1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool Are 10 Codes Unsafe?

    Our county is presently in a debate over 10-code usage. We adopted the 10-codes back in the 30's and have been using them ever since.

    Many fire companies claim that they are professional and we should stick to them.

    NFPA says "NO" to 10-code usage. They claim that it could cause confusion and could constrict safety. I took EMT class and my instructor told us to avoid all 10-codes.

    I personally feel that regular verbage should be used. It sounds more professional and is easily understood. What are advantages or disadvantages to 10-codes? Are any other fire departments arguing this topic?

    Ronnie Raley
    Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department www.mvfd.com

    [This message has been edited by Ronnie (edited July 10, 2000).]

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    10 codes were implemented to mask language and disguise what was really going on over the radio as much as they were designed to provide smoother communication (less syllables). At least those were the theories. The reality is that 10-codes do not really make communication significantly easier. However, if you're used to them, it would be hard to convert back to what we call "clear code" which is another way of saying "tell it like it is".

    Furthermore, 10 codes change as you move around the country. Different jurisdictions and agencies have different variations, or they may have a different interpretation of the same code. For example, a Nebraska 10-44 and 10-45 (non-injury and injury vehicle accidents, respectively) are a 10-50 and 10-52 in Northern Wisconsin. No, NE and WI aren't adjacent, but those 10-codes have to meet each other or other sets somewhere.

    And the "disguise" theory is a wash, citizens with scanners are far too savvy to be duped by codespeak. Aside from getting a translation for Radio Shack or the internet, it isn't hard to figure them out from the way they are used in context.

    ("Squad 4-3 report of a 10-56 driver weaving across the center line...")
    ("Engine 6 and Rescue 2 respond to a two-car 10-45 at 41st and Hill, party complaining of neck injury.")

    So why bother with the potential for problems when we could just say what we mean in the first place?

    Frank Billington, #11
    Town of Superior Fire Online

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Code use is also a way of keeping radio traffic to a minimum. During times of heavy radio traffic our department demands use of code rather than a long drawn-out description.

  4. #4
    engine one
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Are dept use to use ten codes, but we dropped them and dont use any codes now.
    We have are system set up as to advise only what is needed to be known over the air.
    dispatch dispatches out the call,
    units advice there responding,
    IC advices situation to dispatch,
    units report when there back in quaters.
    The only time there is a lot of radio traffic is when there is an acctual working fire. The only codes we have is with are ems, they advice dispatch there enroute to the hospital either code 1 (no lights, or siren) or code 3 (lights and siren)

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    10 Codes served their purpose, but like many things are going by the wayside. Our entire county moved away from them when we received the 800 mHz radio system. It eliminated any confusion between fire and law enforcement. Speaking in plain English ensures that everyone is clear on your traffic. Other than an occasional slip by the senior members, the only time we use them is advising patient status.

  6. #6
    Nick SBFD 6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In our town, we use 10 codes religously in the PD, but for fire/rescue the use is limited. The problem we have is with our rescue, we cover our town (in Maine) and the next town over (in New Hampshire) so the codes are VERY different. A MVA in Me is a 10-55, in NH it is a 10-25, In service in ME is 10-8, where in NH it is 10-1. So when rescue signs on with thier dispatch as 10-8 to the 10-55 on rt.4, they get the old moment of silence while they look on thier chart.

  7. #7
    Warren Vaughn
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Are 10 codes unsafe? I wouldn't go as far as to say that. Confusing yes. In my jurisdiction I have fire dpartments that use them and I have those who don't. All of the Law Enforcement do likewise. The EMS uses a totally different set of 10 codes mandated by the state. Talk about screwing up rookie dispatchers.

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I think very few 10 codes, like the commonly known & used ones, 10-4, 10-20, etc. are good to use as it can make radio traffic flow a bit more smoothly, but in my area it's pretty much limited to that. We do use some different radio codes, but usually when it's something we'd like to try to keep evsdropping news agencies and the like from hearing (For example, not too long ago we had a multi-fatality MVA. Instead of saying that, it was dispatched as a multiple signal 6B {MVA w/fatalities}). I think that other than a few select radio codes, it's best to stick with clear code, especially on a fire ground or another confusing situation.

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    I'd have to agree with FFCode3EMT on using code when advising patient status. That would probably be considered confidential ingormation, and by using code, you are maintaining some level of confidentiality.

  10. #10
    Mr. Freeze
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The only 10-codes we used were 10-79 for DOA's of any kind. I think it takes just as long if not longer for someone not familiar w/ them to figure out what you are saying as it does for you to just say it.

  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Both Fire and EMS do not use 10-codes, but law enforcement here does. It's not enough to use plain language, you also have to agree to use common terminology, especially when you are trying to be interoperable with other agencies you don't normally work with. The analogy of what is a "crosslay" vs. a "Mattydale" vs. a "Jiffy" vs. a "pre-connect."

    Interesting to note that on the LE side, the Sheriff's code is different than the Highway Patrol, so, one department's 10-3 means "message received" when the other's means "stop transmitting." That's the inherent danger of 10 codes. (Now, does that mean 'hold your fire' or...)

    Steve Makky, Sr., ENP

  12. #12
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Too many codes can certainly cause confusion, but the few we use in my department I think are necessary for FF/EMS safety. There are only 5 codes that are used regularly, and most of them are things you would not want to say "in the clear" within earshot of the patient. These are the codes for drunk patient, mental problems, request for police, and need emergency police help. The other is for a deceased person. I think this limited use of codes does a lot more good than harm for safety, for example when confronted by a violent patient I would be much more comfortable saying "Signal 13-F" in his presence than "I need immediate police help" as the latter would probably only make him more agitated towards EMS.

    My opinions are not necessarily those of my department. I speak only for myself.

  13. #13
    Brian Dunlap
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I Firmly believe that 10 Codes should not be used in Fire/EMS Radio...What is the purpose other then to confuse others...Especially if you use mutial aid who doesn't use 10 codes that can get ugly....When giving a radio report think before you transmit and you will not use as much "Air-Time" as you think...

    Yet, I believe that Police Departments should use a 10 code system ...With all the loonies running around with scanners they have a little bit harder time understanding what the boys in blue are up to and make thier career in committing crime that much harder.... But Fire/EMS who cares if you are responding to a "10-62 Code 1" or a "Structure Fire with confirmed smoke showing" .... If there is a fire in the neighborhood believe me the people will know anyway at which point 10 codes mean nothing

  14. #14
    Firehouse.com Guest


    No 10-codes in INDY. We call them like we see them...

  15. #15

    Join Date
    Feb 1999
    Roswell, GA, USA


    Our FD is dispatched by the police dept. communications. They use 10 codes as well as "signal" codes (Alpha 3, respond to the Signal 3..."). We're all on an 800 system. Where it gets confusing is when the dispatcher starts telling us codes on fire channel. We then have to say, "what?" (or words to that effect).

    I prefer good old plain language.

    Rick Reed
    (Contact me about a musical version of "The Fireman's Prayer".)
    The views expressed are mine. I typed it.

  16. #16
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    My opinion is that getting away from 10-codes is progress!! Our county has several volunteer departments, and some of them just get a couple calls during the year. Do you think the firefighters are going to remember when they are 10-8, 10-97, etc.?? Sorry, no matter how much you train, it just don't happen. Glad our dispatch now prefers us to talk English!!

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