Halifax County (NS) Regional Fire and Emergency

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Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) is the department providing firefighting and other emergency services to Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

HRFE consists of 5 divisions and 51 stations; divisions 2 (stations 2-8 & 58) and 3 (stations 9-18) represent the urban or "core" stations staffed 24/7 by career firefighters and covers the Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Sackville areas, while divisions 1 (stations 59-65), 4 (stations 35-48) and 5 (stations 19-33) represent the rural stations which are primarily volunteer-run, with some stations providing career coverage.

For a complete list of stations, including assigned apparatus, please visit the following web page:


HRFE is dispatched from the municipality's Integrated Emergency Services dispatching centre, which also dispatches Halifax Regional Police. A computer aided dispatch (CAD) system allows the dispatchers to quickly determine the correct stations and appratus to page out for a call.

The initial dispatch is transmitted on a network of VHF transmitters using Motorola two-tone sequential paging, while actual communication between dispatch and responding units happens on the TMR trunked radio system. In addition, mobile data terminals are in the process of being installed in apparatus, allowing responding units to acknowledge calls and send status messages to dispatch, such as informing dispatch that they are on scene, without using the radio; at this point all core apparatus appear to be completed. For rural stations, HRFE makes use of the "I Am Responding" app, allowing volunteers to indicate to dispatch via the app on their smartphones that they are en route to the station, allowing incident commanders to have a better idea of how many resources are soon en route.

TMR Operations

Actual on-scene operations are assigned one of 8 ops talkgroups (numbered ops 2-9) on the TMR. For calls within the core region, the ops talkgroup is assigned when the call is paged out, and responding units are expected to switch to the assigned ops talkgroup at that time, where as for calls in the rural region the ops talkgroup is not given until the first unit has arrived on scene and assumed command; this is because the main dispatch talkgroup is simulcast over the VHF paging transmitters, so that any volunteers still responding to their stations can monitor the initial response on their voice pagers.

Of the 8 ops talkgroups, at least one of them (ops 7) is known to be connected to a vehicle repeater system operating in the 800 MHz band for use in large buildings which may impede radio communications; all core engines and quints, as well as command vehicles, are believed to have the vehicle repeater system installed, and portable radios when switched to ops 7 would communicate with the vehicle repeater on the appropriate frequency, which would then relay the transmission to the TMR network via the nearest TMR tower.

Interoperability and Mutual Aid

In addition to the 8 HRFE ops talkgroups, HRFE radios are programmed with a selection of the provincial fire ops talkgroups which can be used for mutual aid responses involving non-HRM fire departments; it is known that HRFE radios have access to the provincial fire ops 39 and 40, which are used by non-HRFE stations in neighbouring Hants county, therefore it is likely that HRFE radios would also have provincial ops talkgroups for other neighbouring counties such as Lunenburg and Guysborough. If however a call in a neighbouring county has already been established on a provincial ops talkgroup that HRFE radios do not have access to, HRFE dispatchers can always patch any of the 56 provincial ops talkgroups to any of the 8 HRFE ops talkgroups.

Other interoperability talkgroups includes the eight provincial Mutual Aid talkgroups which are programmed into all TMR radios, the Emergency Health Services (EHS) AMT Air talkgroup used for communicating with the EHS LifeFlight medevac helicopters (mostly used when the fire department is called upon to set up a landing zone for the helicopter), as well as a dedicated talkgroup for mutual aid with airport fire crews at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

In addition, all HRFE radios have access to the provincial 800 MHz interoperability simplex channels, as well as HRM-specific simplex channels, however it would be extremely unusual to hear anything other than training on those channels, as dispatch would not be able to monitor the situation.


HRFE operates a network of VHF paging transmitters located at 16 physical sites, as well as a backup network in the case of loss of connectivity to one of those sites.

A list of paging sites, their frequencies, and area of coverage is below. Note that the East Preston site has both a core and rural transmitter, however they are separate.

Division Transmitter site Frequency Stations
Core 2 & 3 Lower Sackville 151.4 MHz 2 - 11
Core 3 East Preston 152.18 MHz 12 - 18
Core 2 & 3 Maritime Centre 155.4 MHz 4 & 13 (volunteers)
Rural 1 Queensland 153.89 MHz 55 - 56
Rural 1 Prospect 154.28 MHz 52 - 54
Rural 1 Hammonds Plains 152.06 MHz 50, 58, 65
Rural 1 Harrietsfield 150.185 MHz 60, 62
Rural 4 Upper Sackville 154.415 MHz 41 - 48 & Mount Uniacke fire department
Rural 4 Chaswood 154.13 MHz 35, 36, 38
Rural 4 Shubenacadie 154.28 MHz 40, Enfield fire department
Rural 4 Upper Musquodoboit 152.06 MHz 39
Rural 5 East Preston 153.89 MHz 19 - 22
Rural 5 Musquodoboit Harbour 151.505 MHz 23 - 25
Rural 5 Oyster Pond 152.06 MHz 26
Rural 5 Tangier 154.13 MHz 30, 31
Rural 5 Sheet Harbour 154.28 MHz 28, 33
Rural 5 Ecum Secum 154.175 MHz 29


The core stations are paged from one of two sites, Lower Sackville and East Preston, with a third site at the Maritime Centre building in downtown Halifax providing additional coverage to the volunteers who augment stations 4 and 13. Pages for core stations are only transmitted on the transmitter which covers the intended station; therefore, as a scanner listener, it is necessary to program at least the Lower Sackville (151.4) and East Preston (152.18) core transmitters to hear all calls (Maritime Centre on 155.4 will almost always be activated along with one of the other two transmitters).


Pages to rural stations are simultaneously transmitted on all 14 transmitters that cover the rural divisions; therefore as a scanner listener, it is not necessary to program all rural pager frequencies to hear all rural calls, only the nearest or the best signal. As well, all transmissions on the main dispatch talkgroup on the TMR are simulcast over the rural paging transmitters (but not the core transmitters), as described in the previous section.

In addition to being able to page individual stations, entire rural divisions can be paged out at once using a different set of tones, alerting all volunteers in a division; as divisions 4 and 5 are geographically quite large, they're actually subdivided for paging purses into four smaller paging divisions, 4 east (stations 35-40) and west (41-48), and 5 east (28-33) and west (19-26). Evening pager tests, which are conducted at approximately 7:00 PM, are usually sent as divisional pages, which individual stations only being paged on certain nights of the week.

Backup paging

In the event of a communications failure between the dispatching centre and a rural paging transmitter, a backup paging system exists which uses three backup hub sites to relay pages to the usual transmitter sites via a UHF frequency; the VHF transmitter site receives the UHF transmission from its hub site, and relays it on the usual VHF frequency to be received by the volunteer pagers. The hub sites, and the transmitter sites that they serve, are Geizers Hill (Queensland, Prospect, Harrietsfield, Hammonds Plains, East Preston rural and Upper Sackville), Marinette (Musquodoboit Harbour, Oyster Pond, Tangier, Sheet Harbour and Ecum Secum) and Chaplin (Upper Musquodoboit, Chaswood and Shubenacadie).

It appears that backup paging is only ever sent as divisional pages, described in the previous section, not as individual station pages. In fact the nightly pager tests, when transmitted as a divisional page, are always sent using the backup network.

In addition to the backup paging, HRM used to have an entire backup radio network (in the 800 MHz band) which could be used by both fire as well as police in the event of a TMR failure; this radio network used the same backup hubs as the paging network, and some paging sites had the additional 800 MHz equipment installed. This system however appears to no longer be active.

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