The long awaited switch to a digital trunked radio system is coming closer for many District agencies.  The District got a new fire chief in December, and with it, the trunked system cut-over date was once again pushed back for fire/EMS.  The switch-over, says Wendell Giggy from fire/EMS communications, will likely take place during late spring or early summer.  The city's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) has already switched, and some fire/EMS staff have been testing the system for several months.

All tower work has been completed, Giggy noted, and the chief wants to have the new station alerting system installed before moving into the new communications center on McMillan Drive NW, adjacent to the existing facility.  In the past, a fire fighter on each shift in each firehouse had to stand watch and monitor the landline "vocal alarm" circuit for dispatches, then sound the station's bells.  This will soon be controlled from the new communications center.

The alerting will likely take place on one or two of the city's UHF channels that will be vacated in the move to the trunked system (keep an ear on 453.225, 453.45, 453.525, 453.75 and 453.875).  Giggy noted that station alerting could also be implemented over the trunked system if, for some reason, the city decides to use the UHF channels for another application.  A hospital alerting system is already in place using the trunked system.

Once the station alerting system is completed, Giggy says fire/EMS communications and EMA will move into the new building with a new CAD system and switch fire/EMS communication to the trunked system.  Scanner listeners will continue to hear dispatches on 154.19, but he says the department has no plans to simulcast other talkgroups onto the old channels from the digital system.

EMA and fire/EMS each procured eight-channel trunked systems separately.  Now they are one system with two partitions.  EMA will remain on its eight channels and fire/EMS will normally use its own eight 852 MHz channels and will expand into the EMA allocations if necessary, but not the other way around.

In coming months the EMA is expected to assist other city agencies, such as schools and public works, move to the EMA portion of the trunked system.  MPD plans to upgrade its existing 460 MHz system and will not move to this trunked system.  MPD dispatchers, however, will supposedly have the ability to patch into selected talkgroups as required.

The system has transmit sites at the Capitol View Plaza Senior Center, Saint Elizabeth's Hospital, Georgetown University Medical Center, the 4th District MPD police station, and a fifth site at fire communications.  The system will also broadcast into the Metro tunnels.  The EMA portion transmits on 855.2125, 855.2375, 855.4625, 856.9875, 857.9875, 858.9875, 859.9875 and 860.9875.  The fire/EMS portion transmits on 852.6125, 852.6375, 852.6625, 852.6875, 852.7125, 852.7375, 852.7625 and 852.7875.  The system will support both analog and digital, but fire/EMS talkgroups are planned to be digital.

If everything goes as planned, fire/EMS radios will be programmed with 11 zones, the first five will be for DC fire/EMS, followed by the 800 MHz National and COG channels, then zones for Virginia jurisdictions, Alexandria, Arlington, MWAA (airports) and Fairfax County (see table).  The Virginia zones will be grouped and numbered in the same sequence as they will appear in radios belonging to northern Virginia fire departments.  The northern Virginia departments have agreed on this standardized zone and talkgroup plan.  Talkgroups for Arlington County fire/EMS, for example, will always be Virginia zone 2 regardless of the participating jurisdiction's radio.

The District will have about 55 digital fire/EMS talkgroups.  Special thanks to Keith Victor for assisting with this report.

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PUBLIC ACCESS: An Expensive Alternative to Old Fashioned Scanning

For the first time, District fire apparatus will have the ability to communicate directly with fire apparatus from other jurisdictions, as well as city EMS units, using the same radio.  Also for the first time, scanner listeners may be unable to fully monitor the city's fire and EMS channels, at least until a digital scanner becomes available.

But there is hope.  Greg Knox, inventor of the TrunkTracker, recently acknowledged on Internet news groups that he is working on a digital (Project 25) scanner interface.  A working prototype is hopefully coming soon.  After he is successful, according to one insider, development on a real scanner should follow.  But the process could be a couple years away.

Just what options do scanner listeners have until then?  The District has not announced any plans for public access.  Fairfax County, however, which plans to switch to a digital Motorola trunked system later this year, is considering a public-access plan.  The current cut-over date is planned for September.

