When you’re in a high-risk situation, nothing is more important than effective communication to keep you and fellow officers alive. Equipment that keeps you in touch with other tactical officers is invaluable at such times.
Whether you’re serving a high-risk warrant or attempting to enter a building where a barricaded subject is holding hostages, you and your team need to be able to clearly hear each other at all times. Headsets, radio accessories, and other communications equipment designed specifically for tactical missions offer hands-free communication and comfortable, low-profile designs that make your job a lot easier.
MARVA, from Audiopack, is an NBC-hardened communications tool that coordinates a voice amplifier, lapel mic, and push-to-talk functions. The acronym MARVA stands for MAsk Radio Voice Amplifier.
Developed from Audiopack’s fire service communication device, the product was redesigned for tactical use with input from U.S. Special Forces. Taking into account the wide range of communications applications often necessary for tactical settings, MARVA was designed to transmit sound via a headset, throat mic, Invisio bone mic, or internal M-45 mask mic. If any headset fails, a backup lapel mic will take over communications duties.
Also, a dual operation version of MARVA operates two separate radios controlled by push-to-talk switches. This version allows a SWAT operations team leader to speak to a barricaded suspect and an entry team; his team on one radio and command on another; or two entry teams.
For special situations, MARVA can be operated while wearing a headset with a mic and speaker attached to a gas mask without wires penetrating protective gear. The entire system can be decontaminated.
CeoTronics’ new lightweight audio communications accessory for two-way radios, the CT-CombatCom System, provides a high level of speech and comfort and is available in one-sided and two-sided versions. The earpiece does not cover the entire ear, allowing important surrounding noises to be heard. The system connects to every standard professional radio and has a function for DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) to block out interference. It’s also compatible with multiple helmets and can be adapted in the field. CeoTronics manufactures a large variety of tactical headsets, including lightweight action headsets with vibration speakers and noise-reduction microphones as well as specialty headsets for covert operations that include bone and earmike operation and are compatible with all major protective masks and SCBA units.
All of CeoTronics’ systems are available with a wide variety of push-to-talk options, from large “paddle” units to operate under HAZMAT suits, to silent PTTs for tactical ops, to “remote” PTTs for use in “sniper-oriented” and “SWAT” activities that allow officers to keep both hands on their weapons.
CeoTronics also manufactures wireless digital short-range radio networks, covert security systems, and video surveillance systems for law enforcement.
The Tactical Communications Unit, or TCU-02, from CME Electronics can easily establish first communication with a barricaded subject. The hands-free system takes only minutes to set up and operates from 12-volt automotive or 120-volt commercial power, eliminating the worry about dead batteries before or during a negotiation.
Outputs on the device allow a second negotiator to attach his headphones and listen to conversations with a subject while another output connects to a tape recorder for recording both sides of the communication. Optional equipment includes a remote speaker for division commanders and covert microphones for multiple listening points.
To ensure secure communications, the push-to-talk switch on the TCU-02 has an indicator light that provides visual notification to the operator that the unit is in the talk mode.
Recently acquired by SureFire, EarPro makes a complete line of in-the-ear communications and hearing protection gear for police, security, and military applications.
The foundation of the basic EarPro system is the E1 EarPro custom open earpiece insert. Some communications systems require that the earpiece be molded to fit the user’s ear. EarPro takes a much more convenient approach. The company has determined that the majority of ears can be fit with one of four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra large. The inserts are made in America of FDA-approved material, and they are both comfortable and durable.
In addition to the basic EarPro system, the company also makes SWAT Ears. This in-the-ear system both magnifies and muffles sound. The system pumps up the volume so you can hear whispers and other soft noises at an amplification of 20dB. However, when a gunshot is fired, it reduces the noise to safe levels so that you retain your hearing during an operation. It can be worn with helmets and respirators.
The EarPro system is also two-way. Both beam and lapel mics are available for the system.
Recognizing the need for many agencies to migrate their existing analog systems into modern digital communications, Icom’s P25-compliant F70D series portable and F1720D series mobile radios offer agencies several options through which to upgrade their systems.
Each radio has a maximum of 256 channels, and each of those channels may be designated for digital use, analog use, or mixed mode use, all within the same unit. This allows agencies to continue using their existing analog systems for day-to-day communications and still meet the federal government’s digital interoperability requirements. As an organization’s P25 capabilities grow, analog channels within these Icom radios may be switched to digital mode.
