V. The Radio
BC-EMS's radio facilities are authorized by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which regulates the equipment and its use. It is vital that you know how to operate the radio system and how to use it to communicate with others. Any violations of FCC regulations could subject the squad to penalties, including possible revocation of our license. All members of the squad are responsible for complying with the following procedures and regulations.
The squad uses a two-way radio communication system that consists of the base station and portable radios ("walkie talkies").
The Base Station
The base station of the radio is located on the table to the left of the dispatcher's desk. This is the piece of equipment that you will use to communicate with the crew. There is a microphone built into the base station, and when you speak you should not keep your mouth too close to the unit. The microphone is very sensitive and will pick up your voice from the distance of about 12 to 18 inches. It will also pick up noise from the office, so when using the radio be sure to tell others in room to keep the noise level down.
- To turn on the unit, flip the switch at the back of the base station (on the right). Wait for the message "Pager No. =" to appear after a self-test has been completed. To adjust the volume, turn the dial on the side of the unit.
- To transmit a message (speak), hold down the F3 button, wait a second and the message "Speak now" will appear in the display window. Keep the button depressed for the duration of your message.
- FCC law requires the announcement of station identification over the air at least once every hour. You do not have to do this because the base station automatically sends station identification signals every 20 minutes in Morse code tones.
How to Use the Portables
Below the base station are the portable radios used by the crew during the shifts. All the radios have a number on them. The dispatcher employs these identification numbers to keep track of which radios are being used.
- To turn these radios on or off, turn the volume control up or down. You will hear a tone after the radio's self-test.
- To speak, press the PTT button (Push to Talk) and keep it down as you talk.
- In order to hear a message, you must release the PTT button.
- Each portable radio has various operating channels:
- Channel 1: quick call
- Channel 2: not currently used
- Channel 3: to be used with old repeater
- Channel 4: to be used with old repeater
- Channel 5: our normal operating frequency
- Channel 6: point to point (no repeater function)
- Channel 7: security communications dept. (used to talk directly to security; when no dispatcher is on duty, can be used by security to notify us of an emergency)
- Channel 8: security point to point
- When the portables are in their chargers, a green light means that the radio is charged, and a red light signifies that the portable is not ready to be used. A yellow light means that the radio is almost fully charged.
- When the radios are being used, a steady red light is always present when you are talking and the batteries are charged. If the battery is low, the red light will flash. If the channel is busy, a green light will flash.
- To set a portable to quick call, switch the channel selector to 1 and then press the squelch button above the PTT button.
- To deactivate quick call, switch to channel 5.
All radio equipment should be tested every day to measure readability and strength. Using the following scale (the first number refers to strength (loud) and the second to readability (clear)):
- 1 by 1: both poor
- 3 by 3: both fair
- 5 by 5: both good
You can also use intermediate numbers (like 2 by 3, 3 by 1, etc.). If you cannot get a positive measurement, correct the problem by adjusting the volume or ask the crewmember to change location and try again.
The equipment logbook, located on the dispatcher's desk, is used to record who takes out radios and when. It is your responsibility to make sure that it is accurate. Whenever a crewmember asks for a radio, note the number of the radio. Then, in the equipment logbook, write down the first initial and last name of the crewmember, the number of the radio that was taken out and the time. When the person returns the radio, write the time that the equipment was brought back in. This logbook is also used to record other equipment (e.g., keys to the ambulance, tech bags, etc.). Never forget to record when equipment comes in or out. If crewmembers change radios (as they occasionally do), sign the radio in under the first person's name and then sign it back out with the new member's name. This way, if anything happens to the equipment, we know whom to hold responsible.