Whether you’re part of a fire department or EMS team, ensuring that you communicate clearly during emergencies can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, poor communications frequently arise during emergency situations. Firefighters and first responders need to work together quickly to keep everyone safe. Having clear communication skills and tactics during emergencies can ensure that everyone is prepared, aware, and safe.
These 10 strategies for effective fireground communications can help you better coordinate efforts, prioritize tasks, and plan for a successful response.
Build rapport with everyone on your team
Communication begins when we connect with each other. Building relationships improves our ability to communicate effectively in any situation. For example, firefighter/EMS workers must build strong connections with their passengers and victims, so they can get them to safety.
The same rule applies at the fire ground. A good working relationship with your dispatcher allows you to be more informed about where your fellow firefighters are and what they’re doing. This will allow all members of the team to reach their goals without unnecessary delays caused by confusion.
Always know who else is on the scene
What is happening out there? When things escalate rapidly because of an unforeseen emergency, a well-organized team can react more quickly than one that doesn’t have the information it needs.
If you know that one of your dispatchers has a new patient, then you can take advantage of that insight by sending him or her additional resources like more equipment, firefighters, or ambulances to assist as needed.
3. Be clear about what the situation requires
You don’t want your crews rushing into action because someone said something vague. Be specific: Is it a structure fire? What kind of fire? How many people are involved? Where is the nearest hospital? Do you need help from another crew?
Make sure everyone knows what’s going on
The most common mistake made during communications is forgetting that someone else hears what’s being said. When we are speaking “overhead” (i.e., over radios) and not directly to someone in front of us, we cannot always be sure if what we say gets heard correctly.
We end up saying the wrong thing or waiting too long to correct it. This makes us less efficient and increases the risk of accidents or injuries. On the fire ground, it is important to be able to hear everything clearly. If anyone says something unclear, ask for him or her to repeat the message.
Check the basics before you speak
Have you checked? Have you looked at the airway? Are you wearing the right color gear? What do you need? Is there smoke? Do you see lights? Does anyone need help? If you’ve done these things, your chances of getting the message across successfully increase dramatically.
Be polite even when you disagree
It’s true that sometimes disagreement is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that you should argue, especially if lives are on the line. Instead, use respectful language.
Find out what your fellow firefighters think. Ask questions before voicing your own opinion. Listen to what they’re saying.
Avoid interrupting your dispatch center. Stay focused on the job at hand rather than arguing about issues unrelated to the original call.
Stay calm and collected
Responders on incident scenes experience high levels of stress; this may impair their ability to respond properly. To stay focused, firefighters often turn to techniques such as deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
It’s also helpful to practice your fire ground communication skills regularly; some training companies offer lessons based on real incidents, for example communications during bad weather.
Work together to resolve your differences
If you are having difficulty communicating, try making small changes. Try speaking more slowly. Use gestures to clarify your messages.
Try using an active voice instead of a passive voice. Consider asking for someone to repeat what was just said.
Consider your tone of voice
When you talk to someone, how does your tone of voice influence how he or she understands what you’re saying?
Some people tend to speak more quietly and softly when talking to others, while others tend to speak louder and faster. In order to accurately convey ideas and instructions, you’ll need to adjust your vocal cadence to match your audience.
10.Use visual cues
Sometimes the best way to express yourself is through images, drawings, or pictures. Try drawing little cartoon figures to explain complicated concepts.