Baker Fire Station Staffing a Public Safety Concern

ca_san_bernardino_county_engine_53-1According to Caltrans, an average of just under 40,000 vehicles passed through Baker on Interstate 15 on a daily basis in 2014. That same year, statistics showed that some 23.5 million motorists traveled to Las Vegas. The vast majority were Southern California motorists using I-15.

It’s those numbers that concern Bill Mahan, one of three captains assigned at the San Bernardino County Fire Department’s Station 53 in Baker. That’s because the station is staffed only by one captain and one firefighter per shift. Mahan is lobbying his superiors to increase staffing at the station so there would be three fire personnel per shift.

“On a shift we have one captain and usually a limited-term firefighter, who has little to no prior experience,” Mahan said. “Normally a fire engine has an engineer, the person who drives and operates the water pump. We don’t have that here. So that falls on the captain or if their firefighter is qualified then he can do it.

“Say we are on a fire call I have my firefighter man the hose line as I’m talking to dispatch on the radio, managing resources, coordinating with CHP and running the water pump and making sure we don’t run out of water. It’s not a matter of things don’t get done, it’s just that things don’t get accomplished as quickly as we would like. It’s worrisome because lives are (in the) balance oftentimes. But our department is working on getting us additional staffing.”

The small town of Baker has a population of 735 people, according to census data from 2010, but its fire station is responsible for 4,000 square miles, including the stretch of I-15 that runs north of Baker and up to stateline, Highway 127 up to the Dumont Dunes, the Mojave National Preserve and portions of Interstate 40. The Baker station responds to approximately 1,500 calls annually.

Statistics from the Barstow area California Highway Patrol support the challenges the fire station faces with only two firefighters on duty per shift.

According to CHP spokesman Ryan Camara, officers responded to 371 property damage collisions, 148 collisions with injuries and 16 fatal collisions on I-15 between Minneola Road and stateline in 2015.

So far this year, officers have responded to 101 property damage collisions, 69 injury collisions and four fatals, he said.

Camara said he couldn’t say if Station 53 responded to each of those collisions, but it’s safe to assume they handled many of them.

“We have the equivalent of a large city’s population traveling through Baker on a daily basis,” Mahan said. “Granted they are all moving, but they are people traversing through my area that may need our service at the drop of a hat. Most cities responsible for a population of that size operate with at least three fire stations, with an engine of a captain, engineer and firefighter/paramedic.

“Normally when an engine needs additional resources, help is there within 10 minutes or less. We don’t have that luxury out here in Baker.”

That’s the other issue that Station 53 faces. If additional resources are requested, Mahan estimates the response time for another engine is 45 minutes “at best.”

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L.A.’s Effort to Equip Officers With Body Cameras Stalls


From a Los Angeles Times article by Kate Mather and David Zahniser:

Los Angeles’ much-touted plan to equip thousands of police officers with body cameras has stalled amid controversy at City Hall over the program’s price tag and whether the Police Department got the best deal possible.

Delays have derailed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pledge to provide nearly every officer with a camera by the end of this year, an ambitious proposal that garnered national attention and would make the LAPD the largest law enforcement agency in the country to use the devices on a widespread scale.

LAPD officials do not expect to finish outfitting 7,000 officers until the fall of 2017 at the earliest. And a new proposal, they say, could push the completion date back another year.

The head of the council’s public safety committee now wants the LAPD to start over and accept new bids from camera manufacturers.

“This is too big to get wrong,” said Councilman Mitch Englander, who told The Times he plans to introduce a formal proposal next week. “It’s more important that we get it right and not just do it quickly.”

Despite the initial fanfare, the camera plan came under scrutiny at City Hall over its costs — $57.6 million over five years — with one council member saying he was experiencing “sticker shock.” In addition, competing technology companies complained they were unfairly left out of the LAPD’s selection process, which relied in part on a separate search for body cameras for the much smaller Kern County Sheriff’s Department.