Fairfax County police spokesman Warren Carmichael said he has copies of the access plans used by Seattle, Washington, and Cleveland, Ohio.  He said Fairfax County would likely base any access plan on those cities.  The plan must be approved by the county executive.  The county may also consider programming compatible equipment from other manufacturers to receive approved talkgroups.

In 1994, before the TrunkTracker had been invented, Seattle drafted a "media access plan" to provide access to the regional emergency communications system Seattle had joined along with other emergency agencies in King County.  The city later developed a citizens access plan, modeling it after the media access plan.  Citizens could choose any combination of 11 fire/EMS, four citywide, and five police talkgroups.  The price for the city-sanctioned radios purchased through Motorola start at $1600 for an MTS2000 without a display.  Accessories, programming fees and taxes are extra.

Delaware, as covered in the May 1999 CHM newsletter, has a policy in place to allow the media, as

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sites.  Special thanks to Willard Hardman and Will "Stormbringer" Smith for their diligent efforts.
58384 E410 Police 1 Dispatch
58416 E430 Police 2 Ops 1
58448 E450 Police 3 Ops 2
58480 E470 Police 4 Parking Enforcement
58512 E490 Police 5 Police Vice
58544 E4B0 Police 6 Sheriff 1
58576 E4D0 Police 7 Sheriff 2
58608 E4F0 Police 8 Supervisors
58640 E510 Police 9 Command
58672 E530 Police 10 Hostage Negotiation Team
58704 E550 Police 11 Animal Control
58736 E570 Police 12 Police Spl Ops Team/Canine
58768 E590 Police 13 Police Jump-out Team
58864 E5F0 Fire 1-A Dispatch-1
58896 E610 Fire 1-B Ops 2 (Fire Ops)
58928 E630 Fire 1-C Ops 3 (Fire Ops)
58960 E650 Fire 1-D Ops 4 (Fire Ops)
58992 E670 Fire 1-E Ops 5 (EMS Ops)
59024 E690 Fire 1-F Ops 6 (EMS Ops)
59056 E6B0 Fire 1-G Ops 7 (EMS Ops)
59088 E6D0 Fire 1-H Alex Hosp 8
59120 E6F0 Fire 1-I Command 9
59152 E710 Fire 1-J Code Enforcement 10
       (permit inspection)
59184 E730 Fire 1-K Code Enforcement 11
       (fire marshals)
----- ---- Fire 1-L Widearea Dispatch Simulcast         (866.975r digital)
----- ---- Fire 1-M Widearea Dispatch Simulcast         (866.975s digital)
----- ---- Fire 1-N Braddock Road Metro Tunnel         (854.2125r)
----- ---- Fire 1-O Braddock Road Metro Tunnel
----- ---- Fire 1-P Dynamic Regroup
59216 E750 Fire Support 1
59248 E770 Fire Support 2
59280 E790 Fire Support 3
59312 E7B0 HELP Channel
59344 E7D0 Permit Inspectors
59376 E7F0 HMS Highway
59408 E810 HMS Maintenance
59440 E830 DASH Buses
59472 E850 Traffic Division
59504 E870 School Security/Maintenance
59536 E890 Parks and Recreation
59568 E8B0 Trash & Environmental Services
59600 E8D0 LG Command
59664 E910 LG Emergency 1
59696 E930 LG Emergency 2

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dover.  The new facility, with a Windows NT-based computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system designed by Tiburon, officially went online Nov. 9.

The center features Ericsson C3 Maestro dispatch consoles with the same set of 30 channels accessible from each of 25 dispatch positions.  Nine positions are for fire/EMS dispatchers, two of which are reserved for supervisors.  The police section has 16 dispatch consoles, which include two supervisory positions and one for the sheriff dispatcher.  9-1-1 call-takers have 21 seating positions and two for supervisors.

