6-Function Console Serves Tri-State Mutual Aid Group

6-Function Console Serves Tri-State Mutual Aid Group

A new command control console is the latest development in the growth of the Tri-State Fire Mutual Aid System, which serves parts of three New England States. The new center in Greenfield, Mass., dispatches the equipment of 47 fire districts in the area where the boundaries of New Hampshire and Vermont abut Massachusetts.

More than 126 fire trucks, 41 fire cars, six ambulances and 43 portable/ personal two-way radios are used by the various fire districts.Thirty of the districts have base stations.

The control console, supplied under contract with the General Electric’s Mobile Radio Department, Lynchburg, Va., is designed to handle dispatching more efficiently and to meet Tri-State’s increasing communications traffic.

The console serves six functions:

  1. Dispatch for the Town of Greenfield Fire Department.
  2. Remote dispatch point for the mutual aid 330-watt base.
  3. Control for the system’s standby base.
  4. Remote dispatch point for Greenfield’s public works department.
  5. Remote dispatch for the state’s Environmental Resources Bureau of Fire Control.
  6. Intercommunication within the fire headquarters.

“We handle nearly 300 mutual aid calls annually,” says Greenfield’s Chief Clayton D. Cromack. “This is in addition to some 600 to 700 calls a year for our own department.

“Until we got this new command console, the watch room was really a breezeway with a remote station for the town fire department and remote units for mutual aid, public works department, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Resources. By using a dispatch microphone with a master selector, we were able to operate quite well until the number of calls began to increase.

Town has own frequency

“Greenfield has its own frequency for fire dispatching and the mutual aid towns are on a second frequency. For backup, we have an auxiliary base for mutual aid on the roof of our fire station. We also do some dispatching for the town public works department when it is necessary to coordinate their activities with firemen at the scene of a blaze or during severe weather conditions.

“Our dispatcher also has direct contact with the fire towers, observation planes and fire wardens of the state when there is a fire in this heavily wooded country.

“In addition, we have intercommunications throughout our entire headquarters building. This also is handled through the command console in the watch room.”

Chief Cromack continued, “All fire radios in Greenfield itself are two-frequency—ours and mutual aid. If our vehicles go out on a mutual aid call, or other districts come here, we can have all vehicles on the mutual aid frequency. This makes the dispatch task much simpler for the watch man.”

Each fire district in the system purchases the two-way radio equipment it needs locally to do the job. Although there is not complete uniformity, most have 60-watt base stations and 100watt mobiles.

The Town of Greenfield has a 100watt base station for its own use with a tower at fire headquarters. This tower also carries the antennas for the 50-watt mutual aid backup unit and the 60-watt state fire unit. The main transmitter for this system is located on a mountaintop in the neighboring town of Shelburne. This is a 3-kw GE transmitter. This low-band system is licensed in the fire radio service.

Mutual aid essential

“We just can’t operate without the mutual aid pact,” Cromack continued. “This was apparent to us early in the 40s. At that time, when the chief got to the scene of a fire and determined help was needed, he spent most of his time on the telephone calling neighboring towns.

“When we first established mutual aid, the chief called Greenfield and told what he needed after he got to the scene. Then the watch man started calling aid towns from a preestablished list. This left the chief free at the scene to direct fire operations.

“As more departments got radio during the 50s, we brought central dispatch into Greenfield. Then the chief needing help could radio his needs and save a lot of time. Later, we followed up with normal alerting procedures.

“With our new command console, we have everything under control within an arm’s reach of the dispatcher. He can monitor the radio frequencies, answer the phone and handle other related duties.”

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