Rule 5: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Without a doubt, the process of communicating is critical in every phase of emergency services work. Interestingly enough, how effective we are at communicating on the emergency scene will likely determine the outcome of the success or failure of our...


Without a doubt, the process of communicating is critical in every phase of emergency services work. Interestingly enough, how effective we are at communicating on the emergency scene will likely determine the outcome of the success or failure of our events. In fact, next to operational tactics...


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Without a doubt, the process of communicating is critical in every phase of emergency services work. Interestingly enough, how effective we are at communicating on the emergency scene will likely determine the outcome of the success or failure of our events. In fact, next to operational tactics, strategy, and execution, proper and effective communications are likely the next most important process that we engage in performing. When communications are effective all seems to go well and when they don't, disaster occurs just about every time.

There are brilliant case studies that identify examples of great communications and studies that describe very, very poor ones. Both will be explored in this column, along with ways to ensure that your critical communications processes are effective. Non-emergency situations require effective communications as well, but the focus of this article will be that of what happens while we are working on the streets.

The $64,000 question to be considered is whether two people can have perfect communications under ideal conditions. As you have likely guessed, this is a trick question. A hint: Are you married or do you have any teenagers at home? Usually, these notions elicit a chuckle or two from most folks, understanding that the process of perfect communications is difficult at best even under ideal conditions. Starting with the basic concept of communicating an idea or thought is developed by a person sending (sender) a message to another person (receiver). This message must travel through some sort of medium, perhaps a portable radio, to the receiving person. Generally, there is some sort of interference (background noise, accents, volume to mention just a few) that degrades the quality of the message. Then the receiving person has to decode the message to provide feedback or take action.

Here's a personal example. In 1990, my son was in the final approach to graduate from high school. He was a good student (Bs and Cs), a quality athlete and in general a very well-behaved young man during his attendance. Well, at about T-minus six weeks, my son asked me to buy him a car to reward him for his efforts. Needless to say, I agreed with very little thought, knowing that he had performed so well.

In the flash of the instant of me saying yes to his request, he was visioning sporting around in a Corvette or perhaps it was a Porsche or same equally exotic and expensive automobile. I had clearly thought that the family VW Bug would be the ticket. Perhaps with new paint, tires, brakes and a little body work, I would be able to provide him with great transportation for an investment of about $1,000. Needless to say, we were both taken aback (a lot for me) in trying to understand each other's concept of a graduation gift. Had our communications failed? The compromise was a pickup truck that was a few years old and bought from a local car dealer.

Now, I must ask, do you think that my namesake was wearing a facepiece and talking to me through an 800-MHz portable radio? Dennis was not crawling through smoke or under great stress in an IDLH atmosphere while he was communicating with his dad. Think back to the situation of the discussion; it was under ideal and relaxed conditions. Neither the sender nor the receiver had to compete with screaming sirens or roaring diesel engines. I assure you that there was no breaking glass, smoke detectors or fire alarm systems squealing providing interference noises.

Tricks of the Trade

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