Preventing Rapid Intervention Company (RIC) Radio Chaos: The 3/3 Option

By Anthony Avillo
Recently we stumbled upon a new and better way to manage a “Mayday.” What started out as a routine drill to familiarize department members with a new firefighter-locator tool ended up changing the way they looked at rapid intervention company operations–especially from a command and control standpoint.
We found that using three radio frequencies to manage the Mayday made operations more effective and efficient and eliminated a good deal of “radio insanity” that develops when both the distressed firefighter(s) and rapid intervention company (RIC) operate on the same frequency. Basically, once the Mayday was received:
1. Fireground operations switched to another radio frequency (channel).
2. The distressed firefighter(s) remain on the original frequency, hence referred to as the “Mayday frequency,” which is managed by an officer at the command post; for our department, this was the safety officer.
3. The RIC operates on a third frequency dubbed the “RIC frequency” that is managed by different officer at the command post; for our department, this was managed by a battalion chief.
We found many advantages to this concept: There was less traffic on all frequencies; The RIC found it could operate in a more business-like manner rather than operating on a now-chaotic Mayday and fireground frequency. In addition, the use of feedback-assisted rescue operations were much more effective. When the RIC and the Mayday are managed on the same frequency, the feedback is emitted over every radio on the fireground. With the use of different, more manageable frequencies, it is only heard on the Mayday firefighter radio(s). Moreover, the coordination at the command post–brought about by a better management team handling the Maydays and RIC–was also more effective.
I urge your department to try this concept in your next RIC drill. The comprehensive description of this concept is detailed in the December 2010 issue of Fire Engineering (CLICK HERE). I was skeptical at first, but the more this practiced was honed, the better it seemed to work. Once we were finished, no one present argued with the observable results.
If there is anyone else who has tried or developed a similar concept, please leave some feedback in the Fire Engineering Training Community on my profile HERE.

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