300 Plus Abbreviations & Acronyms Every Firefighter Should Know

July 24, 2006
Have you ever heard someone talk and you only comprehended a fraction of what they said? Steve Prziborowski is here to help.

In the fire service, we enjoy using abbreviations and acronyms for things. Some fire service personnel tend to go a bit overboard when talking, by using too much "alphabet soup." I'm not providing this information to encourage you to use more abbreviations in your everyday life. I'm providing this information to educate you and better prepare you for talking with fire service personnel or reading fire service (yes, like it or not, EMS is also fire related) textbooks or publications. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the better off you are.

Communications are a problem everywhere, and in the fire service, we have our share of communication problems. In the fire service, we try not to pattern ourselves after our law enforcement counterparts and use "9 or 10-codes" when talking. We are expected to use clear text when talking, to ensure the sender understands our message. Have you ever heard someone talk and you only comprehended a fraction of what they said? For example, have you ever heard a fire service official (such as a Public Information Officer) say something to the effect of "the first rig got on scene and found they had a TC with a couple of DOA's and a suspect that was GOA. They were UTL any live patients?" I bet you have. You may (or may not) know what they are saying, and the public probably has less of a clue as to what they were saying.

Before we go any further, remember that abbreviations should be used sparingly, if not at all. A rule of thumb I try and follow is to only use abbreviations that the average person would understand. There are only two of the abbreviations listed below that fall into that category - CPR and EMT. Those two terms are widely used and understood by the general public. The rest of the terms are foreign to the public and even to some fire personnel. If you do use abbreviations when documenting information on a patient care report (if you are an EMS provider), make sure the abbreviations are approved by the county. Some abbreviations such as PE may have many meanings, all meaning something slightly different (pulmonary embolus, pulmonary edema, physical exam - see what I mean?). Abbreviations can get you in trouble if you're not careful. As a company or chief officer documenting their actions after the incident in a formal, legal report, I encourage people to not use any abbreviations because of the possibility of more than one meaning.

The last thing you want to do is have to clarify to a judge, jury and questioning attorney all of the abbreviations within your report, especially ones that have multiple meanings. I can hear the attorney now "so, Captain Prziborowski - you listed that the patient had suffered a PE. What exactly is that abbreviation? Is it possible there are multiple meanings for that abbreviation? If so, how can we be sure that is what you meant to document? We cannot." Had I just wrote out Pulmonary Embolus, I would have been ok and we would not have dwelled on that subject and I wouldn't have looked like someone less than professional trying to justify why I did what I did.

If you ever find yourself answering questions to an oral board (for entry-level or promotional examinations), please shy away from using abbreviations. While you may think that the fire personnel rating you understand the abbreviations, you can't be too sure. Also, many oral panels have a citizen from the community someone outside of the fire service on the panel as a rater (someone from personnel/human resources, etc.). Using abbreviations may actually hurt you, especially if they do not understand what you are trying to say. The same goes for resumes and job applications; keep the abbreviations to a minimum. About the only other abbreviations I can think of that may be ok (besides CPR or EMT) would be a two-digit state abbreviation (CA, AZ, etc.) or maybe the suffix to an address (Ave., Blvd., St., etc.).

Below are 300+ abbreviations that every firefighter should know, in order to be a successful firefighter with a high understanding of the fire service:

