1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    Question Radio ID for personnel...

    I have caught wind of some departments trying or that have gone to using Last names instead of numbers as radio designations. I have also heard NFPA is thinking about backing that thought too.

    So instead of, "612 to 658, start the ventilation fan at the door." it would be, "Adams to Hendrick, start the ventilation fan at the door." Just for an example.

    Do any of you happen to know more about this? Is it true?

    I am like a lot of guys and have a hard time remembering everyones number. However, I know one of the reasons for going to numbers is so people listening in on the traffic who don't know better can't figure out who the person with that number is. i.e. a mayday is called.

    Any help would be great. Please point me to links about this topic if you know of any. Your opinions are valued to.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2009


    we have mutual aid from other cities, so we do not know which tom, dick or harry we may get.

    dept goes by eng and postion, like e456 a, e456 b, eng 456 c

  3. #3
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    Dec 2001
    Lusby, MD


    As Fire49 said, we may not know the individuals names of mutual aid companies. I may not even know exactly who is on apparatus from my own department off hand if they are on another piece of apparatus.

    For us, officers use their rank and station as designations (Captain 7, Chief 7B etc), firefighters are not issued radios but use a designation of the apparatus they are on, or based on their assignment (roof, division 1, etc).

  4. #4
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    N2DFire's Avatar
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    Feb 2000
    S.W. Virginia


    I see absolutely NO reason to use a system like this.

    1) As an example; My old VFD has about 7 people that share 2 last names - how's that work then?

    "Smith to Smith have you seen Smith?"

    O.K. so we add first initials, one set of those "name sharers" is a set of 3 brothers who's first names all begin with J

    "JSmith to JSmith have you seen JSmith?"

    Add a number to the end?
    "JSmith1 to JSmith3 have you seen JSmith2?"

    Where does it end & at what point is it more complicated than a number system?

    2) As mentioned already, the issue of not knowing all the names of M/A department members.

    3) In a MAYDAY situation - a LUNAR report you give your name anyway. UCAN "U" is for unit but it's still a good idea to give a specific name of who's in trouble.

    All of our staff are assigned radio numbers / designators even if they are not assigned a radio. Most of the EMS agencies keep 1 portable in the rig in addition to issued radios, and right now the other Mayday Instructors and myself are pushing to get 1 radio per SCBA on every fire apparatus.

    Radio Numbers for Command Staff are Rank Based Chief 7, Capt 1, Lt 9 etc.

    "Rank & File" get numbers that designate agency & (to some extent) training

    200 - 249 - County Career Staff (F/T 7 P/T)
    250 - 299 - County Volunteer cadre

    2-XX-YY are BLS EMS providers where XX is station number from 3 to 13 & YY are individual numbers from 1 to 99

    Ex 2-9-19 is a BLS provider from Squad 9

    16-XY are ALS EMS providers where X is Station and Y is provider number

    Ex 16-90 is an ALS provider from Squad 9

    3-XX-YY are Fire fighters where XX is station number from 1 to 14 & YY are individual numbers from 1 to 99

    Ex 3-9-20 is a Fire fighter from Company 9

    It sounds a lot more complicated on paper than it really is in practice and it works out quite well for us thus far.
    Take Care - Stay Safe - God Bless

  5. #5
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    tree68's Avatar
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    Aug 2003
    Jefferson County, NY USA


    Our county system has individual calls for key personnel, but most individual members don't have radios. In fact, we kinda discourage it - we get enough chatter during an incident as it is, and most departments don't have enough radios to be passing them out like candy anyhow.

    On a scene, the "call signs" are generally based on function, not the person. At an event of any size, there are plenty of white hats with radios in hand to assign to the necessary positions, including interior teams. The IC doesn't have to know that Chief Snuffy from Podunk is keeping an eye on side C - only that he has someone on side C filling that position.

    My department has a handful of radios on the Rescue that we can use as needed. Others in the area are similar.

    On the other hand, a trunked system I set up has the ability to display up to an eight character name. In most cases, that was set up with something simple (Plumb01, Plumb02, etc, or a vehicle ID), but the fire department opted to use the firefighter names.

