Our county is currently going through a process that is happening throughout the country. The FCC has mandated that public safety communication systems be switched over to narrow band and preferably digital communication modes. This switchover needs to be completed by January of 2013. But the new radio system that the county is installing is rife with problems.
Just a little background information, Marathon County Wisconsin is one of the largest counties east of the Mississippi River. In fact our county, with a population of about 130,000 people encompasses an area about the size of Connecticut. The new system has multiple receive and transmit sites along with microwave links to keep everything together. You can see how building out a radio system for such a large area can be difficult.
The radio system installer only needs to provide 95% coverage within the county for the system to be certified. Unfortunately, the 95% is statistically derived and doesn’t necessarily reflect actual reception. So there are plenty of dead spots in critical locations.
First responder communications, both pager and voice is critical for saving life and property. If a first responder located in a rural area can’t receive the page or voice transmission, then response time will be delayed. Installing an external antenna for your scanner or base station radio will improve reception, especially in weak signal areas.
I offer two VHF antennas and one UHF antenna that are designed and tuned for the public safety frequencies. The VHF Land-mobile and MURS antenna is tuned for the low end of the public safety band (151-154 MHz), and the VHF public safety and Marine antenna is tuned for the higher end of the public safety band (155-159 MHz). If your radio system is UHF, then the UHF GMRS antenna (462-467 MHz) would be a good choice.
These antennas will work with the new narrow band radios and scanners. They’ll receive analog and digital signals (you’ll still need a digital radio to decode digital transmissions). If you still have a wide band scanner, you’ll still be able to receive narrowband transmissions, but the audio level will be a bit lower. A good antenna delivering a solid signal to your scanner will go a long way towards improving narrow band reception.
If you are on the fringes of the radio system or in one of the dead spots that can’t be fixed, then consider improving your coverage with a high quality external antenna.