Some Thoughts on Fireground Communication

Communication is a whole lot more than radios and whether or not they work.

Think about the communication that occurs in your department and then think about the following statement: Will what I am about to say into the radio cause anyone to do anything? We give reports, we do an awful lot of chatter, but are we saying anything? Let’s look at a couple of reports and then let’s try to make them better.

Engine 2 is on the scene, 2 story wood frame, smoke showing.

OK, that is pretty good and a lot better than what we used to do, but what did it do for me?

Engine 2 is on the scene, 2 story wood, smoke showing, I am advancing an 1 3/4 line into the C side door.

I now have the same information but I know the crew is around the back and advancing the line. I now have some idea about the size of the attack and where my people are and I have used about 1 more second of air time! How much air time gets wasted now?

Five minutes later that crew of engine 2 reports back…

Portable engine 2, (or engine 200) we have a lot of smoke but no heat, still checking.

Not bad, I know the crew is OK, and they have not found the source of the fire yet.

How about this?

Basement division to command, lots of smoke but no heat still checking.

I now know that the crew that went into the back door has found the basement stairs and has changed levels. This entire incident could be a furnace incident.

Just by thinking if what you say is going to make someone do something, we can do wonders to improve how we communicate on the emergency scene.

Having a company use the terminology of where they are located in the building aids in our ability to both track where they are and where I may need to send a FAST team (or RIT) to get them if they are in trouble. The problem is that we know that firefighters move throughout the building and they rarely report when they change locations. We
continue to traditionally use portable numbers or identifiers rather than location designations. This has an effect on firefighter, safety, accountability and operations in general.

Spend some time modifying what you say and the way you say it…you might just save somebody’s life by doing it!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013