The Fire Dispatchers Role in Communications

During a Fire Incident As the fire dispatcher operating at the radio console position, you must monitor any and all communications between the dispatcher and the fireground units as well as all radio traffic between units. Many times this demands listening to more then one channel. Such efforts require you to multitask, or do more then one thing at the same time. It is particularly important to listen and be aware of what is happening at the scene by listening to fireground channel conversations.

This provides an added safety feature for the firefighters. There are times that a message was not heard on the fireground. A fire unit could be giving a report to command, a rescue company could be looking for utility shutoffs, or a firefighter inside the building could be trapped.

Most dispatch personnel wear headphones that reduce background noise making listening easier. At the scene of a fire incident, firefighters donÕt have that luxury of headphones. A fire scene with a response of 3 engines, 2 ladders, a rescue company and a chief officer could require 19 radios at the scene.

  • Seven vehicle radios with cab speakers
  • Five exterior speakers on the pump panels and truck turntables
  • Seven portable radios (with the firefighters)

On the fireground there are many reasons that a radio message was not heard:

  • The confusing of the incident, the urgency of the task (shouting, screaming)
  • Firefighters speaking through an oxygen face piece (unreadable, muffled)
  • Radio messages being "stepped on" (more then one unit talking at same time)
  • Noise from the roar of the fire pumpers engines
  • Noise from a firefighters tank bell going off because he is out of air
  • The sound of a fire alarm gong, horn, or bell sounding
  • Feedback from more then one radio in same area
  • Units on the wrong channel
  • Radio problems (dead receiving spot, battery problems)

If a message is heard that is not answered by the unit it is intended for, the fire alarm dispatcher should step in to insure the message reaches its intended destination.

Example: *"Engine 5 calling Command"ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ.no answer

After a short period the dispatcher should call command and say, "Dispatch to Command".."Command answering".."Engine 5 is calling you"

"Rescue calling Rescue 100"ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉno answer After a short period the dispatcher should call Rescue 100 and say, "Dispatch calling Rescue 100 the Rescue is calling you"

"Ladder 4 to Command, we are trapped on the second floor, rear" message goes unansweredÉÉÉÉ After a short period the dispatch should call Command and report that Ladder 4 was calling and reported being trapped on the second floor-rear.

" Engine 5 to Engine 5Õs pump start the water" Message goes unanswered "Fire Alarm to Engine 5Õs pump start the water to Engine 5Õs line acknowledge" Any message not understood should be asked to be repeated for accuracy.