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ARMER FAQ

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So, you have a lot of questions about this ARMER radio system, huh?  Join the group!!!!!  It seems that the good ole days of just entering a frequency into a scanner and hearing your local police department are long gone.  But, if you enjoy unscrambling the pieces of a puzzle, this is a whole new game.  So, let's see if we can't get you some basic information and point you in the right direction.
 
Q:  What is ARMER?
A:  ARMER is an acronym for Minnesota's statewide radio system.  It stands for: Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response.  It is a radio system that operates in the 800 MHz range, it is a trunking radio system, and it is all digital.
 
Q:  What scanners can monitor this radio system?
A:  The only scanners that can monitor this system are: 
           Uniden BCD396T (BCD396XT) (handheld)
           Uniden BCD996T (base/mobile)
           Uniden BC296D (handheld--no longer manufactured)
           Uniden BC796D (base/mobile--no longer manufactured)
           Radio Shack PRO-96 (handheld)
           Radio Shack PRO-106 (handheld)
           Radio Shack PRO-197 (base/mobile)
           Radio Shack PRO-2096
           GRE PSR500 (handheld)
           GRE PSR600 (base/mobile)
If you don't have one of the scanners listed above, you cannot monitor this system--NO OTHER SCANNERS CAN TRACK THIS DIGITAL TRUNKED SYSTEM!
 
Q:  What agencies are using this system?
A:  Just about every public safety agency, ambulance, and fire department in the 7 county metro area have made the switch.  Many surrounding counties (Sherburne, Chisago, Isanti) either have switched or are testing the new system.
 
Q:  I thought you said this was a statewide system?
A:  It is!  The state has been divided up into different areas (usually the same as a MnDOT or State Patrol district) and the system will be implimented in phases.  The first phases were in the metro area.  That was followed by the Rochester and St. Cloud areas.  The others should be rolled out in this order:
           -Duluth & Brainerd
           -Mankato, Marshall, & Detroit Lakes
           -Eveleth
However, Itasca County has made the switch to the digital system.
Here are some links to where you might locate an ARMER system radio tower.
           -Statewide Map (pdf and hard to read)
           -Metro Area (link to MN Metroscan FAQ)
           -Rochester (link to RadioReference thread with map in the post)
           -St. Cloud (link to RadioReference thread with map in the post)
 
Q:  What is a trunking radio system?
A:  First, you must understand what a conventional radio system is. 
There are several types of conventional radio communications.  One is "simplex."  That is where units use one frequency to talk to each other.  For this example we'll use the tactical frequency for the Chisago County Sheriff's Department (153.860).  One unit will transmit on that frequency and another unit will be able to hear on that frequency.  Simplex frequencies are limited by transmit power and line-of-sight.
Then there is a repeated radio system, or "duplex."  Again, we'll use Chisago County for this example.  On a duplex system, a unit will transmit on one frequency referred to as the "input" frequency (155.910).  That signal will be broadcast from the squad car into the repeater or tower.  Then, the repeater takes that signal, amplifies it, and re-broadcasts it (immediately) on another frequency, referred to as the "output" frequency (155.310).  The output frequency is the frequency that you would normally put into your scanner to hear things clearly.  It is also the frequency that other squad cars would monitor to hear other units.  The benefit a repeated/duplex system has over a simplex system is that it greatly increases the range of the radio broadcast.  The antenna for a repeated system is usually 100-200 feet above the ground and it has greater power to broadcast the signal.
So, now we are at trunked systems.  Trunked radio systems use multiple radio frequencies and allow many agencies to use the same radio system and the same frequencies.  The number of frequencies used in a trunking system may vary from 3 to maybe 50 (or possibly even more I imagine).  A trunking system involves computer control.  When someone keys up the radio, the computer will tell the radio what frequency to transmit on. [It is actually much more complicated than that, but I'm trying to keep it simple]  The frequencies that are used to transmit will change frequently.  So, since several agencies may be sharing frequencies, how do you know who is transmitting.  Well, every channel in the radio is assigned a talkgroup.  On a trunking scanner you need not only the frequency the agency is using, but also the talkgroup.
The benefits to a trunked system are that more units and agencies can use fewer frequencies.  Also, the benefit to a statewide system is that (ideally) every agency in the state will be able to communicate with each other.
 
Q:  I have one of the scanners listed above, but what frequencies do I need to enter?
A:  Well programming a trunked system can get complicated.  But, thankfully, with the ARMER system, you only need to enter the CONTROL CHANNELS (and alternate control channels).  Those are the frequencies that talk to the computer.
 
Q:  How do I program my new scanner?
A:  Don't go there!  These new breed of scanners can be mind blowing and frustrating.  And while I cannot tell you how to program a scanner that is specific to your needs, I can give you one important piece of advice.  GET THE SOFTWARE TO PROGRAM YOUR SCANNER!!!!!  Each scanner has software made for it, and let me tell you, it makes things soooooo much easier.
 
Q:  You have frequencies in both red and gray on the ECMScanning website.  What is the difference?
A:  Everything is red is related to conventional scanning.  Everything in gray is related to the ARMER system.
 
Q:  Where can I find more information about this stuff?
A:  I often direct people to the following links:
           -MN Metroscan's Monitoring FAQ
           -RadioReference Wiki
           -What is Trunking?
           -ScanFan's Message Board
 
Q:  Does anyone have a sample file of the ARMER system I can download and try?
A:  Some people have posted their files online.  You could download them and "tinker" with them until you get what fits your needs.
           -The following Yahoo Groups have files you can download if you are a member of the group:
                      -BCD396T Yahoo Group
                      -BCD996T Yahoo Group
                      -PRO-96 Yahoo Group
                      -ScanMN Yahoo Group

 
 
Stie Last Updated: 6/8/09