Category: Ham Radio

Some Insights Into The Emergency Services Communication Systems

One of my best friends from school, Jason, recently advanced from EMT to paramedic after quite a few years of intensive training. I had met him on several occasions during his EMT and paramedic training as he had some questions about wireless communication equipment, and he know what kind of a geek I am in that department. I was more than happy to look through his training materials on the emergency services’ radio communications and help him out to understand some of the technicalities.

One important part of EMT training was the wireless communication between the ambulances, emergency responders, ambulance base and the hospitals. While the communications devices in ambulances are designed to be relatively easy to use, EMTs have to be aware of how they work and to an extent know how to troubleshoot any problems.

ambulanceJason has been in the emergency services for about 9 years now and he started out his EMT training in NJ somewhere (I’ll double check with him the next time I talk to him). I like talking to him about some the technological advances he has encountered. One area that doesn’t seem to have changed that much though is the radio communication in the ambulances. This is kind of strange to me because there have been so many advances that could be used, but I guess there is a lot of security to take into account as well.

The basic principle of the EMS comm system is very similar to ham radio in that it is a two way system, but it does have some extras built in. First of all it uses a frequency that is only allowed to be used by emergency and police services. It also a backup/redundant capability system for each vehicle, so that if one system fails another can take over

The system is set up so that EMTs and paramedics can easily communicate with hospitals, ambulance bases and very importantly with other emergency services like the police and fire departments. One thing that has evolved a bit is quality of the mobile on person radio devices that emergency responders carry. Jason had in the past complained about how difficult it could be to get a clear message across and there were often misunderstandings even with a code and terminology set that was supposed to avoid misunderstandings.

I know this very well from my own radio equipment, that the smaller a device the more difficult it is to get a good reception. But I am glad to hear that medical professionals like Jason have received better equipment as it can mean a big difference between a patient living or dying.

One of the most important lines of communication is between the 999 operators and emergency department dispatching services to the ambulance. In some circumstances information is relayed, but it can also happen that a 999 operator is directly patched through to an ambulance crew to pass on vital information about a scene of accident for example.

Because the radio system being used today has become so reliable it is still the favored system and emergency crews quickly adapt to an audio quality that can often be of fluctuating quality. I guess it is sometimes better the devil you know.

What Is DECT Wireless Phone Technology

In a recent post I talked about how I was involved in setting up a wireless internet system including VoIP and it has been a pretty popular post. The undying nerd in me was drawn to the cordless phone technology, especially because I have a huge interest in wireless communications technology. Over the past couple of weeks I have researched more about the wireless phone technology and decided to write it up in a post here.

The technology is called DECT. Technically it’s not really a technology, but rather an industry standard that originated in Europe. Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT for short) has been adopted all over Europe, Australia, North America and the USA. It took a while longer in the US as there were problems with the frequencies used. So in reality, there is a slightly different standard implemented in America which you will often see referenced as DECT 6.0. Getting the frequency range right is important, and you should make sure that you do not use a European DECT phone in the US and vice versa.

DECT_6.0_LogoThe great thing about DECT is that it can be used for homes, small businesses and even large corporate settings. Because of the large frequency range and the way large phone systems can communicate it is a great way to have a flexible system. As you require more phones you just add them to the system and you are ready to go.

What really stands out as well is that there is a built in security control providing encryption through the DECT Standard Cipher. This means that communications between a handset and the base or central station are encrypted making it very difficult to eavesdrop in on conversations. All the devices I have looked at during my nerd adventure have pretty good encryption built in, meaning that your cordless phone is probably more difficult to listen in on than a regular corded phone.

The frequency band used by DECT is 1880 to 1900 MHz with defined channels. By implementing Frequency hopping spread spec on 12 duplex voice channels which all helps in making sure that a lot of different devices can be implemented in one area without interfering with each other.

Ham Radio Starter Kit

When you go shopping for a starter kit there are several things to keep in mind and there essentially is not one right answer. A lot will depend on your budget and what you want to achieve in the first weeks and months. The great thing is that you can gradually expand your communications system over time as you gain more experience and build up a bigger budget.

starterThe first thing you need to do is understand the basics of frequency bands. Your choice of equipment will most depend on what kind of wireless frequencies you want to get started in. The more frequencies you want the better the equipment you will need.

The next thing you need to consider is where you want to be using the radio; just at home or on the go as well? I generally would recommend getting started at home as the gear is less intricate and it helps to get a broad understanding first. While the basics are the same, home equipment is bigger and easier to figure out.

