Fireground Communications At Major Fires & Emergencies

One important leadership trait a fireground commander must have is the ability to communicate. Fire-ground communications involves sending and receiving radio messages, as well as interpreting information upon which you make decisions. Photo...


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  1. Determine the command channel number on the handi-talkie that is to be used.
  2. Contact each sector chief individually on the tactical channel. Give out the number of the command channel and request that the sector chiefs switch to it and contact command on this channel.
  3. After all sectors have been notified and a roll call on the command channel contacts each sector to verify the switch, notify the officer in command to switch to the command channel.
  4. The communications officer at the command post monitors the tactical channel while the fireground commander communicates to the sector officer on the command channel.

Lessons Learned

Part of every post-fire analysis is a recommendation on how to solve a fireground communications problem. It is difficult to communicate over a portable radio when you are under extreme stress. However, we must all constantly attempt to improve our communications skills.

During major fires, chiefs, officers and firefighters must transmit and receive fireground messages, and - most important - comprehend what is being transmitted. There is no such person as a strong "silent" type fireground commander.


Vincent Dunn, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy chief with the FDNY and a member of the New York City Fire Chiefs Association. He is the author of the books and videos Safety And Survival On The Fireground and Collapse Of Burning Buildings. For information call 800-231-3388.