Body cameras have been hailed as a key tool for improving oversight of officers and building community trust in police. Garcetti unveiled his initiative in late 2014 following nationwide protests over the way police officers use force, particularly against African Americans.

Three of Garcetti’s appointees on the Board of Police Commissioners voiced alarm about Englander’s proposal, saying the LAPD had already followed proper contracting procedures and found the best product at a good price.

“This is not good for police transparency, accountability or keeping a commitment to our police officers and community members,” commission President Matt Johnson said.

Commissioner Steve Soboroff, a longtime advocate for the camera technology, said city lawmakers are “horribly underestimating the ramifications” of delaying the body camera initiative. Having the LAPD ask camera companies to send in new proposals could drag out the process further, resulting in years of additional challenges and procedural delays by competing firms, he said.

“This is an unequivocal disaster for public safety in Los Angeles,” Soboroff said.

Garcetti struck a more diplomatic tone, saying through a spokesman that he hoped the council would act “as quickly as possible.”

The LAPD already has about 860 cameras, purchased through private donations. Last year, the LAPD negotiated a contract with Taser International to provide thousands more as well as replacement equipment, digital storage of the recordings and thousands of Tasers.

Weeks later, the council balked at approving the $31.2-million contract with the Scottsdale firm, sending the proposal back for more deliberations amid concerns over the initiative’s overall cost. Council members voiced dismay that the initiative would require scores of LAPD officers to review camera footage, ensure officers were using the devices properly and other tasks. (The LAPD later revised its plan to include more civilian staffers.)

A new vote was never scheduled, and on Friday, council members voted to temporarily use some of the city’s camera funds for housing programs.

la-me-lapd-body-camera-contractEnglander, perhaps the biggest champion of the body camera program on the council, repeatedly argued last year that the council should push ahead with the Taser contract. But he came under fire from critics who said he should not have accepted $8,400 in campaign contributions from a dozen donors affiliated with the company.

On Friday, Englander said his decision to change course had “absolutely nothing to do” with those donations. Starting a new competitive process, he said, would allow the city to answer the complaints of rival companies who say they were excluded from the LAPD’s search.

The market, he said, has “changed dramatically” in recent years. He said he also wanted the city to analyze the effect body cameras could have on costly police-related litigation.

“We will be the biggest department in the country to deploy them, and making sure and ensuring we do that openly, transparently and correctly is important,” he said.

Council President Herb Wesson — who sets the agenda for when and how major issues are decided — said he was comfortable with Englander’s approach.

“This allows us to start anew, or fresh, if you will,” he said. “The only thing I would insist is that we try to fast-track this. Because the commitment is there to make sure we have body cameras in place.”

Wesson said through a spokeswoman that he hoped a search for a camera vendor would last three to six months. But an LAPD official said it would probably take longer, even if the effort was accelerated.

Maggie Goodrich, the LAPD’s chief information officer, said the process of seeking bids, negotiating a deal and finalizing a contract typically takes a year. The department might be able to shave one to three months off because officials already know what they’re looking for in a body camera, she said.

If the council requires new bids, Goodrich said, the complete rollout of the cameras could be delayed until the end of 2018.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he expected officers to eventually get the body cameras. But starting the contract process over, he said, was “not ideal”

“If that’s what we need to do to get this through, then that’s what we’ll do,” he said.

The delays are reminiscent of the problems the LAPD has faced when putting cameras in the department’s patrol cars, a decades-long effort hampered in part by a lack of funding. The LAPD launched its most recent attempt to install those cameras in 2008, but is still working to complete the citywide installation.

Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman said he worries the same could happen to the body camera program if the contracting process was restarted.

“I fear a delay in implementation of the on-body cameras now will begin another troubling and unnecessary multi-year process that will be similarly embarrassing for the city,” he said. “Delaying it now will undermine its likelihood of success and would be regrettable.”

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C-17 at Burbank Airport

SCMA member and frequent photo contributor Chester Brown (LA-203, K6CRB) took these photos of U.S. Air Force C-17s at Burbank Airport. The cargo planes were in town in support of President Obama’s most recent trip to the L.A. area.

