Dunn’s Dispatch: Communications Strategies

By Vincent Dunn

In the fire service, there is a deadly misunderstanding about communications involving life-threatening situations that kills firefighters every year: Who is responsible for discovering and communicating these dangers during fire operations?

Firefighters believe this is the chief’s responsibility, whereas chiefs believe the firefighter is responsible. Who is correct? As long as these two important sets of people on the fireground disagree on who is responsible for discovering and communicating the information about life-threatening situations–such as possible collapse, flashover, or explosion hazards–we never will reduce the number of firefighter deaths and injuries on the fireground.

How could such a deadly misunderstanding have arisen about this important life-saving procedure? I have a confession to make: Fire chiefs unwittingly create this deadly misunderstanding. Over the years, chiefs, including myself, have given the impression that we can detect or foresee all fireground hazards. Sometimes we can if we have studied firefighting strategy, tactics, and fireground safety. However, even with this knowledge, a chief may not discover and communicate most life-threatening dangers during a fire. In reality, firefighters are responsible for discovering and communicating fireground dangers.

For more information on this subject, go to vincentdunn.com.

Deputy Chief Dunn (Ret., Fire Department of New York) is the author of a number of textbooks, including the new Strategy of Firefighting (Fire Engineering, 2007), Collapse of Burning Buildings (Fire Engineering, 1988), Safety and Survival on the Fireground (Fire Engineering, 1992), and Command and Control of Fires and Emergencies (Fire Engineering, 1999).

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