Comprehensive firefighter training should cover all elements of the fireground, and that includes communications equipment. Today’s radios and accessories are more intuitive than ever, but that doesn’t mean first responders don’t need upfront and continuous training to ensure that they’re ready when it matters most.
In a “Fire Engineering” Training Minutes video on radios, fire service veteran Nicolas Martin says it best: “Communications are essential on any fireground, and radios are an essential part of communication.”
Firefighter training on communications equipment doesn’t have to be arduous, and a good mix of best practices – and practice – will make it easier than you think. Providing some basic information about how radios work and dispelling misconceptions can guide training and make it easier to implement.
Here are some firefighter training tips to keep in mind:
Radios Need Protection, Too
Given the ruggedness and durability of radios for first responders, it's tempting to think that they can withstand anything. But even with all of their specifications for temperature and submersibility, they'll last longer and perform more reliably when they're protected.
To incorporate this into your training, have everyone put their radios under their coats, not over. The radios themselves and the crucial wiring will be shielded from heat and water. And, perhaps most importantly, they won’t be in the way. That simple step could make all the difference.
Mind the Microphones
Well-functioning microphones are essential, and so is using them correctly. It’s so important that the International Association of Fire Chiefs worked with Motorola Solutions on a training video, “Say It Loud and Clear,” about microphone use.
When selecting remote speaker microphones (RSM) and related accessories, one goal is to be able to position them so that they can be one to two inches from the user’s mouth when they’re talking, even when they’re wearing an SCBA. In the latter case, microphones should be brought to the voice port, not the voice amplifier, of the masks.
Microphones should be shielded, as much as possible, from any hazards. Users should get into the habit of taking certain steps to make sure that happens, such as:
- Using their protective equipment, such as helmet brims or visors, to cover the mics;
- Always turning away from the source of the noise; and
- Speaking loudly and clearly directly into the microphone without shouting.
Practice is a Best Practice
Using radios and other communications equipment properly on the fireground while wearing gear and gloves, and while withstanding the conditions, will take practice. Knowing by heart the location of all of the controls and what they do means no one will give it a second thought when seconds count.
Set Up Channels to Make Mayday Calls Easier
One of Martin’s tips is to make dispatch the first and last channels so users always know that turning their knobs all the way in either direction will allow them to immediately get someone’s attention during a mayday situation.