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Film shoot at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro

SCMA member Steve Herbert (LA-187, K6CRW) went down to Cabrillo Beach for a swim when he noticed a film shoot going on. He forwarded me some photos he took of the action. He noted that they will be on location filming until the 7th of April. Thanks for sharing your photos, Steve!

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New York Times Article on LAPD Air Support

Club member Glen Rothstein (LA-145, KK6OTP) shared an article from the New York Times about the LAPD Air Support Division:

The air-support division of the Los Angeles Police Department operates out of a labyrinthine building on Ramirez Street in the city’s downtown, near the Los Angeles River. A looming mass of utilitarian architecture tucked beside the 101 Freeway, the complex appears to have no real public face; here the view from the street matters little. Instead, like much of the city around it, the air-support division makes more sense when seen from above.

On the first of several flights I would take with the division over the course of the last three years, our helicopter lifted off into the haze of a July afternoon. The true bulk of the structure below us finally revealed itself. The building’s landing deck alone seemed nearly the size of an aircraft carrier’s, and from this new, elevated perspective, the headquarters indeed resembled a landlocked warship in the heart of the city; a half-dozen other helicopters were waiting there on the tarmac. The division began with a single helicopter in 1956, and it now has 19 in all, augmented by a King Air fixed-wing plane. The aircrews operate in a state of constant readiness, with at least two helicopters in flight at any given time for 21 hours of every day. A ground crew is suited up and on call for the remaining three, between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. On weekends, considered peak hours, the number of airborne helicopters goes up to three, although in a crisis the division might send as many as four or five “ships” up at once.

The police had allowed me to fly with them so that I could see the world from their perspective. Through its aerial patrols, the division has uniquely unfettered access to a fundamentally different experience of Los Angeles, one in which the city must constantly be reinterpreted from above, in real time, with the intention of locating, tracking and interrupting criminal activity. This also means that the police are not only thinking about Los Angeles as it currently exists. Their job is to anticipate things that have yet to occur — not just where criminals are, but where and when they might arrive next. They patrol time as well as space. In this sense, although it has been in continual operation for the past 60 years, the division has much to tell us about policing the cities of the future.

Soon after we were airborne, a call came in for helicopter support, and we diverted north, flying nearly to the mountains that separate Los Angeles from the deserts beyond. A woman had reportedly barricaded herself inside a house with a loaded 9-millimeter handgun. Why she had done this was not at all clear — and it would remain unexplained to us — but the police needed to set up a perimeter. They needed someone looking down from above….

For the rest of the article, please see the New York Times article.

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T-Band Mandate Shouldn’t Be A Problem for Public-Safety Agencies

From a IWCE Urgent Communications article:

LAS VEGAS – Public-safety agencies with LMR networks operating on T-Band spectrum (470-512 MHz) should not be “overly concerned” about relocating their systems, even though current law requires them to vacate the airwaves in about seven years, according to Charles Dowd, former deputy chief for the New York City police department (NYPD).

During an IWCE 2016 workshop yesterday entitled “The Evolution of FirstNet,” Dowd said he does not believe federal lawmakers will force public-safety entities that are using T-Band spectrum to vacate the frequencies without a viable alternative.

“I don’t believe there is going to be any appetite for politicians on [Capitol Hill] to try to take back that spectrum,” Dowd said. “Quite frankly, if you read the legislation, … there are clauses that say, if they expect us to move off of T-Band, the federal government has to fund, and they have find appropriate spectrum for us to go to.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s a few years out. Hopefully, voice capability on a mission-critical level continues to develop. So, I don’t see it as anything that public safety needs to be overly concerned about.”

A mandate that public-safety agencies vacate the T-Band airwaves after the FCC auctions the airwaves by 2021 was included in the 2012 law that reallocated the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety and created FirstNet as the entity charged with deploying a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). Dowd recalled the circumstances on the February 2012 day when Congress passed the legislation, when he served as a deputy chief for NYPD, which has a very large T-Band radio system.

