Radio Traffic Redundancy

Finally, I’ve gotten it together. Over three weeks ago, I announced that I was working on a new post. Unfortunately, I became side tracked by, what I have dubbed, “parasitic blogging”. Rather than express my views through an article on THIS site, I’ve been leaving a multitude of comments on various other blogs. Among those are Statter911, the Raleigh/Wake Fire Blog by Mike Legeros, and the Fire Critic. The added benefit of this is that my comments usually link back to this site. Free advertising…cha-ching! There are links in the right sidebar to the blogs which I read most frequently. So, if I stop posting for a while, you can most likely find me (and join the discussion) on one of those sites.

Moving on, this post is a light-hearted take on a most controversial topic…radio traffic. More specifically, the redundant phrases which infect agencies nationwide, wasting airtime and precious oxygen. I will begin by stating that I do not like “ten codes”. Period. They are useless and often confusing. If you would like to argue that, feel free to leave a comment below. You’ll still be wrong, but feel free to comment.

The first viral phrase of futility is a favorite of Mike Legeros. “Be advised…” is often heard preceding any important radio transmission. It sounds like an interjection designed to grab one’s attention before the announcement of pertinent data. In reality, it is usually utilized as a “filler” phrase, much like saying “uh” or “ah” when you aren’t sure what to say next. It gives the speaker an extra second (or two in the slow-speaking south) to gather their thoughts before speaking further. If it were necessary, then one should ignore any transmissions not preceded by “be advised”. If they don’t tell you to listen, then don’t. The fact is, listeners naturally know to listen and “be advised”, whether or not they are told to.

The second phrase up for discussion is similar. Have you ever heard command declare that the fire is under control, “at this time”? This phrase is used over and over, following almost any type of transmission. The question here is, would you ever transmit information which is not presently accurate? Would one ever advise that the fire was under control “five minutes ago”, or that the fire will be under control “in ten minutes”? Listeners automatically assume that your information is current, so it is ridiculous and redundant to state this. Taking this deeper, we can void this phrase using basic rules of grammar. When stating that “the fire is under control”, the word “is” signifies present tense, thus leaving no need for the additional “at this time”. Why waste the air time?

My final radio pet peeve runs rampant throughout the fire service. “Engine 50 on scene; two-story, ordinary construction, nothing showing from the exterior“. When is the last time anyone gave an initial size-up from the interior? The fact that you are describing the scene upon arrival clearly communicates that you are outside. So, why say it? Captain Chaos and I have often joked about giving a second size-up declaring, “Nothing visible from the interior, either”. We have yet to execute this, but  I have not ruled out the idea. Don’t get me started on size-ups. Just for your information, “masonry” and “block” are NOT building types…there are five (and ONLY five) of those. You should have learned them in a basic building construction class. No other construction types should be used in a size-up. End of story.

I believe this is enough kindling to start a good fire of discussion. I’ll leave the redundancy of “RIT Team” alone. Actually, that one speaks for itself. I’ve always wanted to reply to command as the “Rapid Intervention Team Team” after hearing that. The same goes for “IC Command”…I’ve heard that one, too. They are ACRONYMS, people! I digress; leave your comments below and tell your friends to check this out. Use the buttons below to share via Facebook, Twitter, email, and now…Google +. You can also print a copy and post it at the firehouse.

– Lt. Lemon

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20 responses to “Radio Traffic Redundancy”

  1. anchorpoint1 says :

    The only one that I could venture to defend is “at this time”. I think it’s interchangeable with “currently”. Why would you use it? To leave the door open. “The fire is under control at this time (or currently under control), continue the other companies” Doesn’t mean it’s going to be under control in a few minutes. Or “Entry team has made contact with patient and are packaging him at this time”.
    You know what, it does sound stupid. 10 codes-useless. let me end with “patient is disorientated”, “applying O2”, “the bum is moving on”


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      Thanks, Donovan!

      I understand how it could be useful in SOME circumstances. The main issue is that ,locally, folks tend to say “at this time” after EVERYTHING. It becomes ridiculous and I think some people say it just because they think it sounds good.

      Ugh…I can’t stand people augmenting their usual vocabulary in order to sound more “professional” on the radio. I could throw my radio every time someone says they will “attempt to ascertain” information. Just say that you will find out. Plain English should be just that…plain. Save the big words for Scrabble…and blog posts.


      • Christie says :

        Maybe a bit late in posting a comment but I was just recently introduced to this forum and was reading to catch up today.

        This post sort of irratated me only because literally half of my job is to talk on the radio. I have to defend 10 codes, they are more professional and not confusing when EVERYONE takes the time to understand their meaning. For instance, and of course for those of you local to Randolph Co, what does S50 mean? Anybody? It means scene is under control…That means that anybody who is still responding to the scene, YOU ARE NOT NEEDED>> you should return to your station and remain there until you are given other orders.

        I agree that there are a few 10 codes could be done away with for example Condition 10, really do I really need to know that you are “preparing to leave”?? I don’t care!! I figure once you are S50 that the next step would be preparing to leave. All I want is 10-19 or returning.

        The problem that I see is that as Lt. Lemon so eliquently stated in his inital post “in the south” you may run into MANY versions of En route. I’m headed. I’m going. Are we there yet? Not everyone is going to use the same plain text and throw in a country accent on top of it and I’m sure Lt Lemon your pet peeve list will grow exponentially.

