So long to an old frequency

Something happened in our Westshore communities at the end of 2012 that gave the same sort of feeling to this Westlake radio enthusiast that many of the city’s residents likely had when the Red Brick School was demolished.

The occurrence I speak of is that of the Westshore fire departments of Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River and Westlake moving their radio operations off of the frequency 154.250 megahertz (MHz) and on to a very sophisticated, interoperable radio system – allowing for communication with outside agencies – occupying a number of much higher frequencies. (This radio system move has been confirmed by viewing official documentation online.) Prior to this move the radios of those departments found their home on 154.250 MHz using a simpler communications system for a number of decades, going back at least to the 1960s.

I initially became aware of the radio presence of our local fire departments around 1970 or so, as a relatively young person when my parents gave me a little AM/FM radio that also tuned in “VHF High Band” two-way radio conversations, the VHF High Band being a conventionally agreed upon range of frequencies. It just so happened that the police and fire departments of our Westshore suburbs conducted their radio operations on the VHF High Band so, after discovering this, a new radio enthusiast was born.

Also helping to fuel this radio geekdom was the (albeit simulated) use of two-way radio communication in the television series "Dragnet" and "Adam-12." For some reason I was fascinated by the close-up of the Motorola control unit that tended to find itself in scenes involving mobile radio use on these programs.

To throw in a bit of television trivia here, on both the TV shows "Dragnet" (the later version with Harry Morgan as Officer Bill Gannon) and "Adam-12" the call sign “KMA367” would be heard during enacted radio conversations. That call sign actually was issued by the Federal Communications Commission to the City of Los Angeles for their police radio communications system back when those shows were produced. While the LAPD now uses a number of much newer, more sophisticated radio systems with their associated FCC licenses and call signs, they maintain the old KMA367 license to this day (verified on the FCC's online license database). 

Anyway, to get back to the point, our local fire departments' radio operations being on 154.250 MHz was, to me, something that seemed would always be a given, much as the Red Brick School building seemed likely to always be keeping watch over Dover Center Road in the minds of many. While I would indeed find it comforting if both that radio frequency and the Red Brick School had been kept in use, sometimes things find themselves needing to give way for progress.

As a note, my early interest in our local public safety forces radio communications spurred a lifelong interest in radio, including a couple of periods of activity in Amateur (ham) Radio. While I haven’t been active in ham radio for some time, it has in the past given me many opportunities to serve the community, such as in helping to provide communications for running events, bicycle tours – particularly the Bike MS: Pedal to the Point – and assisting in amateur radio licensing courses. For others interested in community service, Amateur Radio can provide a great vehicle for just that.

Dan Hirschfeld

I'm just a longtime resident of the Bay Village and Westlake area (Bay `65 to `77 then Westlake since) who's always enjoyed living here and have seen lots of change.

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Volume 5, Issue 2, Posted 11:43 AM, 01.22.2013