There are several potential links involved in communicating at emergencies. Although there are many variations the following links are typical. The first link is the initial notification of an existing emergency to an emergency center or dispatch systems; next step would be dispatching specific units to the scene; followed by communication between the scene and dispatch; and finally on scene communications. 

Some ways that the initial notification can be received are: through a phone call placed to a telecommunicator (FDNY uses the term dispatcher); an automatic alarm system that can be activated by such things as heat, smoke, carbon monoxide, or other chemical detectors; or various types of alarm boxes.  

The next stage is to notify the appropriate fire station or emergency personnel. This can be done a variety of ways such as: Computer, radio, emergency tones, voice alarm and phone. It is important to have backup systems. In unstaffed fire stations notifications can be carried out thorough: pagers, cell phones (texts), and sirens or air horns.

In some cases, a fire station can receive direct notifications these can come through direct lines to the station (which are often associated with high risk occupancies), or through walk-ins (a verbal). These initial notifications should generally include the location and some specifics regarding the fire or emergency. 

After the initial assignment, the next communications will be between the scene and the communications center. While this will eventually fall to the incident commander (IC) an initial report should be transmitted by the first arriving personnel. This would include and initial assessment of the situation.

In the case of a reported fire this could include such items as: a confirmation that there is a fire at the scene and the volume and location of the fire, the type of structure, life hazards, and any additional resources required. The IC will be required to give additional progress reports (some SOPs require these at specific intervals).           

James Kiesling is the Captain of Squad 1 of the Fire Department, City of New York’s Special Operations Command. He holds as AOS in fire protection technology from Corning Community College, a BS in fire and emergency services from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an MA in homeland security and defense from the Nava

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