Provincial Natural Resource Sector Radio System

Communication Services - Radio Operations

Approximately 85% of the Province is covered by the government’s Natural Resource Sector (NRS) two-way radio communication network. Radio communication is essential for natural resource workers who are fighting forest fires, conducting forest safety checks or need assistance while in the field.

Access

B.C. government employees, and private contractors serving the government, can apply to access the radio network by submitting the form:

Network

  • 331 mountain top repeater sites arranged into district systems
  • 100 base stations
  • 6 regional fire centres (each with multiple dispatch stations)

Most of the mountain top repeater sites are solar powered and transmitters are limited to 5 watts, which restricts the type of equipment that can be used. Otherwise, equipment is reliable up to failures caused by natural forces, such as ice and snow blocking solar panels, or lightning strikes.

Network use can be expensive but is necessary for ensuring safety and reliable information exchange. Satellite failures of Globalstar and Iridium systems have made satellite phones unreliable.

Radios

Standard issue NRS handheld radios models are the Icom F30, F3033, F3 and Kenwood NX-210. The Icom F3 is reserved for fire stock and firefighters only. While the F3 has only 32 channels, it can run up to 16 hours on its AA battery pack. Mobile (truck) radios have been replaced by the Kenwood TK-7180 and NX-700. Radio equipment is serviced and maintained by communication services radio operations staff.

Training and Other Information

Radio Repeater Sites

The NRS radio system is "line of sight" communications. When the person of contact is behind a hill or in the next valley, the radio signal needs to be transferred through a repeater to contact. These repeaters are linked into the district systems and fire centres. Its works like a party line since anyone in the district can receive and return your call. Call signs are used to connect with the correct person. Provincial repeaters are linked into natural resource districts and fire centre systems.

Fire Repeaters

Fire Repeaters, designed and built by radio operations personnel, are quick deploy units used to temporarily enhance radio communications for fire fighters in areas with poor coverage. Fire Repeaters can be linked into the NRS radio system, or when additional radio channels are required, to work as a stand-alone unit. 

Fire Repeaters consist of the following:

  • Radio repeater in an orange box:
    • receiver
    • transmitter
    • duplexer
  • Magnetic mount antenna on top of the orange box
  • Battery in a silver box
  • Solar panel to charge the battery during the day

A duplexer allows the radio to transmit on one frequency and receive on another frequency at the same time. 

There are two types of Fire Repeaters:

  • Type A can be linked to others of the same "A" type to form a small independent radio network. However, Type A repeaters can be linked into the NRS radio system network. 
  • The Type B or "Rainbow" fire repeater, uses ministry colour channels and can be linked into the district network and Fire Centres.

Maintenance and Repair

Maintenance and repair are vital to keep the system working reliably. This includes environmental testing of repeater equipment to confirm its operation between minus 40 degrees Celsius and plus 60 degrees Celsius (before installation or after repairs). 

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