HOUSTON — EF Johnson Technologies introduced FIRESafe, a software suite that complements their new fire radio, at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) annual conference and exposition. The software addresses firefighters concern about digital radios’ reliability on the fireground, said Ed Kelley, the company’s vice president of marketing and business development.

Kelley said the software suite is a packaged set of features specifically tailored to a fireground mode of communication. He said firefighters face a demanding RF environment with varying signal conditions affected by building structures, such as stairways and hallways. As a result, often times firefighters are unsure whether or not they can communicate.

“In a lot of cases, firefighters prefer analog communications because they can know when communications become raspy when they are going out of range,” Kelley said. “But in a digital mode, it is tough to tell and firefighters may not know when they are out of range.”

To address the issue, the software uses a specialize feature that lets the incident command monitor the communication link using a Project 25 digital “heartbeat” generated by the FIRESafe feature in the command radio. Kelley said the heartbeat provides signal strength information that then lets the software determine the quality of the communications link. The firefighter will be alerted with audio tones or beeps when he nears the communication range limit or is out of communication range altogether, he said.

“It lets the firefighter know without looking at his radio whether or not they are in communication,” he said.

Among other features, the software lets users switch from analog or P25 digital mode, specifically, when users reach the fringe in order to expand the range of communications. It also offers digital signaling to issue an audible alert, similar to the sound of a PASS alarm, to a firefighter radio for an evacuation or other orders predetermined by the administrator, Kelley said.

“So you don’t have to worry about someone trying to shout a call across a scratchy communication path,” he said.

APCO attendees will be able to hear demonstrations of the FIRESafe features at the company’s booth, Kelley said.