Dunn's Dispatch: Communications Strategies

There is a deadly misunderstanding about life-threatening communications in the fire service. This misunderstanding kills firefighters each year. The misunderstanding concerns who is responsible for discovering and communicating life-threatening dangers during fire operations.

Firefighters believe this is the fire chief's responsibility and fire chiefs believe the firefighter is responsible. Who is correct? As long as these two important people on the fireground do not agree on who is responsible for discovering and communicating to others life-threatening information - such as collapse dangers, flashover or potential explosion hazards - we never will reduce firefighter death and injury on the fireground.

How could such a deadly misunderstanding have been created about such an important life-saving procedure; that is, who looks for and communicates fireground dangers and life threatening events during a fire?

I have a confession to make. Fire chiefs unwittingly create this deadly misunderstanding. Over the years, fire chiefs, myself included, have given the impression we can detect or see all fireground hazards about to occur at fires. Sometimes we can, if we have studied firefighting strategy and tactics and fireground safety. However, even with this knowledge, a fire chief will not discover and communicate most life-threatening dangers during a fire. Actually, firefighters are responsible for discovering and communicating life-threatening dangers during a fire.

For more information go to www.vincentdunn.com and use the Google search feature with for: "Deadly Communication Misunderstanding".


Vincent Dunn, a Firehouse Magazine contributing editor, is a 42-year veteran of the FDNY and a deputy chief (ret.), serving as division commander for midtown Manhattan. A nationally renowned lecturer, he is the author of the best-selling text and video series Collapse of Burning Buildings and the textbooks Safety and Survival on the Fireground and Command and Control of Fires and Emergencies. A new book, Strategy of Firefighting - How to Extinguish Fires will be published in April. Dunn has a master's degree in urban studies, a bachelor's degree in sociology and an associate's degree in fire administration from Queens College, City University of New York. He can be reached at 1-800-231-3388 or via through his website at www.vincentdunn.com.

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