTL1500 mobile, it must be flashed at your department’s expense before the digital switch or it will not work on the new system! Soon-to-be purchased Public Works radios (mainly 1500’s) can’t hold analog & digital frequencies at the same time. These radios will remain in their box until closer to the digital switch near February 2013 when they will get programmed.
- Public Works – Since Public Works radios are being purchased for this digital switch, The County Commissioners have agreed to split the public radio cost into 2 annual payments to help minimize the financial impact. Telecom will bill the Public Works departments who are purchasing new radios.
- All Radio Users – Once your dept has completed Phase 2 of rebanding, you will have both analog and digital talkgroups, adding several zones to your template. THE CATCH: During phase 2, while all other agencies are being touched, the digital talkgroups will be programmed into the front end of your radio (Zones A-?) meaning the analog talkgroups you will still be talking on won’t appear until later in the zone lineup. You will still operate on the analog talkgroups for several months until the switch to digital in 2013, so you need to realize you will be sitting on and working off of the ‘backend’ of your radio (the later zones).