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Samuel Villani, III's Blog (13)

The BDA and the VRS

A good majority of the fire service community has at least heard of a Bi-Directional Amplifier (BDA) and a Vehicle Repeater System (VRS). But what exactly are they and why are they a valuable tool in the tactical fire communications toolbox?

A BDA is a booster of incoming (Rx) and outgoing (Tx) radio traffic. You can find them in most large, modern buildings, and in most below grade transportation systems. The actual BDA is typically in a room with other telecom equipment. A system of…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on December 8, 2016 at 6:30am — No Comments

5 Ways To Resolve Your Own Comm Problem

Top FIVE Ways to Resolve Your Own Tactical Communications Problem

(Requires NO equipment outside of what you already have)

1. Move to a window

2. Stand up (if conditions permit)

3. Orient portable radio VERTICALLY

4. Raise your portable up high (again, if conditions permit)

5. Switch to SOP/common practice-driven Simplex/Talkaround/Direct Channel

Added by Samuel Villani, III on September 27, 2016 at 2:00pm — No Comments

Include Telecommunicators in Your Mayday Training

This past Wednesday I was a guest on Fire Engineering's TenCate Humpday Hangout, hosted by mentor and friend Frank Ricci. In our discussion, Rex Strickland from Fairfax County mentioned that his department conducts regular mayday radio discipline training- including their telecommunicators in the training. THIS IS GENIUS!

The first line in public safety is used to operating in the background and on the periphery- and we rely upon them to send us to calls for service and  "send the…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on July 29, 2016 at 6:01am — No Comments

Quick Communications Drill 1: Practicing fire ground transmissions while breathing air.

Attempting to transmit through your face piece is what some might call an art, but it’s actually a science. And like other sciences, it requires experimentation. Your variables are voice quality, voice strength, mic placement, and noise cancelling and isolation.

How can you ensure your message is getting through? First, you must ensure you're speaking clearly- call it voice quality. You have to fight the nose cone and chin cup that are doing their job in keeping a…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on June 6, 2016 at 6:00am — No Comments

A Dirty Portable Radio Will Fail You

In earlier posts I've discussed a lot of information regarding the fire service portable radio. It's important. It's the most used piece of equipment assigned to you. It goes with you on rip-roaring blazes and on the 80 percent-plus EMS runs you take in. And if it's not properly maintained, it will fail you.

To better illustrate how a dirty fire service portable radio will fail you, below you will see two pictures. Both illustrate signal…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on May 25, 2016 at 6:44am — No Comments

The Portable Radio Battery

The chirp (or beep, honk, etc) indicating a low battery charge on your portable radio is annoying enough when we're not operating on a call. Add an incident where you need your portable radio to relay important information, and it becomes a disconcerting reminder that you have a finite amount of transmitting and receiving before it becomes dead weight.

You can minimize the…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on March 20, 2016 at 2:12pm — No Comments

Tactical Communications Preplanning

In my last post (part 3: Troubleshooting), I mentioned a the radio relay and Vehicle Repeater System (VRS). The former is a quick solution that requires personnel in dedicated positions; the latter requires a unit with VRS to arrive on-scene and activate the VRS. I will address both in this post, as they are the simplest options for fixing a tactical communications problem.…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on February 3, 2016 at 2:07pm — No Comments

Part 3: Fireground Troubleshooting

This is part 3 (of 3) on care, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the fire service portable radio. In the previous two parts, I shared how to perform a checkout of the radio and how to clean it. Now on to fire ground troubleshooting.

Regardless of whether your radio system is 800-megahertz digital, P25-compliant (newest type of public safety radio system) or V/UHF analog…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on December 18, 2015 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Part 2: Using, CLEANING, and troubleshooting fire service portable radios

*This will be a multipart topic covered over several posts, all focusing on the use and maintenance of the fire service portable radio*

Part 2: Cleaning The Fire Service Portable Radio

Several months ago, one of my tech ops friends approached me about a portable radio assigned to my station that had been sent in for repair due to transmitting and receiving problems. The photographs of this portable were shared with me, and the exterior of the radio had seen…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on December 2, 2015 at 10:00am — No Comments

Using, cleaning, and troubleshooting fire service portable radios Part 1: Use/Checkout

*This will be a multipart topic covered over several posts, all focusing on the use and maintenance of the fire service portable radio*

Arguably, the fire service portable (aka the handie-talkie or portable) is the most used piece of equipment at our disposal as a firefighter. I would also argue that it is the most under maintained piece of equipment. This series of blog posts will focus on the use and maintenance of the fire service portable radio, and will cover checkout…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on November 14, 2015 at 7:30pm — No Comments

Turning a CAN into a CANOE

The CAN (Conditions Actions Needs) report has become a pretty normal thing to hear on fire radios, especially when a division or group are providing a return (update) to Command when asked (hence the return- a return transmission to a request from da boss). 

I've added a O and E to CAN (making my CANOE) to provide information my IC is going to ask me for as that division or group supervisor. The O is for occupant status and the E is for extension.

The "trust but verify"…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on May 11, 2015 at 7:37pm — No Comments

Passive CO Meters- A Success Story

Below is a story I posted to "The 1st Battalion" Facebook page a few days ago. We write to a mixed audience, including many folks from the community, so please excuse the layperson language. I wanted to share it here because these little passive CO monitors work! My department chose the Protege CM- we have them wire-tied to every aide/BLS/jump bag in the department. Ours alarmed less than a minute after initial patient contact, at which point we very quickly removed the two residents and all…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on March 31, 2015 at 10:00am — No Comments

Securing Nozzle Bails When Extending Hose Lines

From my post at

With the advent of reduced pressure, breakaway nozzles the fire service was presented with the option of extending charged hose lines when coming up short. While ideally this operation is completed in a protected, non-IDLH position, such as a stairwell, the reality is that this operation is sometimes conducted in an IDLH , leaving the…


Added by Samuel Villani, III on September 17, 2014 at 11:45am — No Comments

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