Portable Radio User Guide
By the USFA/IAFF
Voice Radio Communications Guide for the Fire Service, Section 4 - Portable radio selection and use
Users and their behaviors have an impact on the effectiveness of fireground communications. Human factors, such as the way we speak and organization of reports, affect communications.
Technical factors obviously have an impact on fireground communications. Like any other technology, users need to know the limitations of the technology and how to use the tool appropriately.
When we talk on the radio, each of us subconsciously performs a process before we speak. Managing this process will provide more effective communications.
- Organization — Before speaking, formulate what information is being communicated and put the information in a standardized reporting template. For instance, a standard situational report might contain Unit ID, location, conditions, actions, and needs. This method forces users to fill in the blanks, answer all the necessary questions, and filter out unneeded information.
- Discipline — Often, ICs are overwhelmed by excess information on the radio. Radio discipline on the fireground will help to determine if information needs to be transmitted on the radio. If face-to-face communications are possible between members of a crew and the information is not needed by the IC, don’t get on the radio.
- Microphone location — Placing a microphone too close to the mouth or exposing the microphone to other fireground noise may result in unintelligible communications. When transmitting in a high-noise environment, shield the microphone from the noise source. Hold the microphone a couple of inches from the mouth or, when speaking through a SCBA mask, place the microphone near the voice port on the facepiece.
- Voice level — When speaking into a microphone use a loud, clear, and controlled voice. When users are excited, the speech often is louder and faster. These transmissions often are unintelligible and require the IC to ask for a rebroadcast of the information, resulting in more radio traffic on the channel.
Managing these human factors will have a positive impact on fireground communications. Reporting should be complete, necessary, and in a controlled, clear voice. These actions will reduce the amount of repeat transmissions on the fireground, reducing air time.
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