    This was only a problem if a radio was issued to a different firefighter (as in when a firefighter left the department and a new one was hired). Fixing it on the consoles was easy, but all of the radios had the info as an internal table, so every single FD radio would have to be reprogrammed with the new info.

    Our county system is dept-type-sequence, so Podunk's pumper is 68-1-1. If they have two, the second is 68-1-2. Officers are zero (68-0-1), and there are EMS and fire police designators as well.

    We were considering going plain language (Podunk would be Engine 68) but apparently ANI won't handle all the necessary alpha characters.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

    Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

  6. #6
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    Oct 2010


    Thank you all for your input. I am interested in the execution of this situation in different locations.

  7. #7
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    Picc.93Truck's Avatar
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    May 2010


    My department uses last names, we do have people with the same last name though.

    I.E. Our Engine company has 2 Evans's. Lt. Evans, and a Capt. Evans. Thats how we tell the difference over radio.

    My company does the same thing, Say I wan't my captain, I radio "Picc to Capt. Enderline" or "Picc to Ladder Captain 93"

    It works well for us, and we haven't had a problem to my knowledge.

  8. #8
    Back In Black
    ChiefKN's Avatar
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    Feb 2003
    The Nice Part of New Jersey



    On the structural department you are to use your assignment.

    "Roof to Fire Attack"... is a basic one that most will know.


    "Fire branch to roof"... etc.

    Mayday, you are to give your name...etc...etc.

    With the state forestry service (at least in my neck of the woods). It is typically your engine/tender/dozer assigned number "A13 to A3". If you are not the usually assigned operator (but a fill-in or covering operator), then it's "Engine A13".

    On a big walking around forest fire, where you are not in your ride, you can continue to use "A13" if you are the usual person assigned to that engine, but most of us use last names, or if there would be confusion, first names. "Nelson to Smith"... or if you are assigned an IC position, you would use that. "Division Bravo to Smith"... etc.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

  9. #9
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    Jan 2004


    Yeah that definitely wouldn't work here. We use a county wide dispatch that handles 9 different departments with a total of 21 stations. We use this system:


    1st two digits are the department number, 01 - 22 at this time (several smaller department have combined into larger ones there for obtaining a new number like 21)

    last two digits designate unit type

    01-39 are personnel
    40-49 - engine
    50-59 - tanker
    60-69 - rescue
    70-79 - brush
    80-89 - utility / boat
    90-99 - ladder

    My department number is 12, so under that system, chief is 1201, asst is 1202, etc.

    1299 is our ladder
    1240 is one of our engines, etc.

    291 would be a ladder from Clay Fire.

    As far as personnel IDs, some of the larger combined departments have started using department name and FF Number.

    Example: Penn18 or Clay22

    This gives them more room for firefighters and fire officers. All officers in the county still start at 01 with the chief. Some do use battalion chiefs now, which are simply called Battalion21 (penn Battalion chief), battalion2 (clay Battalion chief) and so on.

    If I wanted to reach one of our captains on the radio, I'd simply say 1204 from 1205, Or our rescue: 1260 from 1205, Or the Penn Chief on a mutual aid: 2101 from 1205

    Medics in our county are a different story as 5 of them cover most of the county except the two large cities and are known as Medic 10, 11, 12 or Medic 41, 45.

  10. #10
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    mdcook's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Finger Lakes Region, NY

    Post Radio ID's

    Our county radio system has gone digital, so we can program every mobile and handheld with a specific ID that will show up on the screen of every other radio. The ID code works thusly:
    each department has a specific number assigned, either a one or two digit number, sorted alphabeticly;
    then each type of apparatus gets a letter: C-officers, E-engines, A-aerials, T-(water) tankers, R-rescue;
    finally each individual radio will get a number and letter to show which apparatus that radio is assigned to.
    For examples: the ID number 2C1 would be the chief of department #2;
    14E1 would be engine 1 of department 14; 14E1A would be portable radio A assigned to the preceeding engine.
    Since our county is all volunteer, most of the departments can only afford portable radios for their officers and may be one or just a few on each apparatus, so we are not dealing with a lot of radios and not every one on the scene has a radio.
    Hope this helps.
    "Your spill is our thrill."

