Portland, Ore.–based Firecom unveiled the 50-Series, a second-generation, full-duplex, hands-free wireless radio headset that reduces the need for firefighters to be tethered to the truck and intercom via a cable. The headset offers an extended range of up to 1,600 feet and is supported by interference-free 1.9 GHz secure communications, said Reed Stager, executive vice president.

The company also announced it will accept old headsets as credit toward the 50-series, Stager said.

"We will be offering a trade-up program for our customers so they can trade in any of our headsets from the last 20 years for credit against new, 50-Series headsets," he said.

Firecom wireless headsets use DECT6 for encrypted voice transmission. DECT6 operates on a licensed 1.9 GHz frequency, which keeps radio communication free from Bluetooth or 2.4 GHz consumer electronic inference, Stager said. In fact, DECT6 provides almost 30 times the wireless coverage area compared to Bluetooth, he said.

"We don't have interference," Stager said about the headset. "The last thing you want is interference on the fireground where you can't hear communications."

The wireless headset also lets firefighters work around the truck without having to remove it, meaning they can be in constant communications, Stager said.

"A lot of time, the driver needs to get out and work the pump handle and disconnect from the intercom system," he said. "It gives them increased mobility and the ability to communicate more effectively on the fireground and all around the fire ground, instead of just in the truck."

The headset has radio push-to-talk capability and selectable microphone squelch levels. While noise cancellation was already built into the headset, firefighter testing revealed that different levels of squelch were required to handle different background noise levels depending on where firefighters are staged at the scene, Stager said.

"So one of the new models has a toggle switch where they can instantly switch from a low-noise environment into a high-noise — such as a windy — environment," he said. "If they push up on the toggle it drops the squelch completely and broadcasts it over the radio if they so choose. So they can manually adjust that on the fly."

In addition, the Firecom headset is compatible with more than 400 radios from 24 manufacturers and offers a 24-hour battery life with two-hour recharge. The headset has an IP65 rating for operation in wet environments and 24db of hearing protection for personal safety.

The headset is available in under-helmet and over-head band configurations. It costs under $700, Stager said.