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Alert Issued On Radios And Fireground Noise

Issue 4 and Volume 12.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) is alerting its members to a potential issue – that fireground noise may be disrupting communications with digital two-way portable radios – and is asking them for ideas.

IAFC officials said they have received reports of firefighters experiencing unintelligible audio communications in close proximity to the low-pressure alarm of their self-contained breathing apparatus.

In addition, they said they have indications that other common fireground noise, including powered tools, apparatus and Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) devices, may affect voice intelligibility.

“This is an industry-wide issue and is not specific to any one manufacturer’s radios,” IAFC officials said. “There are indications that any digital voice communication product utilizing parametric voice encoders could be affected by this problem.”

They said they know the problem is not related to any specific radio spectrum, “as it is not a frequency of operation issue,” or to a particular communication standard.

Responding to the reports, the IAFC Board Of Directors has asked the Communications Committee to form a working group to work with other IAFC committees and sections and other appropriate organizations to investigate and provide recommendations to address the concern.

The IAFC is asking firefighters to contact the Communications Working Group if they have experienced similar issues. Firefighters are urged to go to www.iafc.org/digitalproblem to learn more about the tests they can conduct to provide the working group the information it needs to study the issue and make recommendations.

“Your input is vital to ensure that digital radio technology can be effectively utilized in fireground applications,” officials said. “The IAFC fully understands that many fire departments are using digital radio systems with success, but there may be issues related to voice transmission being interfered with or overridden when common fireground noise is in the background.”

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