Cramming: Part II
Can we please get out of the car now?
Last month (MRT, March) we discussed prewiring of vehicle-mounted equipment to help speed the actual installation. There are actually two “in-the-car” sessions for a typical installation. The first visit of the vehicle to the shop involves removing items from last year’s installation. While generally a filthy and disgusting job, this task is really an installer’s scavenger hunt. Our techs regularly find blades, knives, drugs, drug paraphernalia, pens, pencils, scraps of paper, a variety of foodstuffs, uniform buttons, pins and clips-but almost never any money. (What does this mean?)
After separating the recoverable electronic equipment from the unusable accessories, hardware and drink residue, the next step is a thorough cleaning (of the equipment) and then a trip to the test bench to verify proper operation of the items slated for re-installation. Important safety tip: After the “wire whacking” and equipment removal, be certain to ensure proper functioning of the vehicle’s convenience accessories such as the ignition system, brake lights, horn and headlights before returning the vehicle to its owner agency.
After prewiring the equipment console and control center (the trunk box), we begin the “in-the-car” session with mechanical installation and then electrical wiring of the equipment. After several nasty incidents involving electric drills, lengthy snags in the floor carpeting and mysterious holes in a variety of under-vehicle drive train components, we’ve decided to either mount equipment on existing bolts (using the car seat studs or seat belt bolts) or into holes punched with an awl. Fortunately, there are several excellent, commercially available modular console systems that can make the technician’s job much easier. If installed in accordance with manufacturer instructions, these products can also offer some liability protection over “homemade” racks or frames in the event that the equipment mount becomes an airborne, in-cab missile during a pursuit or an abrupt stop.
Mounting a single shotgun in the cab is a difficult-enough task. Our department issues two long guns-a shotgun and an assault rifle-for each police cruiser. Photo 1 on page 18 shows the bracket we devised and had fabricated by the local welding shop. It conveniently mounts between the car’s bucket seats to stow the weapons vertically, nearly behind the officer, and completely clear of the airbag deployment zone.
Mobile video recording systems are fairly new additions to public safety fleet equipment and are being widely adopted and installed in fleets of all sizes. These units have repeatedly proven their worth and are quickly growing in popularity, but they can be cantankerous installation candidates. Because installation is not just “nuts and bolts,” (well-bolts, anyway) substantial technician time is often required for the detailed setup and optimization of these multidisciplinary systems after installation. Common trouble areas include the audio receiver antenna, connections and matching circuitry; external transmit RF signals that interfere with the video signal; and mechanical mounting maladies, especially involving the camera. If the mounting isn’t tight, camera shake can induce motion sickness in users viewing playback tapes.
Several years ago as a collision precaution (and as an insurance policy on $2,000 radios), we started mounting the radio components that are housed in the trunk onto a piece of plywood that was securely fastened to the vehicle’s body. We discovered two benefits to this technique: First, in a serious crash, the impact would break the radio away from the wood mount, and it would remain (mostly) intact. Second, road salt and moisture wouldn’t “wick” up the screws or bolts for the undercarriage into the radio package.
Because computing power is plentiful and cheap, many agencies are adopting it as a strategy to multiply manpower effectiveness. Many federal C.O.P.S. equipment grants rely on computing efficiency to free officers for additional citizen contacts. However, the mobile equipment installer is called on to perform in yet another venue: mobile computing, a discipline that deftly melds the ethereal promises of “integrated computing,” the vagaries of radio propagation and the restful convenience of arm wrestling.
As with other in-car equipment mounts, several high-quality, commercially made mobile computer stands are available that can make the installer’s job easier. These stands may require costly exchanging as new-model vehicles (with different mounting space availability) are introduced. The cup holder can be either part of the computer stand or the console system as well.
These two articles about mobile equipment installation may cover points clearly known to the technicians doing the work, but they might serve as corroboration for shop time and labor charges for the increasingly complex and costly job of “cramming.”
Dunford, MRT’s public safety consultant, is manager of technical services for the Lenexa, KS, police department. He is a member and past president of the Kansas Chapter of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. You can email Dunford at [email protected]