February 16, 2024 by Mark Townson

Vehicle Placement – An Important, Often Overlooked Procedure that Can Maximize Coverage with your Vehicle Repeater

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Industries: 9-1-1 & Law Enforcement Federal Fire & EMS

Topics: APX Two-Way Radios & Accessories ASTRO P25 Infrastructure

A vehicle repeater in a vehicle parked outside a large building will typically provide excellent portable radio coverage. But what happens when the alarm is in another area of the building — say, the middle of the twelfth floor? Parking at the front doors might not work quite so well. The right vehicle placement can maximize coverage.

As buildings get bigger and more complex, the location of the vehicle repeater starts to have a significant impact on radio coverage.  Using our example of the twelfth floor, parking the vehicle repeater too close to the building means that the users on that floor will have a very weak or no signal. Radio antennas provide very little signal directly above or below, leaving these devices  “in the null.” 

Stepping back from the building will get them out of the null and improve coverage.  A good rule of thumb is that a good line-of-sight vantage point is also a good place for the vehicle repeater.  Standing right next to the building, it is pretty hard to see the twelfth floor, but step back 60 feet and it is easy.

What can you do to get the best coverage when using a vehicle repeater?

The first step is identifying buildings with poor network coverage.  Then determine whether a vehicle repeater will solve or at least help. 

  1. Park the vehicle repeater in the standard location.
  2. Wear the radio as it would be worn when in the field.  
  3. Before entering the building, turn on the vehicle repeater and do a simple radio check by counting up to five. 
  4. Enter the building and conduct a radio check by counting up to five. Move throughout the building and repeat the radio checks. 
  5. If all the radio checks are successful, you can consider the problem eliminated. Note down the correct location of the vehicle repeater
  6. If coverage issues persist, try moving the vehicle to a different vantage point and repeat the process.

Keep in mind that in a fire where smoke is heavy, responders may need to crawl along the floor. Consider testing for this scenario.

In situations where the building is very big or complex, it may need to be broken into zones.  This is typical in malls, where one location will not provide end to end coverage of the structure. In this case, each zone may require separate testing.

So what should my agency do next?

Once testing has been completed, the results should be uploaded to the CAD system so that users know the following:

  1. Is it a “vehicle repeater required” building?
  2. Is there an optimal location to park?
  3. Is this a building where even the vehicle repeater does not work and talkaround and “human repeaters” are the only option?

Vehicle Repeaters are a great solution to address in-building coverage. With a little pre-planning and testing, your agency can increase personnel safety and maximize your investment. 

Contact your local Motorola Solutions Account Manager to discuss your RF coverage challenges.

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