  1. AA (Affirmative Action or Alcoholics Anonymous or Automatic Aid)
  2. AAA (American Automobile Association or American Ambulance Association)
  3. ABC's (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)
  4. AC (Assistant Chief)
  5. ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support)
  6. A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation)
  7. ADA (Americans with Disability Act)
  8. AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam)
  9. AHA (American Heart Association)
  10. AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction)
  11. ALOC (Altered Level Of Consciousness)
  12. ALS (Advanced Life Support)
  13. AMS (Altered Mental Status)
  14. ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil)
  15. ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
  16. APCO (Association of Public Safety Communications Officials - International, Inc.)
  17. APR(Air Purifying Respirators)
  18. APT (Apartment)
  19. A/O (Apparatus Operator)
  20. ARC (American Red Cross)
  21. ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting)
  22. ASAP (As Soon As Possible)
  23. ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials)
  24. ATC (Alcohol - Type Concentrates)
  25. ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support)
  26. ATV (All Terrain Vehicle)
  27. Ave. (Avenue)
  28. BA (Breathing Apparatus)
  29. BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; sometimes referred to just as "ATF")
  30. BBB (Bundle Branch Block)
  31. BC (Battalion Chief)
  32. BI (Burn Index)
  33. Bicarb (Sodium Bicarbonate)
  34. b.i.d. (twice a day)
  35. BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expansion Vapor Explosion or Blast Leveling Everything perfectly)
  36. BLM (Bureau of Land Management)
  37. BLS (Basic Life Support)
  38. Blvd. (Boulevard)
  39. BM (Bowel Movement)
  40. BNICE (Biological, Nuclear, Incendiary, Chemical, and Explosive)
  41. BOCA (Building Officials Conference Association)
  42. BS (Breathing Support)
  43. BSI (Body Substance Isolation)
  44. BTLS (Basic Trauma Life Support)
  45. Btu (British Thermal Unit)
  46. Bolus (Amount of medication given via IV push)
  47. c (with a horizontal line above it means with)
  48. CABO (Council of American Building Officials)
  49. Capt (Captain)
  50. CA (Cancer or California)
  51. CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch or Computer Aided Drawing)
  52. CAFS (Compressed Air Foam System)
  53. CAMEO (Computer Aided Management for Emergency Operations)
  54. CC (Chief Complaint)
  55. CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
  56. CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)
  57. CFAI (Commission on Fire Accreditation International)
  58. CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
  59. CFOD (Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation)
  60. CFR (Crash Fire Rescue or Code of Federal Regulations)
  61. CHEMTREC (Chemical Transportation Emergency Center)
  62. CHF (Congestive Heart Failure)
  63. CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing)
  64. CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management)
  65. CNS (Central Nervous System)
  66. c/o (Complains of)
  67. CO (Carbon Monoxide)
  68. CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)
  69. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  70. CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test)
  71. CP (Chest Pain or Command Post)
  72. CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation)
  73. CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  74. CRM (Crew Resource Management)
  75. C-spine (Cervical Spine)
  76. CSD (Community Services District)
  77. CSM (Circulation, Sensation, Movement)
  78. CST (Civil Support Team)
  79. Ct. (Court)
  80. CVA (Cerebral Vascular Accident)
  81. D5W (Dextrose in water)
  82. DCl (Deputy Chief or Division Chief or District Chief)
  83. DCFD (District of Columbia Fire Department)
  84. DL (Driver's License - for example, in California, we consider a license a "CDL" - California Driver's License)
  85. DM (Diabetes Mellitus)
  86. DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team)
  87. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate or Department of Natural Resources)
  88. DOA (Dead On Arrival)
  89. DOI (Department Of the Interior)
  90. DOL (Department of Labor)
  91. DOT (Department of Transportation)
  92. DPS (Department of Public Safety)
  93. DT's (Delirium Tremons)
  94. Dx (Diagnosis)
  95. EAP (Employee Assistance Program)
  96. E/B (East Bound)
  97. ED (Emergency Department)
  98. EDITH (Exit Drills In The Home)
  99. EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity)
  100. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
  101. EFO (Executive Fire Officer)
  102. EKG (Electrocardiogram)
  103. EMI (Emergency Management Institute)
  104. EMS (Emergency Medical Services)
  105. EMT (Emergency Medical Technician)
  106. EMT-B (EMT-Basic)
  107. EMT-I (EMT-Intermediate)
  108. EMT (Paramedic)
  109. ENG (Engine or Engineer)
  110. ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat)
  111. EOC (Emergency Operations Center)
  112. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
  113. ER (Emergency Room)
  114. ERG (Emergency Response Guide)
  115. ET (Endotracheal)
  116. ETA (Estimated Time Of Arrival)
  117. ETOH (alcohol)
  118. EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operator Course)
  119. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
  120. FAMA (Fire Apparatus Manufacturer's Association)