The 30 channels are as follows:

494.6875r [127.3] Pol 1: Hyattsville Dist (A,B)
494.5375r [127.3] Pol 2: Bowie Dist (D,E)
495.1375r [127.3] Pol 3: Seat Pleasant Dist (G)
495.0875r [127.3] Pol 4: Oxon Hill Dist (J,K)
494.5625r [127.3] Pol 5: Clinton Dist (F)
494.8875r [127.3] Pol 6: CID, NED and SOD
494.9375r [127.3] Pol 7: South Tac
494.7375r [127.3] Pol 8: North Tac
494.3125r [210.7] Pol 9: Seat Pleasant Dist (H)
495.2125r [192.8] Pol 10: Beltsville Dist (C)
495.0125r [127.3] Fire 1: Medical Resp/Ops
494.8375r [127.3] Fire 2: North Dispatch
494.7875r [127.3] Fire 3: South Tac
495.0625r [127.3] Fire 4: North Tac
494.6625r [127.3] Fire 7: South Dispatch
  46.1200s [None ] Vocal (FD alerting)
866.3625r [156.7] P-MARS (Police Mutual Aid)         
154.2800s [None ] F-MARS (Fire Mutual Aid)     
154.2950s [None ] F-MARS (Fire Mutual Aid)
158.9400s [100.0] Office of Emergency Prep
155.9400r [100.0] Shared Local Government
159.1800r [100.0] Dept of Pub Wks & Transp
  45.5200s [146.2] Dept of Envir Resources
155.5800r [210.7] Sheriff 1: Dispatch
155.7900r [100.0] Sheriff 2: Tac
854.6875r [192.8] Dept of Corrections
866.0125r [156.7] National Calling Channel
See Note  [156.7] National Tac
855.7375r [210.7] Hyattsville Justice Ctr
855.7375r [192.8] Upper Marlboro Courthouse

The national tac channel is chosen from one of the four: Tac 1-866.5125, Tac 2-867.0125, Tac 3-867.5125, Tac 4-868.0125.  P-MARS switched to 866.3625 [156.7] from 453.55 [100.0] during the first week of February.

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way, asking motorists their race, gender and date of birth.

Prince George's police said they will equip about 100 cruisers with video cameras this summer and hope to outfit 100 more cars next year. The installment of the first batch of cameras is being financed with a $500,000 federal grant.  The county's police chief said his long-term plan is to have cameras -- which cost about $4,500 each -- in each of the department's 650 uniformed patrol cars.

Montgomery and Prince George's counties would become the first of the region's jurisdictions to make extensive use of video cameras in  police department patrol cars.  Other jurisdictions, such as Arlington County, have installed them in just a few cars or, like the District, have no plans to use them.

NEW TOWER FOR CARROLL COUNTY?  Lineboro, a hilly remote area in upper northeast Carroll County near the Pennsylvania border, has experienced coverage problems ever since the county switched to 800 MHz in July of 1997.  Lineboro could get its own emergency communications tower, the Jan. 17 Carroll County Times reported, now that a property owner has expressed interest in allowing one on private land off
Alesia-to-Lineboro Road.

Motorola, which helped develop the county's trunked system, has been asked to test whether a tower would work from the site's coordinates.  Lineboro fire company officials have said emergency communications are virtually nonexistent in some areas.

BALTIMORE'S DIGITAL TRUNKED.  Baltimore, boasts a PR Newswire release, is one of the first cities in the world to design and implement a fully digital communications system with a single system infrastructure to support the communications needs of both public safety and public service departments.  The city's police department joined the fire department on the $65 million communications system after installation was completed Nov. 2, 1999.  Motorola had been selected as the system's prime contractor in December 1996.

The system includes more than 5,000 mobile and portable radios, 28 channels and nine simulcast sites.  The city's new emergency communications center (ECC) has 73 computer-aided dispatch (CAD) positions, including 31 radio dispatch positions, 18 positions for 9-1-1 call takers, 12 positions for 3-1-1 call takers, and five emer

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gency medical dispatch (EMD) positions.  The system also features Motorola's Oncore XT global positioning system (GPS) that displays ambulance locations.

