Truck Company Ops

Fireground Communications

By Mark van der Feyst

Communications in the fire service plays a vital role in how well a fire department responds, reacts, and conducts itself in its day-to-day operations. A breakdown in communications leads to a dysfunctional fire department or fireground. The fire services uses different types of communications with which we should all be familiar and well versed such as written, face-to-face (photo 1), electronic, and radio.

In the station, we are exposed to written, face-to-face, and electronic communications. Written communications will include memos, communiques, e-mails, bulletins, and so on. These are usually posted somewhere for all to see or they may be directed at one person. Either way, there is time for the receiver to read the item and gain an understanding of it.

There is also time to ask questions for clarification and to engage in a discussion about the content of the written material. Electronic communication will be in the form of an e-mail sent by mobile phone, text message (either individual or group), or social media postings. These types of communications will (usually) be directed to a single person or to a group of people that have access to the media. The message is going to be short and sweet with little room for interpretation or discussion. The idea of electronic communication is to have quick dialogue with one or more person.

On the firegound, we are limited to certain types of communication such as radio, electronic, and face-to-face. Portable radio is the most common type of communication for most firefighters. A portable radio allows a team of firefighters to remain in contact with the incident commander (IC) as well as each other; it is a lifeline for the firefighter working on the fireground. Without it, they are left to more primitive ways to communicate such as face to face. The portable radio gives distance to the working crew by allowing it to be farther away from the IC and still be able to report back to him or receive messages. Knowing how to use the portable radio correctly is the key to effective fireground communications.

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