Volunteer firefighters vote for clear communications

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If Hog Chain 400 is 10-23 at a 10-71 J1 and Zetus 800 has Engine80 and is 10-17 to 42’s 10-20, who’s 10-8?

Yes, that’s the problem, said volunteer fire service officials.Many veterans of fire service and law enforcement might have readthe preceding paragraph clearly to say that Hog Chain VolunteerFire Department’s chief is at a house fire and Zetus VFD’s chiefhas the fire engine on the way to that location.

But to most people it’s confusing at best. But now a new systemis being implemented to cut down on that confusion.

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“We had problems with some different firefighters not keeping upwith their codes and having to ask what certian things were, so wetalked about it and decided if we could say what we needed to sayinstead of using the 10-codes it would be a lot easier,” said FireCoordinator Clifford Galey.

At a Volunteer Firefighters’ Association meeting Thursday,members voted to do away with using the 10-codes to communicatewhile in action, and are switching to what is referred to as “cleartext,” or basically, standard communication.

“The reason why is you can understand the call better,” saidAssistant Fire Coordinator Randy Jordan. “If they page out a 10-71J4, which is an electrical fire, we don’t know if it’s anelectrical box on a house, an electrical wire down, or some otherelectrical issue, but if they say there’s a box on a house on fire,we know what we’re going to.”

Jordan said while the change was made partially becausevolunteer firefighters are often people who are not already privyto 10-code language, it was also made with the purpose of beingable to dispatch all the needed emergency agencies to a situationas quickly as possible.

“Everybody knows clear text, and a new person coming into fireservice can be told directions in plain text and then theyunderstand. Also, with a car fire when they do it in plain text,we’ll already know if it’s an 18-wheeler or just a car and we’d beable to call in more backup if it’s needed,” he said. “If it’d belike a tanker truck, we’d know if we need hazmat or not, aswell.”

And in the case of multi-jurisdictional situations, it’s thebest way to communicate, Galey said.

“It’s not just because it helps the new firefighters, but underthe National Incident Management System, if you have an incidentwhere outside help has to come in, you go to the clear text toinsure everyone’s on the same page,” he said.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Dustin Bairfield saidthe institution of the Incident Command Systems is encouragingemergency services across the country to start using clear textmore often.

“Anytime there’s actually anything that’s in depth involvingother agencies, they suggest you go to clear text, so if their10-codes are different than yours everyone can communicate,” hesaid. “Plus, you’ll probably see more and more agencies going to itin the future. We decided also that to cut down on confusion andboost communication with the volunteers, we’d be glad to doit.”

Galey said that in the case of a situation like the May 24downtown Brookhaven fire, the clear text will be not only a help,but imperative.

“It makes it much easier when you’re dealing with volunteers andthe city working together, if codes are a little different it couldconfuse people,” he said.

Jordan agreed.

“There’s no room for misunderstanding,” he said. “Plus, ICSprotocol is you talk plain text in a situation like that.”

Sheriff Steve Rushing said Galey came to him with the suggestionafter Thursday night’s meeting. As a result, the clear textcommunications began on Monday.

“I didn’t have a problem with it, and there was no problem withdispatch on it, so we went ahead and decided to make the move,” hesaid.