I grew up as a young firefighter where getting some of the bosses to communicate was like pulling teeth. Maybe it was that “information is power” mantra-I don’t know, but trying to get reports on the fireground was either nothing or it was like kids screaming at a Justin Bieber concert. The louder the screamer on the radio, the heavier the fire conditions. Or not. There were “those ” who screamed and when you arrived, you wondered if you were on the same scene as the screamer.
Of course, back then the rare “portable” radio weighed about 10 lbs, the “low band” antenna stood about 2′ tall…and reliability was questionable. Keep in mind also that most crews operating inside didn’t have a radio back then. Things changed.
As portable radios became more available, there was more communication on the fireground – but the problem was kind of like finding Willie Wonka’s “golden ticket”. There was plenty of “chatter” on the air (all those tickets) but little of it really mattered-and when something important was transmitted (the found golden ticket), it got lost with all the other radio traffic-and was often missed. Of course, we didn’t really know too much chatter was a problem (like many things, we just accepted the problem as just “part of the job”) and the behavior was to pretty much talk about and describe by radio, everything you saw or did. Kind of like Harry Caray calling a ball game. (Google him).
Many area firegrounds have changed since then…and some have not. I have been forced to change and yet still, some days I feel like saying a bit more on the radio than is actually needed. Rest assured, I have all kinds of loving “friends” who always remind me. I also go back and listen to radio recordings of every working incident I respond and operate on as a self critique. At the very young and youth-filled age of 65, I continue to learn.
I also listen to a lot of radio traffic both locally as well as nationwide-with every incident an opportunity to learn. More often than not these days, radio on the fireground is much more disciplined and purpose driven than ever before. Why? Because some Fire Chiefs have decided how they want the fireground to operate and to be communicated on. Leadership.
Of course some areas and or departments still don’t get it. Endless chatter as if it’s a phone conversation, no discipline, ignoring assignments, firefighters talking on top of each other, companies talking on “their own” fireground radio channels and all the other stuff we’ve been told to not do by those who investigate firefighter line of duty deaths. Some fireground radio traffic is actually quite unbelievable…