Fire Dispatching Fundamentals

I find that fire calls are the most fun. Until the fire department arrives on scene, you have very little idea of what the situation could be. Of course, fires can always esculate as well making them fun because you never know what is going to happen. Fires can also be very difficult to work. There is a lot of radio traffic at a working fire. If there is a working fire, here is the key thing to remember: If any information that you need to pass on to the fire department on scene isn't critical, don't pass it on until the fire is under control. They are very busy out there and don't need to have the radio tied down with unnecessary information. But I get ahead of myself. Lets start off with taking the call.

First thing, get the location of the fire (this includes weather it is inside or outside). Second,for inside fires, I would determine if the people are calling from the same location that the fire is in. If it is, I would quickly ask them where in the building they think the fire is, and then ask them if they are evacuating the building. If they are evacuating, have them put the phone down so you can still listen to what is going on even though you won't be talking to anyone. At this point, as a new dispatcher, take a deep breath. Dispatch out the fire department(s), keeping in mind that you are assuming you have a working (sometimes called a structure, or working structure) fire, although it is unconfirmed at this point. After dispatching the fire department, notify all other agincies that need to respond (i.e. police, ambulance, etc.) As the departments respond, make sure to monitor the phoneline. You never know what you may hear (like a person screaming "HELP".) If the fire is outside, (i.e. a car or brush fire) determine weather the fire is in a position to threaten a building. That will usually change the responce type.

When the department gets there, listen carefully. Depending on the equipment the department has, it may be difficult to hear what they are saying. For example, the Town of Brattleboro fire department has just bought two brand new fire trucks and a new rescue truck. However before the second new truck was purchased, an older model (although not very old, probably about a 1985 model or so) engine was the front line, or primary, truck out of Station 2. Whenever they would sign on as responding you would hear:

5Engine4:"Dispatch from 5Engine4."
5Engine4:"we're vrrooooooooooooom, honk honk."

Of course, the same thing would happen when they were signing off at the scene, the engine noise overpowered everything that was said. This was OK when they were signing on, because we knew that they were responding, and thus telling us so. However, sometimes when they were the first to sign off on the scene and tried to give us the preliminary report before they stopped the truck, it was very difficult to hear, thus making listening carefully a very key quality to have in a dispatcher.

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