You will also have to figure out where your nearest repeater is. Check out these websites for more information:

http://rptr.amateur-radio.net/arn/rptr/index.html

http://www.repeaterbook.com/index.php

When operating from within your house you can get started with an antenna in your room, but you will encounter limitations. With a bit of planning you can get an antenna installed on your roof, which give you much better performance. There will be an extra cost but this is a once off, you can extend your in house equipment and still use the same antenna.

For the connection to the antenna I would recommend in spending some extra for high quality coax cables with low loss per foot. This will pay off for years to come and will save you time and money when your system grows and enhances.

When you get started you will not need a big space, but this can quickly change if like me you become addicted to wireless communications technology. Once you understand the systems you will quickly want to experiment with building your own pieces from scratch, which will require a decent worktable. As this stuff can quickly become a bit messy you might want to consider setting up in a garage or designated room where you can shut the door. This can keep other family members and partners happy, as they will not have to trip over cables and boxes.

Stay tuned for some further posts on different starter kits.

What Is Ham Radio All About?

I was about 7 or 8 when I got a birthday present of a set of CB radios, or walkie talkies, and it is the one childhood present I remember to this day. Along with my cousin Tom we spent the entire summer playing with them, and it was not until the bad weather in the fall set in that we started looking at how this stuff actually worked. By the next summer we had actually learned how fix, modify and improve the devices, with the help of a neighbor who was an electrical engineer.

Ham RadioWe actually got to a stage where we managed to boost the range so that we could communicate from each other’s homes, and this was a breakthrough in a world before cell phones were even remotely common.

At about age 10 the two of us started to pool our savings to buy bigger and more advanced equipment, and at that stage we were introduced to amateur, aka Ham, Radio. With the help of our neighbor and with endless time spent nerding over books in the library, we started building and making our own equipment. That same equipment still exists, and some of it technically still works and I actually love looking at the stuff we built all those years ago.

So, to answer the question of this post, ham radio is essentially amateur radio that requires a license and therefore is one step up from CB radio. You do have to sit an exam to get the license, but this is not too difficult if you are really interested in this stuff anyway. It uses a designated radio spectrum used for private, non-commercial exchange of messages and data. The radio spectrum used is not used by government, emergency services or any other commercial entity, which makes it ideal for hobbyists and people that like experimenting. Essentially, as long as you understand how radio spectrums work and you know how to configure your equipment you cannot really do things wrong that interfere with any important communications.

It is a very simple form of communicating, but it is this very technology that has led us to the modern days of phone systems and cell phone technology. For my cousin, this early experience eventually led to a career with a large technology company where he spends much of his time on programming equipment and communications protocols for phone systems.

For me, phones are the ultimate fascination. I know how they work, but it never stops amazing me how well they work, and on what scale they do this. In many ways amateur radio enthusiasts have built a communications network that resembles the phone system. Many people in this area have built repeaters into their systems, which essentially allows for a much greater range.

The great thing is that anyone interested can get started with quite a small budget. Start off with some books and online resources that will prepare you for the exam. Once you have a license the sky is the limit. You can gradually build up your home radio equipment and even build it yourself to save money, have fun and really get to understand communications technology.

What This Site Is About

Hi, and welcome to g3vfp.org. This site is a blog, which I will try to update regularly about some of the interesting new technologies that emerge in the ham radio, wireless communication and telecoms industry. You could say that I am a bit of a nerd and geek for all this stuff, but it is just something that has fascinated me since I was a kid.

Communication has in so many ways changed and improved over the last 150 years, but fundamentally it has stayed the same. Some, or something, talks and someone else, or something else listens. While amateur radio technology once was the height of advancement, it is today just that for many, a hobby. However, there have been some great inventions that have come out of the hobby sector, and many that enter the hobby sector at a young age, eventually have great success in the industry.

My cousin Peter, who will hopefully comment on this blog some day (hint hint), is such a guy. The two of us started with simple CB radios and advanced to ham radios when we got older. He now works for a large technology company in the research and development of communications protocols for the wireless sector.

The great thing about the hobby radio sector is that you can own and build your own system and also advance it to other wireless technologies used for commercial data exchanges. I have recently been involved in bringing wireless broadband technology to a community that was not able to get a decent enough Internet speed. This was such an interesting project, and with my hobby experience I was able to help out this small community to finally be able to stream Netflix!!!

I will be posting about this project in the coming months, as there is a lot of information to accumulate accurately. Other things that I plan to cover range from communications equipment setup at the beginner and advanced level, software programming, and home phone system setup using only wireless technology.

I would appreciate any and all comments, and if you have ideas about how to improve the site and contact, just shoot me a mail or comment.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Tom