  11. #11
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    Jun 1999


    No names used on the radio.

    Called the apparatus by what they are. Engine's Truck's, Rescue's, Quint's, Medic's, Tankers, Brush Trucks, Battalion's, etc.

    Each member should be assigned a portable radio. That designation could be: A B C D E F, etc. for each portable assigned to a company.

    Saying this, Engine 12-A would be the Officer of that company, Engine 12-B the Driver or Chauffeur and so on. Or the Officer could be referred as Engine 12 Officer, the operator as Engine 12 Chauffeur.

    All those code numbers can be confusing and members not associated with that department who come to assist might not know what they mean. No one has or needs to have a sheets in their pocket detailing what all these crazy numbers mean.

    Keep is simple and easy to say and understand.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  12. #12
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    Doorbreaker's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
    Near Cooperstown N.Y.


    My little department uses a very complicated system.
    Officers use their ID numbers (1-10) So I'm VanHornesville 8
    VanHornesville 1 is the chief and down the line.
    Firefighters inside use the color and engine number of the hose they are on. Engine 135 Orange Line, Engine 156 White line ...
    Vent teams and the rest use plain language.
    If you have a MAYDAY you call MAYDAY 3 times, then your ID/Name/Location/air status
    Repeat if needed. ALL other radios except interior teams SHUT UP for a MAYDAY.
    We run multiple channels,

  13. #13
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    LVFD301's Avatar
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    Jun 2006


    Countywide we have no system.

    In my department we keep it simple. Names for individuals. If I have multiples of the last name on the scene, than I just include their first name. "Jim Smith to John Smith on Fire mutual aid"

    What kills me - we use a simple Engine 1, Engine 2, Brush 2, Tanker 1 convention for our equipment. All the ones, Engine 1, Tanker 1, Brush 1, come out of ... Get this... Station 1.

    All the Twos, Engine 2, Tanker 2, Brush 2, come out of.... Wait for it... .Station 2!

    But we have one agency that has two stations, multiple tankers and engines, and they just name them,

    Truck 1
    Truck 2
    Truck 3
    Truck 4
    Truck 5
    Truck 6
    all the way to truck 14 or such.

    When they come to mutual aid, I have no idea what truck 12 is.

    Another large department maintains another totally different numbering system, to the same result.

    Another department in an adjoining county does it by year. 8787 is a 1987 engine. 8484 is a 1984 brush truck.

  14. #14
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    Sep 2006
    Northeast Coast


    This would be a total nightmare to try and implement everywhere. I can see NFPA and others wanting the radio identifier to pop up as the users name vs. the radio ID, something that's done using an "alias table" now. But as far as mandating or trying to mandate how people actually talk on the radio? No way.

    That being said, we us a combination of almost all. Apparatus uses the standard :"Tower 3", personnel use individual unit numbers: "2 to 12" (between us) or "Rockland Unit 2 to Thomaston Car 1" (more formal) and once in a while we use first names to make informal requests between us: "Rusty grab a hook while you're down there".

    Given the vast differences in size of FD's,the level of organization, and the differences in how many personnel have their own radios, a single standard for all will likely be a dismal failure.

  15. #15
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    May 2011


    Each department in our county has a number.
    So one department has their Command 1-1, Engine 1-2, Rescue 1-3, Tender 1-4, Brush 1-5...

    Each department may have their numbers in some different order or multiple of a type but their designator still has [truck type][department number]-[unit number]. It helps on mutual aid calls so we know what kind of unit it is. If we know the department numbers, we can tell who they are even if they don't say it.

    For personnel, we generally just use last names. A crew goes by the crew leaders last name.

    If a person is in charge of a particular task they will probably get referred to by that task; IC, CheckIn, WaterSupply, Engine 1-2 Pump... That makes it easier to hand off the task to another individual without having to inform everybody that there is somebody different doing that task.

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