SMARTRAVELER TRAVELS TO BALTIMORE.  This summer motorists around Baltimore will be introduced to SmarTraveler -- a rapidly growing private traffic service -- which already operates in the Washington region, states the Jan. 4 Baltimore Sun.

In addition to reporting traffic conditions by phone or computer, the company says it will offer custom options for drivers.  A deal with PageNet, for instance, will notify subscribers of traffic problems on their commute routes during their drive times.  Using SmarTraveler costs motorists nothing.  But custom options, such as the paging service, will have a price, the company says.

The idea is expected to start hitting its groove in the next two years as more sophisticated pagers, cell phones, Palm Pilots and car computer services become linked with traffic monitoring systems.  By then, many more fiber optic cables, electronic sensors and video cameras will be delivering information directly from the road.

Also in the works is a test to determine whether cell phone signals from cars might help track the flow of traffic.  The joint project between Maryland and Virginia will be tested on a 10- to 15-mile stretch of the Capital Beltway during this year.  If it works, speed and congestion could be monitored along roads not equipped with sensors or cameras.

Through partnership with more than 20 police, government and other public agencies, SmarTraveler claims its office in downtown Washington is a clearinghouse for traffic conditions on major roads within a 30-mile radius of the city.  It opened two years ago as a $12.5 million public-private partnership and is supposed to be self-supporting by now.  Web site ads generate most of its income.  As many as 1,000 people may phone in on a typical day, and the Web site reportedly gets about 60,000 daily hits.

In SmarTraveler's office, dispatchers keep watch over a bank of 25 screens that offer live views from hundreds of traffic cameras.  A cacophony of beeps, chirps and squawks beckons from pagers, two-way radios, computer screens and many-line phones.  If driving plans include Greater Washington, 202-863-1313 can be called for traffic status.  Sprint Spectrum customers can make

a free cell call to SmarTraveler by dialing #211.  Registered radio users in the Washington area can call them on 452.65 [131.8].  To check traffic conditions online check: www.smartraveler.com

RADIO HACKERS INTERFERE WITH POLICE CALLS.  Hackers are being accused of invading police emergency networks in Southern California, confusing officers with hundreds of rogue broadcasts last year that wasted police time and in extreme cases delayed responses to emergencies.  Police channels were once "sacred ground... But with new technology, that's not the case," a Santa Ana police sergeant told the Feb. 7 Los Angeles Times.  "We're much more vulnerable."

In one of the most serious cases in recent months, a hacker interfered with a California Highway Patrol pursuit of a tagger in Los Angeles' Chinatown.  The rogue broadcast delayed officers' calls for backup.  By the time police units arrived, the tagger had slipped away.  An investigation into the incident led CHP investigators to arrest a 63-year-old Bell businessman.  He is also the subject of an investigation by Orange County sheriff's officials, who suspect him of breaching their radio channels more than 100 times last year.  The article cited several other examples involving other hackers.

Officials blame the increase in hackers on the growing availability of cheap high-tech radios.  Swap meets and private sellers offer gadgets for as little as $300 that can be modified to transmit on police channels.  Other hackers are opportunists who manage to get their hands on a police officer's hand-held radio.

Catching hackers is notoriously difficult.  Law enforcement officials must be prepared to track the transmission when it begins if they hope to pinpoint the source.  Even when caught, suspects face misdemeanor charges, bringing a fine and a maximum jail term of a year.  Orange County agencies are spending millions of dollars on a new radio system that will -- among other features -- encrypt police frequencies and better protect channels from invasion.

BAN FROM RADIO CHANNEL IRKS FIREFIGHTERS.  The FCC ordered a fire department to cease using the Pittston Township's frequency after a complaint from township officials, reports the Jan. 28 Times Leader.  The letter says the township alleges that firefighters talk on the frequency without a license and cause "harmful interference" to the public works department, which also uses the channel.  The administration

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