Mike Lombardo, Commissioner (retired) — Buffalo, NY, Fire Department
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Accurate, clear, communication is vital to the positive outcome of an emergency and the safety of members operating at an emergency. Providing accurate and clear communications on the fireground can offer some serious challenges, these challenges can be very dangerous for firefighters and those we are sworn to protect. These challenges can involve equipment as well as procedures and the human interaction with the entire communication process. Some reading this will disagree with certain points in the article, that’s fine, but remember our emergency communication is not the end but the means to help us protect the public and ourselves.
Technology Good & Bad
There is a plethora of equipment at our disposal today that aids us on the fireground in accomplishing our core mission. Certain equipment is a tremendous help and other items can end up being a burden. GPS systems are available on apparatus that can give us detailed routing instructions as well as showing the location of other responding units. These systems can provide accurate response and arrival information as well as information down to hydrant location. When I started as a firefighter information about a dangerous building was passed along (hopefully) by writing the address up on the chalk board at the watch desk in quarters. Today very specific building data can be relayed both verbally via radio as well as written and visual information passed along via mobile data terminals available in many fire department units. This is just a small example of what new technology can provide however all technological advances are not positive.
When dealing with new technology we need to make sure it works for us. I have mentioned the fireground a couple times now. When we respond to emergencies other than fires most all of our communications equipment is not an issue, it is when we operate on the fireground that it is most critical and often causes us issues. Operating inside a burning building is probably the most difficult and dangerous work environment on the planet Earth. Don’t make it worse with equipment we provide that is not user friendly.