“That was an interesting morning,” Dowd said. “The night before, we got the call that we were good to go on the legislation and that [allocating the D Block to public safety] was going to be in the bill.

“There was some last-minute wrangling obviously around a number of issues, and one of them was the T-Band. Apparently, somebody thought that I said it was OK that we give back the T-Band. Yes, I was a chief in the police department. But when it comes to giving up public-safety spectrum, I think the mayor’s office was probably going to chime in on that one.”

News of the T-Band wrinkle resulted in a flurry of phone calls and meetings among New York City officials that day, and the resulting consensus was positive, Dowd said.

“Everybody kind of relaxed and understood that, overall, what happened was a huge positive for public safety nationwide,” he said. “So the excitement of passing the legislation was a little bit tempered in some of the major cities that were using T-Band. But again, it’s not an issue that—I think in the long run—is going to be a problem.”

One result of the T-Band mandate was that the FCC subsequently decided that T-Band agencies would not be subject to the agency’s 2013 narrowbanding requirement for public-safety radio systems operating on VHF and UHF spectrum, because they might have to relocate within a decade.

NYPD had not started to narrowband its massive LMR system when the legislation was passed, even though the FCC’s narrowbanding deadline was just 10 months away. The FCC’s ruling for public-safety T-Band system meant that a potential showdown between the FCC and NYPD over the narrowbanding issue never materialized.

“It’s amazing how you can conveniently forget certain things,” Dowd said jokingly when reminded of the NYPD’s narrowbanding situation at the time.

“By that December, I was going to have to explain why we hadn’t narrowbanded. But the reason we hadn’t was because it was going to cost the city of New York $300 million to narrowband the NYPD’s radio system. Quite frankly, we didn’t see it as something that was going to be necessary in the long run—kind of a waste of funds.”

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Barrett Communications – New Emergency Communications System For Los Angeles

SCMA member Glen Rothstein (LA-145, KK6OTP) shares the following article from Your Communication News:

America’s largest emergency data communications system passed its first key test at the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California.

Mr Pat Mallon, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System commented “For the first time local, state and federal emergency services agencies shared voice and data communications directly with each other, and the system functioned flawlessly.” The LA-RICS project is one of five national early deployment efforts in support of the FirstNet Public Safety Broadband Network.

The LA-RICS system brings together multiple vendors who contributed to the successful launch, these included, Motorola Solutions Inc.; BlackHawk Imaging; Sonim Technology; Intrepid Networks; ESChat by SLA Corporation; NVIS Communications; Barrett Communications; Star Solutions International Inc.; Pepro LLC.; Cannon Cameras; Airship; Airwave Communications; and Milestone Video Management Systems.

The fallback network for the LA-RICS system was the Tactical Communications Unit (TCU) which was the combined knowledge of NVIS Communications, Barrett Communications , Star Solutions and Pepro LLC. The TCU provides a fallback network node for short, medium and long distance communication reach and cross service reach for voice and data, in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.

The self contained TCU is highly mobile and can be set up and operated by a single person. The EMP hardened shelter encloses the TCU and the unit is self powered with a 4 day capacity diesel generator together with solar panels and backup batteries. The TCU has the short network capacity for 1,000 registered handsets and 100 co-current sessions. The medium and long range network incorporates P25, cellular, UHF, VHF connections and the ability to operate two simultaneous independent HF networks.

“The TCU has been developed as a real solution for back up voice and data communications. We are seeing more and more government organisation identifying the need for a system that is highly mobile and quick and easy to setup in the back ground to maintain communications in the event of a disaster, it’s the safety net to FirstNet.” Mr John Rosica, President of NVIS Communications, the Barrett Communications system integrator in the United States said.

About Barrett Communications

Barrett Communications is the specialist designer and manufacturer of commercial and tactical HF and VHF radio communication systems. The Company’s global distribution and customer support network in over 65 countries allows it to provide both OTS and turnkey network solutions to meet their client’s exact requirements.

