In late 2006 and early 2007, the IAFC began to receive reports of possible communication problems involving two-way portable radios in close proximity to common fireground noise. In response to this, the IAFC established a Digital Project Working Group. This report is the culmination of a year’s work by the working group with public-safety organizations, manufacturers and the laboratory services of the federal government to determine the extent of radio transmission problems associated with fireground noise.
The intent of the IAFC interim report is to alert the fire service that noise on the fireground can interfere with intelligible radio communications. The report is organized into sections that provide background on the issue, the steps the Digital Project Working Group took to investigate the problem in an objective laboratory setting, the results of the testing and corresponding analysis and recommendations and best operational practices.
The report includes conclusions based on 9 months of laboratory testing conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). An important part of the report is the set of recommendations for the fire service, the federal government and industry – many but not all surrounding the following themes:
- The development of standards and guidelines concerning public-safety communications intelligibility.
- Additional research, a broader review of standards and a gap analysis that addresses factors of communication systems, including but not limited to intelligibility, use practices, maintenance and alignment.
- Enhancing digital technologies to achieve the same or better level of the intelligibility quality of analog.
- Increased coordination and collaboration of government, public safety and industry.
The report, which can be found at http://www.iafc.org/digitalproblem, also contains recommendations from the Working Group’s Best Practices Task Group, which has developed procedures and identified technical issues for consideration when radios are used in the field.