Communication Solutions: Part 1 – The 8 Words of Life Safety

Mark Emery stresses the need for improving your fireground communication.


Assuming that your radio batteries are charged, your communication hardware works and your dispatchers are in the loop, I guarantee that this series of articles will improve your fireground communication. By standardizing the strategic meaning of common fireground words, you will hold the key...


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Assuming that your radio batteries are charged, your communication hardware works and your dispatchers are in the loop, I guarantee that this series of articles will improve your fireground communication.

By standardizing the strategic meaning of common fireground words, you will hold the key that will unlock the secret for improving your fireground communication. You will learn what the words are and what each word means. Finally, you will learn how and when to use these words so that fireground communication will be clear, concise and disciplined.

Why is the meaning of strategic and tactical words important? Because if a single word can mean a lot, and if all the players know what each word means, you can broadcast a single word that will convey a clear, concise message that would otherwise require a rambling narration.

Competent fireground communication is developed upon a framework of words. This article will address the five words of civilian life safety and the three words of firefighter of life safety. Part two will address the words of incident stabilization and the words of property conservation. Part three will address the words of fireground support, and finally the words of competent incident management.

Once we agree what the words are and what each word means, subsequent articles will provide the ‘music’ of competent fireground communication; you will learn how and when to use these words – including models for conveying objective-level assignments, communicating clear, concise and disciplined status reports, announcing strategic transitions, and coordinating radio traffic during an emergency roll call.

BACKGROUND & SIGNIFICANCE

Communication is a problem on the fireground. No revelation in those words; communication has been a persistent fireground problem for decades. Throughout North America, not a post-incident analysis/critique occurs that doesn’t identify “communication” as a problem. What’s interesting is the complete lack of information available on fireground communication. Sure, plenty of books are available that address dispatching and communication technology, but I challenge you to identify a single reference dedicated to how to communicate on the fireground.

The solution to the fireground communication problem is simple: words. Knowing what the words are and what each word means is the only way to eliminate the majority of fireground communication problems.

I’m certain you will agree that clear, concise, disciplined fireground communication is important. I’m also certain that you have the ability to recognize clear, concise, disciplined communication when you hear it. Both the challenge and the solution is to standardize (culturally) competent fireground communication so that it becomes the norm.

What follows is the framework for standardizing clear, concise and disciplined fireground communication:

THE WORDS OF LIFE SAFETY

If words mean something – and if a single word can mean a lot – then it is possible for each life safety word to accurately describe the strategic status of life safety on the fireground. It then becomes possible for a single word to communicate how life safety will be addressed tactically.

Consider the following life safety words (and phrases); each word identifies the strategic status of life safety on the fireground:

  • Firefighter life safety words

FIVE CIVILIAN LIFE SAFETY WORDS

1. Rescue – The first civilian life safety word – rescue – means that civilians are in immediate danger and must be removed by firefighters. Rescue means that firefighters know the location of the endangered civilians and fire department personnel verify their location using visual and/or audible cues. The word rescue means that there now exists a known, confirmed rescue situation – no speculation or interpretation required.

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