Since 1976 Barrett Communications has provided HF communications solutions for government, military, business, humanitarian and AID organizations around the world.

For more information, please visit :

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Seal Beach St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

SCMA member Glen Rothstein (LA-145, KK6OTP) provided the following information and photos:

The City of Seal Beach readies for today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations by setting up multiple crowd control barriers and an Urban Area Mobile Incident Command Post (UAMICP).

Orange County has several UAMICP’s that are shared by the County. Today, they’re operating on Black and Green channels (both encrypted). Seal Beach Lifeguards are also prepared for the expected larger crowds and will be on Aqua (unencrypted) per usual.

On another note, the Seal Beach Chapter of the Lion’s Club is organizing a safe ride home program for those who indulge beyond legal limits.

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SCMA Member Captures USAF C-17 Leaving Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of SCMA member Chester Brown.

Photo courtesy of SCMA member Chester Brown.

SCMA member and frequent photo contributor Chester Brown (LA-203, K6CRB) took this photograph of a U.S. Air Force C-17 taking off from Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport.

The aircraft was in town in support of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to attend the Oscars in Hollywood.

As Chester said in his tweet accompanying this photo: “3 of my fav things, my flag, radios, and badass military planes.”

Thanks Chester for sharing your photograph with our members!

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Culver City Council Seeks Approval to Join South Bay Regional Public Communications Authority


The Culver City Council seeks approval of a five-year contract with the South Bay Regional Public Communications Authority (SBRPCA) to provide emergency dispatch, vehicle build and radio maintenance services to the Culver City Police and Fire Departments.

Should the City Council approve the proposal, the South Bay Regional Public Communications Authority would provide services currently performed by City staff.

The public is invited to participate in a meeting held by Lt. Jason Sims of the Culver City Police Department at the Mike Balkman Council Chambers. The chambers are located at 9770 Culver Boulevard in Culver City. The meeting will begin at 7 PM.

Persons unable to attend the meeting but who wish to submit written comments may do so by any of the following means before  4:00 PM on Monday, March 14, 2016.

  • By letter to City of Culver City, City Clerk’s Office, 9770 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
  • By email to
  • By fax to 310-253-6010

Some interesting background on the SBRPCA via their website:

The South Bay Regional Public Communications Authority (also referred to as “RCC” for Regional Communications Center) has provided police and fire 9-1-1 dispatching since 1977. The RCC processes approximately 250,000 police and fire incidents annually in the Southern California region commonly referred to as the “South Bay.” The RCC is a joint powers authority currently owned by the Cities of Gardena, Hawthorne and Manhattan Beach while also providing communications services to the cities of El Segundo and Hermosa Beach under contract.

The RCC’s Board of Directors, consisting of one City Council member from each of the owner cities, maintains authority over the annual budget approval for the Authority. Policy management of the Authority is relegated to the Executive Committee consisting, of the City Managers from each of the member cities. Day-to-day operations are managed by the Executive Director, who is appointed by the Executive Committee. A User Committee, consisting of police and fire chiefs from the member cities, provides direction relative to the needs of the organization. Police officers and fire fighters from the member cities make up the Police and Fire Task Forces, which provide feedback and recommendations to facilitate an optimum level of service and safety for citizens, police officers and firefighters.

The RCC is currently budgeted for 66 full-time positions. A technical services staff of seven provides radio communication installations, as well as light bars, mobile camera and computer systems and all necessary equipment for full-service, emergency vehicles. These technical services are also provided to the following outside agencies: El Camino College Campus Police Department, Gardena Public Works Department, Hermosa Beach Public Works Department, L.A. Impact, Manhattan Beach Public Works Department and the Redondo Beach Fire Department.

SCMA member Steve Herbert (LA-187, K6CRW), who alerted me of this information, adds that apparently the RCC has originally planned to serve 10 cities, including Culver City back in the mid-1980’s. Culver City pulled out of the plan after it was felt they were too north of the cluster to be practical.





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