  121. FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
  122. FC (Fire Chief or Fire Captain)
  123. FCC (Federal Communications Commission)
  124. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association)
  125. FD (Fire Department or Fire District)
  126. FDC (Fire Department Connection)
  127. FDIC (Fire Department Instructors Conference - Indianapolis, IN)
  128. FDNY (Fire Department New York)
  129. FDSOA (Fire Department Safety Officers Association)
  130. FF (Firefighter)
  131. FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)
  132. FM (Factory Mutual or Few Moments/Minutes or Fire Marshal)
  133. FMRC (Factory Mutual Research Corporation)
  134. FPD (Fire Protection District)
  135. FPE (Fire Protection Engineer)
  136. FPO (Fire Prevention Officer - sometimes referred to as "PO" for Prevention Officer)
  137. FRI (Fire-Rescue International - Annual Fire Conference hosted by the IAFC)
  138. Fx (Fracture)
  139. GI (Gastrointestinal)
  140. GIS (Geographic Information Services)
  141. GOA (Gone On Arrival)
  142. gpm (Gallons Per Minute)
  143. GPS (Global Positioning System)
  144. gravida (# of pregnancies)
  145. GSW (Gun Shot Wound)
  146. HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials)
  147. HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response)
  148. HEENT (Head, Eyes, Ears, Nose, Throat)
  149. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air filter)
  150. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
  151. HM (Haz Mat or Hazardous Materials)
  152. HMMP (Hazardous Materials Management Plan)
  153. HMRU (Hazardous Materials Response Unit)
  154. HR (Heart Rate)
  155. HSO (Health and Safety Officer)
  156. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)
  157. IAAI (International Association of Arson Investigators)
  158. IABPFF (International Association of Black Professional Firefighters)
  159. IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs)
  160. IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters)
  161. IAP (Incident Action Plan)
  162. IC (Incident Commander or Ignition Component)
  163. ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials)
  164. ICC (International Code Council)
  165. ICS (Incident Command System)
  166. ICU (Intensive Care Unit)
  167. IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health)
  168. IFBA (International Fire Buffs Association)
  169. IFSAC (International Fire Service Accreditation Congress)
  170. IFSTA (International Fire Service Training Association)
  171. IM (Intramuscular or Intermodal)
  172. IMS (Incident Management System)
  173. IMSA (International Municipal Signal Association)
  174. IO (Intraosseous or Information Officer)
  175. IR (InfraRed)
  176. ISFSI (International Society of Fire Service Instructors)
  177. ISO (Insurance Services Office or Incident Safety Officer)
  178. IVP (Intravenous Push medication administration)
  179. JFA (Joint Fire Academy)
  180. JPR (Job Performance Requirements)
  181. JVD (Jugular Vein Distension)
  182. KSA (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities)
  183. lac (Laceration)
  184. LAFD (Los Angeles Fire Department)
  185. LCES (Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zones)
  186. LACES (Lookouts, Awareness, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zones)
  187. LDH (Large Diameter Hose)
  188. LEL (Lower Explosive Limit)
  189. LFL (Lower Flammable Limit)
  190. LLQ (Left Lower Quadrant of abdomen)
  191. LMP (Last Menstrual Period)
  192. Ln. (Lane)
  193. LOC (Level Of Consciousness or Loss Of Consciousness)
  194. LODD (Line Of Duty Death)
  195. LOX (Liquid Oxygen)
  196. Lt. (Lieutenant)
  197. LUQ (Left Upper Quadrant of abdomen)
  198. LZ (Landing Zone)
  199. MA (Mutual Aid)
  200. MAC (Multi-Agency Coordination)
  201. MAST (Medical AntiShock Trousers)
  202. MAU (Mobile Air Unit)
  203. MBO (Management By Objectives)
  204. mcg (Microgram)
  205. MCI (Mass Casualty Incident)
  206. MCIP (Mass Casualty Incident Plan)
  207. MCT (Mobile Computer Terminal)
  208. MDT (Mobile Data Terminal)
  209. mg. (milligram)
  210. MICU (Mobile Intensive Care Unit)
  211. MI (Myocardial Infarction)
  212. mph (Miles Per Hour)
  213. MS (Morphine Sulfate or Multiple Sclerosis)
  214. MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)
  215. MMTF (Metropolitan Medical Task Force)
  216. MVA (Motor-Vehicle Accident)
  217. NAERG (North American Emergency Response Guide)
  218. N/B (North Bound)
  219. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical)
  220. NBFSPQ (National Board of Fire Service Professional Qualifications)
  221. NC (Nasal Cannula)
  222. NEC (National Electrical Code)
  223. NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team)
  224. NFC (National Fire Codes)
  225. NFDRS (National Fire Danger Rating System)
  226. NFFF (National Fallen Firefighters Foundation)
  227. NFIRS (National Fire Incident Reporting System)
  228. NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
  229. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  230. NKA (No Known Allergies)
  231. KDA (No Known Drug Allergies)
  232. NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)
  233. NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center)
  234. NIMS (National Incident Management System)
  235. NIOSH (National Institute of Safety and Health)
  236. NP (Nozzle Pressure)
  237. NPA (Naso-Pharyngeal Airway)
  238. NPS (National Park Service)
  239. NRB (Non-Rebreather Mask - oxygen)
  240. NPQB (National Professional Qualifications Board)
  241. NRC (National Response Center)
