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How US Ski Patrol & Other Agencies Are Cutting Communications Costs

Date: 2013-06-28
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Public Safety Agencies Play Key Role in Product Development  

Search & rescue, public safety, and other government agencies are actively working with communication equipment manufacturers to develop unique, industry-adaptive products that are reliable enough to meet extreme working conditions, yet affordable enough to be purchased by an unpaid volunteer.

Radios are consistently used as a viable solution to provide dependable communications across numerous agencies, especially during times of emergency. But with costs sometimes soaring well beyond $5,000 per radio, many organizations are finding it difficult to outfit their personnel with these communication devices; volunteer organizations being hit the hardest. Recognizing the need for affordable, high-quality radio products, two companies—Pryme Radio Products and Powerwerx—have collaborated with customers to develop superior communication devices, accommodating the needs of various types of agencies on a tighter budget. 

The National Ski Patrol and U.S. volunteer Fire Departments are two major rescue organizations that rely on the services of unpaid citizens. Both operate on little to no allowance—meaning their volunteers are often expected to purchase their own equipment. These volunteers, who often work alongside paid public safety professionals from larger agencies, need gear that is just as dependable and durable as the equipment used by their paid counterparts—but at a fraction of the cost. 

Beyond just affordable, radios and accessory parts need to be rugged enough to retain functionality through extreme conditions. Search and Rescue teams often see temperatures well below freezing; on the flipside, firefighters brave scorching flames that easily reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Typical radio cords and rubber speaker-mics, which work well under conventional circumstances, quickly wear out in less than a year under these harsh conditions. Equipment replacement easily adds up to a costly expense, a key reason behind the modification of materials used on Pryme’s speaker-mic and earpiece cords.  

“Pryme came up with the idea to add a Kevlar® reinforcement fiber inside the cable on a lot of the radio products we carry,” Kevin Karamanos of Powerwerx said, “It keeps the integrity of the product, and they last a lot longer. It’s critical when you are on the field—whether you’re below zero or at 120 degrees—to have something you can rely on.”  

Dependable, affordable communications are essential to not only the thousands of unpaid Search and Rescue, National Ski Patrol teams and 17,000 volunteer firefighters, but also rural police and sheriff department officers and National Park Service rangers. Similar to volunteers, these agencies must brave the elements of the outdoors on a very modest budget—requiring devices that will provide years of reliability without breaking the bank. Simple yet intuitive changes were made to address the specific needs of these individuals, one being the location of the ear piece jack. 

“Originally, Pryme’s receive ear jack was on the top of the microphone...but their latest design has the plug-in jack at the bottom—so if it’s raining, water won’t get into the microphone,” Kevin Karamanos continued, “you can imagine they work well anywhere in North America or all over the world…from search and rescue folks in freezing conditions, to a park ranger on a boat being hit with salt or water spray. Anything we can do to keep the moisture out of the radio or speaker-mic is a win-win and will last a lot longer.” 

But improvements such as these did not appear in a vacuum. Meticulous attention to customer feedback, suggestions, and modifications has helped companies like these adapt their products to meet the demands of clientele at every level. Customers play an integral role in product development and improvement. 

“Pryme has always been responsive to our needs. We give [customer] suggestions and inputs, and if they can incorporate it on a future design—they’ll do it,” Karamanos stated, “it doesn’t necessarily cost more to get a better-built product and make sure customers are happy.”

- Corporate News/9-1-1magazine.com (via Pryme Radio, 6/19/13)

 

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