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Fire Shelters Weaken Transmissions From Hand-Held Radios

A study conducted by MTDC shows that when firefighters use their hand-held radios inside fire shelters, the transmissions often are blocked.

When firefighters were inside the shelters and within 50 feet of each other, they could communicate using the older VHF (very high frequency, 30 to 300 megahertz) Bendix-King radios. They could not communicate using the newer UHF (ultra high frequency, 300 to 3,000 megahertz) Motorola Astro XTS 3000 radios.

[photo] two radios

Newer Motorola radio (left) and Bendix radio (right).

In either case, the signals were considerably weaker when the radios were used inside the New Generation Fire Shelter rather than inside the standard fire shelter it is replacing.

Firefighters should not expect to use their hand-held radios when they are trapped inside their fire shelters. They will have to wait until the fire has safely passed before they leave their shelters and try to reestablish communications with each other and with their supervisors.

A tech tip, Fire Shelters Weaken Transmissions from Hand-Held Radios (0351–2342–MTDC), available from MTDC, describes the findings in more detail.

For more information on VHF and UHF radio performance in fire shelters, contact Ted Etter, project leader (phone: 406–329–3980; fax: 406–329–3719; e-mail:

An electronic version of the tech tip can be found on the Internet at: 2342

To order the tech tip, contact Cailen Hegman, MTDC publications (phone: 406–329–3978; fax: 406–329–3719; e-mail:

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