The Wheel That Squeaks Gets The Grease
Every officer who has employed radio in fire ground operations is generally loud in its praises. There are times, however, when unexpected interference or slipshod operating practices on crowded frequencies turn admiration into condemnation. This has led in the past to requests for additional channels in an effort to alleviate growing congestion on fire radio frequencies.
The Federal Communications Commission has attempted to assist the fire service overcome many of its problems by splitting channels now in use, in effect doubling the air space available. By November 1, 1963, all fire radio must conform to the commission’s Narrow-Band Regulations or cease operations. This ruling increases the number of channels available to the fire service and is a positive step toward solving the interference problem.
Despite this type of action by the FCC it is doubtful that the over-all frequency problems can be improved greatly unless drastic action is taken. As this country grows in population it becomes more technically complex and the services necessary to meet the demands create unforeseen difficulties. The growth of mobile radio in all phases of our modem life has been much greater than expected and will continue to increase.
At this time the FCC has before it petitions requesting the Commission to reallocate UHF TV Channels 14 and 15 to the land mobile service. The UHF TV channels have had the least use in the radio spectrum and are now under pressure from mobile radio users who have heavy requirements and little or no room for growth.
Frequency space for radio is a fixed item governed by natural laws. Under the present state of the art it is conceivable that any service not utilizing its allocations to the fullest extent can expect that others, hard-pressed for growth space, will challenge the right to it. This is the basis behind the Electronic Industries Association Land Mobile section petition to the FCC requesting the use of these channels. The EIA believes the number of users of land mobile radio may well double in the next five years creating havoc on present frequencies unless relief is afforded.
It is evident that the fire service should support the EIA proposals and many fire organizations and fire departments are on record with the FCC to this extent. The fire service should also heed the implied warning in this action for it contains the seeds of a good lesson in facility management.
The fire service presently needs all the channels available to it for its own growth and operations in the conceivable future. However, it must make proper use of the radio channels at its disposal in order to continue to be justified in its position. Despite complaints of interference and claims for needed expansion, it is evident that not all its allocations are presently employed to the fullest.
For some time it has been recognized that a mutual aid coordination channel was needed between fire departments. The FCC acknowledged this need and allocated one low-band and one high-band channel specifically for the purpose. While these frequencies have been available only a short time, there should be more interest shown in them if only from the planning point of view for ultimate use. Failure to act may jeopardize their continued availability.
The FCC has looked with favor on all reasonable requests by the fire service in the past and apparently is well aware of the importance of this work to the general public. However, under the pressure of other services whose needs are great and whose numbers are growing by leaps and bounds, it is possible that the FCC will adopt a tougher prove-need-btj-use philosophy in the future. It will then be up to the fire service to justify by action rather than words why its frequencies must be maintained against pressure by others clamoring for relief through reallocation.
All users of mobile communications are aware of the frequency squeeze and are working hard for a solution. The fire service individually and through its representation in the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Municipal Signal Association is supporting the EIA petitions as one step towards more equitable relief. However, it cannot rest complacent lulled by the feeling that others will recognize and take care of its needs.
It is well known that representations before government agencies require full and complete facts and the stronger the voice supporting these facts, the better chance for success. As one radio manufacturer’s representative succinctly put it, “In this area it’s the wheel that squeaks that gets the grease.”