  242. NREMT (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians)
  243. NS (Normal Saline)
  244. NST (National Standard Thread)
  245. NTG (Nitroglycerin)
  246. NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board)
  247. N/V (Nausea/Vomiting)
  248. NVFC (National Volunteer Fire Council)
  249. NWCG (National Wildfire Coordinating Group)
  250. O2 (Oxygen)
  251. OB (Obstetrics)
  252. OD (Overdose)
  253. OES (Office of Emergency Services)
  254. OJT (On-the-Job Training)
  255. OOS (Out Of Service)
  256. OPA (Oropharyngeal Airway)
  257. Ops (Operations)
  258. OR (Operating Room)
  259. ORM (Other Regulated Materials)
  260. OSB (Oriented Strand Board)
  261. OS&Y (Outside Stem and Yoke or Outside Screw and Yoke)
  262. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  263. p (with a horizontal line above it means after)
  264. PAC (Premature Atrial Contraction)
  265. PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support)
  266. PAR (Personnel Accountability Report)
  267. para (# of live births)
  268. PASS (Personal Alert Safety System)
  269. PCB (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)
  270. PCF (Paid Call Firefighter)
  271. PCR (Patient Care Report)
  272. PD (Police Department)
  273. PE (Pulmonary Embolus, Physical Exam, Pulmonary Edema)
  274. PEA (Pulseless Electrical Activity)
  275. PEPP (Pediatric Education for Pre Hospital Providers)
  276. PERL (Pupils Equal and Reactive to Light)
  277. PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
  278. PHTLS (Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support)
  279. PIA (Post Incident Analysis)
  280. PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
  281. PIO (Public Information Officer)
  282. PIV (Post Indicator Valve)
  283. Pkwy (Parkway)
  284. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  285. ppm (Parts Per Million)
  286. PPV (Positive Pressure Ventilation)
  287. prn (As often as necessary)
  288. PRV (Pressure Reducing Valve)
  289. po (By mouth)
  290. PSA (Public Service Announcement)
  291. PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point)
  292. psi (Pounds per Square Inch)
  293. psia (Pounds per Square Inch Absolute)
  294. psig (Pounds per Square Inch Gauge)
  295. PTA (Prior To Arrival)
  296. PTO (Power Take Off)
  297. PVC (Pre-Ventricular Contraction or Polyvinyl Chloride)
  298. q (with a horizontal line above it means every)
  299. q.i.d. (Four times a day)
  300. RAWS (Remote Automated Weather System)
  301. RBO (Relationship By Objectives)
  302. RECEO (Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguishment, Overhaul)
  303. RECEOVS (Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguishment, Overhaul, Ventilation, Salvage)
  304. RESTAT (Resource Status)
  305. REVAS (Rescue, Evacuation, Ventilation, Attack, Salvage)
  306. RFA (Ready For Action)
  307. RIC (Rapid Intervention Crew or Rapid Intervention Company)
  308. RIT (Rapid Intervention Team)
  309. RLQ (Right Lower Quadrant of the abdomen)
  310. R/O (Rule Out)
  311. RR (Respiratory Rate)
  312. RUQ (Right Upper Quadrant of the abdomen)
  313. Rx (Treatment/therapy)
  314. SAR (Supplied Air Respirator)
  315. SARA (Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act)
  316. S/B (South Bound)
  317. SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus)
  318. SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus)
  319. SFM (State Fire Marshal)
  320. SFMO (State Fire Marshal Office)
  321. SITSTAT (Situation Status)
  322. SL (Sublingual)
  323. SME (Subject Matter Expert)
  324. SOB (Shortness Of Breath)
  325. SOG (Standard Operating Guideline)
  326. SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)
  327. SPAAMFAA (Society for the Preservation And Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America)
  328. SQ (Subcutaneous)
  329. St. (Street)
  330. Stat (Immediately and once only)
  331. SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics)
  332. TBSA (Total Body Surface Area)
  333. TC (Traffic Collision)
  334. TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction)
  335. TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
  336. TIC (Thermal Imaging Camera)
  337. t.i.d. (Three times a day)
  338. TKO (To Keep Open)
  339. TLV (Threshold Limit Value)
  340. TLV/STEL (Threshold Limit Value/Short-Term Exposure Limit)
  341. TLV/TWA (Threshold Limit Value/Time Weighted Average)
  342. TO (Training Officer)
  343. TQM (Total Quality Management)
  344. UBC (Uniform Building Code)
  345. UEL (Upper Explosive Limit)
  346. UFC (Uniform Fire Code)
  347. UFL (Upper Flammable Limit)
  348. UL (Underwriters Laboratories)
  349. UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply or United Parcel Service)
  350. URI (Upper Respiratory Infection)
  351. US&R (Urban Search and Rescue)
  352. USAR (United States Army Reserve)
  353. USCG (United States Coast Guard)
  354. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)
  355. USFA (United States Fire Academy)
  356. USFS (United States Forest Service)
  357. UST (Underground Storage Tank)
  358. UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
  359. UTL (Unable To Locate)
  360. VES (Vent-Enter-Search)
  361. VS (Vital Signs)
  362. W/B (West Bound)
  363. WEL (Within Expected Limits)
  364. WFCA (Western Fire Chiefs Association)
  365. WFS (Women in the Fire Service)
  366. WIV (Wall Indicator Valve)
  367. WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)
  368. WNL (Within Normal Limits - or We Never Looked)
  369. wt (Weight)
  370. y/o (Years old)

