Firefighter Safety Vs The Dinosaurs

May 22, 2003
Last time we talked about radio feedback and annoying unattended PASS alarms. Well the latest problem we?re trying to tackle around my department is a radio issue.
Last time we talked about radio feedback and annoying unattended PASS alarms. Well the latest problem we're trying to tackle around my department is a radio issue. Like most volunteer departments we started off, years ago, with one frequency and it served us well. We dispatched the department's alarms and worked fires all on the single frequency. Then we went to a fire ground frequency for fighting fires and operating at emergencies and continued with the original frequency for dispatch.

This idea met with a fair amount of resistance when we first started. Our friendly dinosaurs at work again. Though we continued to trained long and hard on the new procedures and now everyone operates with little or no problem. But some problems have come up and the new generation of dinosaurs, who are much more advanced than the older versions (they carry cell phones) are digging in for possible trench warfare.

"Why do we have to change anything?"

The problems are not with the radios they say, but with those who use them. Operator error. Well they are right and they are wrong. (Refer to the feedback problem.) But guess what, times do change, equipment changes, and what was the cool then-certainly is not cool now-leisure suits for example.

The problem is messages were given and not received. Fire reports, progress reports, and requests for tools to specific locations. Thank goodness nothing like-HELP!

One side says we need different radios, just for us, we'll even buy them ourselves because they can't hear and it's dangerous. The other side says we need more training, and besides new radios are expensive and we don't have the money.

I'm no radio expert. I can turn them on, change the battery and even select the right channel, but specific watts, ohms, amps, satellite uplinks, whip antennas, and high frequency low band double repeater matrix systems are not my personal cup of tea. Halligans are more my speed.

The old saying was what we need is a good 5-cent cigar. Or better yet-a simple, effective, waterproof, easy to operate and clear as a bell radio. Hello, Mister Marconi?

Solutions to problems are difficult to find if the problem cannot be defined. Why did they not hear the radio transmission? Was it garbled or stepped on? Is the wattage too low and in some applications the radio is not strong enough to be heard at the command post? Or is the chief alone at the command post and busy on the other radio frequency checking on the seventh due engines progress in procuring coffee and donuts for the scene?

Find the problem first.

TRAINING. We can't be heard the radio wattage is too weak. EQUIPMENT. The chief was on the other frequency. MANPOWER.

If you find you have a mixture of problems solve them one at a time taking the easiest first. Is it easier to assign one person at each operation just to monitor the radio for important messages rather than try and train one people working second jobs and shifts how to cover a remote michrophone? (You will have to eventually) And what (watt) if they are right and the radios are too weak and need to be replaced? It's all a matter of priorities.

Number 1 on ANY list has to be firefighter safety. If it means buying one radio a year and forgoing those bowling trophies, well guess what? There are grants available, fund raising ideas, public awareness and education.

Get busy, the life you save, maybe your own.

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