Obviously, handheld radios are crucial component to a communications system, particularly for "strike teams". For a more general discussion about strike team communications, see this
Any radio equipment used by a strike team should meet the requirements for public safety generally, but strike teams have a few extra requirements.
Handhelds Suitable For Public Safety
Today the variety of handheld radios available in the market is staggering, ranging from nearly-disposable FRS/GMRS "camping radios" at Wal-mart to $4,000 trunking, encrypted models from Motorola and others. Which of these are suitable for public safety?
Because personal communication devices are so important to ensuring situational awareness and the safety of personnel, we recommend the use of devices that meet several key criteria:
- Rugged, with at least "mil spec" ratings. The radio's chassis, if not the outer casing, should be metal.
- Channel control on the top of the radio, via a rotary knob with a physical stop at channel 1. This permits the changing of channels without looking at the radio ("count the clicks") or taking it out of a holster, a key requirement in an emergency to switch to a guard or "mayday" channel.
- Speaker/mic (or other microphone device) connection is positively-locking so that it cannot become dislodged, thereby missing incoming traffic or disabling the microphone transmit, another safety issue.
- At least 16 channels, if not more.
- Battery life of at least 10 hours under normal transmit/receive cycles, so that batteries do not have to be changed in the middle of a shift.
- Water-resistant and splash-resistant for normal operation in inclement weather without a protective case.
Strike Team Requirements
The strike team is typically operating away from their home agency, and this implies a few more requirements than the typical public safety radio. Indeed, some of these requirements could be undesirable for everyday public safety use as they increase the complexity of operating the radio. Namely:
- Front keyboard with the ability to program the radio in the field without a computer. This includes changing the CTCSS tone, as well as changing frequencies, to accomodate the conditions found at the location of the incident. Even if the team member is not technically proficient to change the programming in the field, one of the other team members may have the ability. Radios that do not offer this feature are a limited investment.
- At least 256 channels, if not more. Pre-programming is the key to the rapid deployment of a strike team to a never-before-visited geography. Following our recommendations for pre-programming the state and national mutual aid frequencies will consume most of the 256 channels in a radio.
- Priority channel scan is a requirement, since in many deployments multiple channels will be in use, as well as a guard or "mayday" channel.
- Multiple tone options should be selectable on the radio without reprogramming the radio, for incidents that use multiple tones for different repeaters and base stations operating on the same channel. This can also be accomplished via thoughtful channel re-programming, but again a radio that does not support this feature (even if not currently used) is a limited investment.
- A drycell / alkaline battery clamshell so that the radio can be used without re-charging since the team may be operating away from its vehicle and/or 110VAC shore power for several shifts. Most incidents will have boxes of AA batteries available for this purpose.
- Lithium-Ion battery technology instead of Ni-cads, as the Li-ion battery will hold a charge while in storage (most strike team radios are stored until needed) and can be "topped off" without adverse effect (vs the infamous "memory" issue with Ni-cads) so the radio can be charged while enroute to the incident (or once there).
- Waterproof (including waterproof speaker/mic) so that the radio can be used in extreme weather environments without failure.
These additional requirements generally bump up the price of the radio, but analog radios of this type can be found for less than $1,000 including all accessories.
We have designed
all-inclusive packages of handheld radios for strike teams (including accessories) for our clients, and would be happy to talk about it further.
Request more information on this solution