Note: Depending on the area of the country you are in, the above abbreviations may slightly differ. If you decide to use those in your documentation, ensure they are accepted or abbreviations in your part of the country.

Abbreviations specific to the state of California:

  1. CAL OSHA (California Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  2. CCAI (California Conference of Arson Investigators)
  3. CCR (California Code of Regulations)
  4. CDF (California Department of Forestry)
  5. CFFJAC (California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee)
  6. CFCA (California Fire Chiefs Association)
  7. CFMA (California Fire Mechanics Association)
  8. CHP (California Highway Patrol)
  9. CPF (California Professional Firefighters)
  10. CSFA (California State Firefighters Association)
  11. CSFM (California State Fire Marshal)
  12. CSTI (California Specialized Training Institute)
  13. LAFD (Los Angeles Fire Department)
  14. NOR CAL TOs (Northern California Training Officers Association)
  15. PERS (Public Employees Retirement System)
  16. SBFS (State Board of Fire Services)
  17. SFFD (San Francisco Fire Department)
  18. SFPA (San Francisco Paramedic Association)
  19. SO CAL TOs (Southern California Training Officers Association)

Note: I added the California abbreviations not because I live in California, but to make those that live in California aware of those resources but also to direct folks living outside of California to look up similar organizations within their state which probably have similar abbreviations.

You may or may not have heard of the above abbreviations. If you have not heard any of those, now you can say you have learned something new today. If you are not sure of what each term means, take the time to do some research and find out their meanings. Why are abbreviations so important when we are supposed to be practicing "clear-text" in our communications? Because there are certain situations when abbreviations may be necessary, however that is very rare.

More importantly, it is important to understand abbreviations so when others say them during a conversation or in a written form of communication, you don't have to look like you are ignorant or uneducated about what they are talking about. Be careful though - try to not use abbreviations when talking to members of the public, especially if you ever find yourself on camera or doing a station tour or public education demonstration. The public probably does not know what you are talking about and you will lose credibility and also lose your audience and they will eventually not pay attention or comprehend what you are talking about.

I have read or heard all of the abbreviations I mentioned over the years. A vehicle accident in Southern California is a "TC" while a vehicle accident in some Northern California departments is an "MVA." While they both mean the same thing, they may mean something different to someone. Keep it simple, use clear-text as much as possible, and your intended message will be communicated effectively and efficiently. Knowing abbreviations will help allow you to better perform your job and understand what is occurring in your fire service.

For those of you wondering why I included so many EMS related abbreviations, if you have not figured it out yet, EMS is here to stay - like it or not. Most fire departments nationwide and fire service personnel have embraced EMS and come to the conclusion that EMS is not only the right thing to do because of our resource availability and the strategic locations of fire stations, but it is the right thing to do because we are here to help people have a better day. When people call 9-1-1 for any type of assistance, I want them to feel like they can call the fire department and know that we will either solve their problem or point them in the direction and get them the correct assistance they need if we cannot provide it. Since most fire departments are providing some form of EMS in their daily life, that means they will either employee EMTs or paramedics, and also deal with other EMT's or paramedics from assisting agencies on a regular basis. Understanding the language you will be hearing (a lot of abbreviations, especially when talking between each other) will make you understand more about what is going on.

The next time you find yourself watching "ER" or "Emergency (Squad 51, you know - Johnny and Roy)", you will be able to better understand what they are saying.

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