Two versions of Icom’s digital radios are available. The company’s full P25 version comes ready for programming, right out of the box. A second version does not come with P25 capability, but can be flash upgraded to P25 later. A third, analog-only version of the F70 series and the F1720 series radios are also available.
Full keypad versions or partial keypad styles of Icom’s new P25 digital and conventional radios are available, as are wide band VHF or UHF models.
International Safety Instruments
ISI’s Viking ST SCBA with hands-free two-way radio communication has NIOSH CBRN approval for tactical law enforcement use. The built-in communication system uses an in-mask waterproof microphone, a unique earpiece speaker, and a radio link to other officers’ radios. The mic doesn’t pick up external noise that could interfere with clear transmission and the amplifier is voice activated for hands-free use.
A light display built into the nosepiece inside the facemask notifies the wearer of the SCBA’s status. Visible only to the officer inside, a steady green light acknowledges radio transmission, while a flashing red light indicates low cylinder pressure and a yellow light comes on to indicate when batteries are low and need changing.
The control console houses the stealth mode and voice amplification functions. Voice amplification is standard on all units. It is connected to the waterproof microphone mounted inside the facemask. For radio integration, all that’s needed is an interface cable that attaches to an existing radio.
This lightweight, easy-to-use, low-profile, hands-free SCBA system was designed by law enforcement officers for use by tactical officers, SWAT teams, and bomb squads.
PCL Communications’ SoundWaves ultralight 2.5 and 3.5 headsets feature Kevlar reinforcing for durability and medical-grade hearing aid speakers and plastics for performance in tactical situations.
The headsets’ patented behind-the-ear (BTE) design places the speaker directly behind the user’s ear to maximize sound quality. A unique open-style earmold is incorporated into the system with specific features that lock it into place while still allowing the user to hear ambient sounds.
The BTE system was designed to allow officers to maintain radio contact while masking audio communications during tactical maneuvers. This listening system also delivers very clear sound with a speaker tuned specifically for human speech.
PCL Communications manufactures five models of BTE systems, incorporating receive-only as well as transmit-and-receive configurations.
Peltor’s “listening” headsets help protect against harmful noise while amplifying low-level ambient sounds.
The new SwatTacII headset is uniquely designed to give users instantaneous protection from dangerous impulse noise such as gunfire along with the distortion-free amplification of low-level sounds such as conversation and commands. SwatTecII’s electronics are designed to limit amplified sounds to 82 dBA.
With its slim-line earcup design, this headset can be worn under a wide variety of ballistic and SWAT helmets. In addition, with a large selection of inline push-to-talk radio connections, the headset can be integrated into any new or existing radio system.
Peltor’s 2-way radio headsets, PowerCom and PowerComPLUS, eliminate the need for belt radios on shooting ranges and in high-noise training sessions. The headsets feature a programmable frequency range between 462MHz and 467MHz, 30-channel capability, privacy tones to avoid unwanted frequency noise, voice-activated transmitting, a push-to-talk button on the back left ear cup, and a noise-canceling boom microphone. The standard headband models are also available in an alternate neckband configuration.
Television Equipment Associates
Known for its tactical headsets, Television Equipment Associates actively seeks to improve upon its products with new technology and designs, both to enhance comfort and function.
In keeping with this philosophy, TEA has designed the High Threat Headset (HTH), which provides active hearing protection and hypersensitive ambient noise amplification.
Two separate, well-shielded mics create optimum stereo effect and allow the user to better locate the direction a sound is coming from. This system protects the user’s hearing from concussion damage while amplifying ambient sound to a degree that a faint whisper or sound of movement can be heard.
The HTH fits under tactical helmets and accommodates gas masks and goggles. The included noise-canceling boom microphone adapts to gas masks and SCBA voice emitters for improved communication when gas is deployed. The headset also features a press-to-talk switch and a plug compatible with most radios.
Television Equipment Associates’ redesigned Invisio bone mic headset uses a light material that is more comfortable and durable than in previous incarnations of the product. The Invisio microphone and loudspeaker are contained in one earcup, which allows for reliable and clear communications even in a high-noise area. Invisio only picks up voice vibrations so that other outside noises cannot be heard by the person on the other end.