The following are twelve simple rules for improving firefighter safety through communications as provided for FirefighterCloseCalls.com by Chief Barry Furey, noted Fire Chief and Communications Director:
Keep your radios properly maintained. We all know the importance of properly maintained tools, and radios are no exception. Portables are the least powerful transmitters, yet they are the most critical when it comes to the safety of attack teams. Common problems are damaged antennas and weak batteries. And, while those stubby antennas may not catch in your gear as often, they do cut down on the effective range of the radio.
Set up your radios so that channels at either end of the dial are always monitored by dispatch or the I/C. Its difficult during interior operations to tell what channel youve selected, (was that one click or two?) but you can be pretty sure when the knob or toggle stops. Having these frequencies constantly monitored provides a positive mechanism to transmit a mayday that somebody is going to hear.
Remember that radios are electro-mechanical devices and emit energy. Unless you are sure, assume them not to be intrinsically safe in a hazardous atmosphere, and do not use them around certain types of explosives.
If coming from another agency, make sure your rapid intervention team can transmit and receive on your channels. Sounds simple, but sometimes overlooked.
Regularly test your dispatch and transmitter site generators under load. Just running them isnt enough. Youd be surprised how many things get plugged back into the wrong outlet when theyve been worked on, or how over the years UPS devices become overloaded.
If you see a hazard report it according to your agency SOP. Just because you can see it and avoid it doesnt mean that the next crew through will be that lucky. Conditions may have changed,
Give and get appropriate acknowledgements. If it needs to be said, it needs to be heard, Microphone clicks dont cut it.
Use apparatus naming conventions that eliminate confusion over similarly sounding units, and make sure to use the full identifiers.
If the dispatch of additional alarms or mutual aid shares the same frequency as the fire attack, break this assignment into segments so that fireground will have periodic access to airtime.
Where repeated frequencies are used, secure a simplex or talk-around channel that allows for radio to radio communications. While these will have limited range, they provide a safety net in poor coverage areas or during system failures.
Make checking radio coverage a part of your inspection process. After all, isnt not being able to reach dispatch from the basement of a building a hazard? Know before you go!