Fire Chiefs Put Out the Call for DTV Assistance

FAIRFAX, VA.: The International Association of Fire Chiefs is asking local fire and rescue departments to volunteer for its DTV awareness campaign. The Federal Communication this week intensified its efforts to help people prepare for the final transition on June 12, when around 900 TV stations simultaneously cease analog broadcasts.

“The FCC is establishing call centers that will troubleshoot problems over the phone and request personal assistance from a cadre of national volunteers--including fire and emergency service personnel--if needed,” the IAFC’s DTV transition Web site states.

The end of the transition ultimately means more spectrum for emergency communications. First responders are set to receive 24 MHz in the 700 MHz band once TV stations move to analog-only broadcasting. Stations are using that area of the spectrum now--Channels 52-69--for digital transmission while they simultaneously broadcast in analog. Several will flash cut on June 12 and transmit their digital signal from their analog allocation.

The first responder community has already been through two DTV transition delays. The first deadline was set for Dec. 31, 2006, but there was no possible way the country was ready at that point. The next was set for Feb. 17, 2009, but President Obama pushed it to June 12 when the Fed’s converter-box subsidy program ran out of money Jan. 3.

The lack of adequate radio frequency spectrum was blamed in part on the deaths of first responders who perished in the collapse of the World Trade Centers on 9/11. One lawmaker even went so far as to blame broadcasters for the fatalities, but spectrum was merely one of several problems plaguing emergency communications. Ongoing issues involved the use of different radios, terminology and tuning strategies by various public safety entities, sometimes within the same community. The lack of a uniform standard for comms gear exacerbates the problem. The National Institute for Standards and Technology continues to work on interoperability.

More information on the IAFC’s DTV transition volunteer program is available at its Web site. – Deborah D. McAdams