Firefighters: Why Are We Bad Communicators on The Radio?
Like most of you, I came to work this morning: relieved the guy from the previous shift, checked my mask, tools, riding assignment, coffee and breakfast supplies. A box goes out across town and all the radio chatter sounds like a 16 year old girl at a boy band concert. Why?
If you read NIOSH reports, you’ll notice that regardless of the location of the unfortunate incident, “communications” is always addressed as a short fall in one form or another. Why?
What Did The Senior Firefighter Teach You?
What did the senior firefighter teach you when you first got on the job?
“Get here early, never take vacation until you have 10 years in, make sure the coffee is fresh, do your housework and make sure you’re on the rig before it starts.”
That is what I was taught and although those are all important tips for a new member to survive in the firehouse, it doesn’t teach me anything about surviving outside the firehouse.
Why Are We[Firefighters] Bad Communicators on The Radio?
As most young firefighters advance through the ranks to battalion chief, they get great fire-ground experience in busy companies, take countless classes on various topics, but none on communications. Why?
Well, what fire service communications courses are there?
As a result, our incident commanders often sound like inexperienced rookies when they key up the mic to give a report. Their voice raises a few octaves, their nerve is up and they don’t formulate a complete thought before speaking. Once again, why?
How many of you know where to pick up a hydrant, or where to place your 35′ ladder? Most firefighters do. Why?
Most know because they do it all the time. It’s muscle memory from experience and training, that combine to create that knowledge. How often are you practicing giving a size-up, progress report or request for further assistance and briefly explaining why you need it?
Think before you speak on the Radio
Inevitably, when a report is given over the radio, you’ll hear a lot of “umm’s and ahh’s” or “at this time’s” coming out of their mouth. Why? Because they aren’t exactly sure what else to say but don’t want to put the mic down and sound like they forgot to say something. Think before you speak, because once you say it, you can’t delete it.