NewsletterAll we need is your e-mail address, and we’ll send you the TodaysWirelessWorld.com e-mail newsletter each month for free.
Doing without is just what you do when you’re the chief of a rural volunteer fire department. There’s never enough money for the equipment all the big-city fire crews enjoy. Yet that does not have to be the case when the volunteers are shopping for two-way radios. Advances in microprocessor technology are enabling more features for less money in every electronic device category, including two-way radios.
The Hobbie Volunteer Fire Company in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County discovered this firsthand when it upgraded its aging fleet of analog radios. The company serves just 1,200 residents in the mountains of rural northeastern Pennsylvania and handles about 45 calls per year. Despite the low frequency of incidents, the volunteers still need high-quality radio gear that can get calls through on mountainous terrain.
“We were using radios that were over 14 years old,” said Fire Chief Bob Reader. “The audio quality of the old radios was inadequate, requiring everyone on both sides to repeat what they said numerous times. We also had some dead spots in our coverage area where we had no communication at all. Overall, the radios were big, bulky and difficult to use.”
When the company decided to upgrade to meet FCC narrowbanding requirements, it had plenty of options to choose from. Vertex Standard radios won the day.
“Our budget is small and I needed to get more bang for my buck,” Reader said. “With the Vertex Standard VX-350 Series, I could purchase radios for half the price of most others on the market. That means I can communicate with two guys no matter where they are at the scene, instead of just one guy standing on the fire engine.”
How radio selection shakes out
The Hobbie fire crew’s radio selections illustrate how departments with few resources can reallocate their equipment to place specific features in the hands of the people who need them most.
At first, the fire company purchased a half-dozen portable radios in the Vertex Standard VX-350 series, which are packed with high-end safety features including:
A year later, Vertex Standard introduced the VX-450 series, which adds the Man Down feature. Circuits in these radios can detect when they are tilted beyond a certain angle and send out an alarm if it stays at that angle for a specific time period. Man Down is a much-sought-after feature for firefighters, but it’s less essential to EMS crews. (For more on this feature, see “The Man-Down-Alert Option is a Must for Construction Sites.”)
“After learning more about it, I decided to purchase the new VX-450 portables with the Man Down feature for the firefighters and give the VX-350 radios to EMS,” Chief Reader said. “Since I still needed to upgrade EMS radios for narrowband and EMS didn’t need the Man Down feature, it seemed to be the most logical, cost-effective approach.”
The new safety features, vastly improved audio and extended range of its new Vertex Standard radios gave the Hobbie Fire Company everything it needed at an economical price point.
“The audio quality is superb and the coverage and extended range lets us talk across the entire township,” Chief Reader said. “The radios are also very easy to learn and use. We are very satisfied with the whole package – the price, the reliability, and the customer support. I would recommend these radios to anybody.”