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Best practices for safe and effective communications

The IAFC recommends that agencies implement the following practices to promote safe and effective communications:

1. All personnel must be trained to use their radios in conjunction with other protective equipment. Comprehensive and continuing training is critical as communications is a key component of the firefighter’s overall safety ensemble.

2. Standards and guidelines need to be developed for scenario-based user training. This training must integrate communications policies and procedures into an agency's overall operations. Relevant standards are needed to define what constitutes effective communications during an incident.

3. Fire departments should be actively involved, from the very beginning, in the design of
communications systems. The importance of fire service participation in the development of requirements cannot be overstated.

4. Incident commanders should evaluate background noise as a safety consideration in task assignments. Additional personnel may need to be assigned in a high-noise environment.

5. Agencies should work with their vendors to ensure that radios and accessories are compatible and configured properly. The right configuration settings can significantly improve audio intelligibility. For example, many radios can be programmed so that only the microphone being used is keyed when the radio is transmitting.

6. Consider the use of accessories— such as speaker microphones, throat mics and in-ear
Mics — to reduce the impact of background noise. When carefully selected to ensure that they are compatible with masks and other equipment, accessories can dramatically improve intelligibility.

7. Communications equipment integration should be a factor in the design of SCBA, PASS and other systems that contribute to the firefighter's protective envelope. When procuring these systems, agencies must consider how the protective systems will work with their radio equipment.

These tips from the IAFC were included in Motorola's position paper on 'Background Noise and Radio Performance' published last year.

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