        I also agree that “at this time” is used a great deal more than it should but I stand with the defense that it does have it’s use, if used approriatly. Attempting to ascertain is one that I personally use and will continue to use it. It sounds a lot more porfessional that I will find out.

        There is a traditional way to speak on the radio and we that have been working on the radio for a decade or more have been exposed to that tradition. It is not unlike an officers written report. There is a certain way of writing that is taught and expected. Some get it and some, well just destroy it along with the english language.

        Ten codes are not useless, they are litterally misunderstood because very few people actually take the time to learn their meanings. Period. I have been in the fire service and most rookies are more interested in getting their turnout gear or pager than taking that one sheet of paper with the ten codes written on them and learning their meanings. I personally have handed out those papers to rookies and later found those papers setting on the table left behind for anyone to throw away. Later that same rookie runs a few calls and has NO idea what it is that he is supposed to do or where he is supposed to go and he comes to me again asking for another copy.



        • Christie says :

          You know something else came to mind…Just a couple questions for anyone reading,

          How many “radio” classes have you been to or seen offered in the last year?

          Are our rookies and other members getting the true training they need to talk on the radio?

          Is it a “skill” we just expect everyone to watch and learn?

          How many hours has your rookie spent sitting in the 911 center learning the other side?

          How much importance is actually given to the radio?

          Things to think about…..


        • Chris says :

          Why should I have to study a piece of paper to learn how to speak……again. You do realize that you followed all your 10 codes with the actual meaning right?? That’s because you know that nobody understands them except you……what are you being so secretive about on the radio? If you notice, I didn’t have to attach a document to this for you to be able to read what I wrote. CLEAR TEXT, novel idea


  2. Legeros says :

    Be advised, that’s a good post!

    ps- We’re Legeros Fire Blog now!


  3. Captain Chaos (@CaptainChaos001) says :

    As always, a very smartly written article! I was not sure if a Lieutenant wrote it, or an englsih professor! Alot of the silly traits that tend to come out of peoples mouths when speaking on the radio often, in my opinion, stem from A; Learned behavior (thats how the officers have always done it) And B; young officers that do not get a whole lot of experience on the mic. I know, I can say this because I AM one. I think its always a good idea for IC command (haha) when established on most routine calls should stay in the hands of the lesser experienced officers, AND up and coming firefighters. If you give people on opportunity to practice on the simple calls, it gives them plenty of time to address these very issues when the call is done. Later, when the call is a real working job, they have a strong base to stand upon when the spotlight is on them. Instead of the usual Chief takes command, chief says everything, theres no need for YOU to be on the radio, me me me me, im the chief and im in charge attitude on every single call there is. I could honestly write a small book on the issue, I will leave it with this: Give people a chance to practice on the small fries, and they wont sound like a lunatic in the screamers ward of an insane asylum when the actual need for calm, controlled, authority presents itself! Sure, maybe the routine calls may end up sounding a little raw, but in the end, it makes for a more polished radio ettiquet on the “big one”. Now how the call sounds as opposed to how it actually GOES is a whole ‘nother issue!


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      Here we go. We’re starting to dig some serious ideas out of this post. You present a great plan for building radio, and overall command, confidence. You don’t have to let the young guns do everything, just give them a little bit of the “command experience” every so often. Over time they will develop the skills to stay calm in the future.

      -Professor Lemon


  4. Legeros says :

    Allow me to play devil’s advocate, and express a possible practical purpose for redundant radio traffic.

    “Be advised, we are entering the structure.”

    “We are entering the structure.”

    In the chaos and noise of the fireground, if you miss the first second of that transmission, you might hear

    “…are entering the structure.”

    “…ing the structure.”

    Thus I have lately pondered if redundant radio phrases are perhaps useful, and provide “disposable” words, of sorts, in that first second or two that it can take, for folks to tune in and start hearing what they’re listening to.

    What do you think?


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      It is common for departments to use unit identifiers for this purpose. As in, “Dispatch/Communications…Ladder 5 on scene” or “Command…Attack 2 entering the structure.” I know at ELAFF HQ, the practice of saying “Dispatch” was initiated, years ago, for that exact reason. As I said, “be advised” is generally used as a filler phrase, in a similar fashion.

      The problem is, I often hear it combined with unit identifiers. As in, “Communications to Rescue 10, be advised…blah blah blah.” Those are the instances which puzzle and annoy me.


  5. mainstreetmarshall says :

    “From the exterior” is a useful size up to keep incoming units and dispatch up to date. I have actually been on calls where there was nothing showing “from the exterior” only to get up to the fire floor and find a room or two off and running. On arrival, this lets the incoming units know that possibly they can slow down a bit, maybe its just burnt food or something. Once you reach the fire floor , you then need to give an additional update telling everyone including your incoming BC what you found “in the interior”. Personally I dont think the term “from the exterior” is a problem. Its also useful if the first unit tells me “occupants are evacuating”.


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      I understand your point. From my perspective, however, it seems redundant because the FIRST size-up should always be done from the exterior. Therefore, I find it useless as it is stating the obvious. Any subsequent information, such as interior conditions, should include the location. I just don’t feel that it is necessary for the INITIAL size-up.


  6. FMCH says :

    I know I’m late on this, having just found this site…….Ya know what I find silly? The phrase “Show ( insert apparatus title here ) on scene/in quarters/general detail” etc. etc. When you tell dispatch what you’re doing, it’s going to “show” your truck doing whatever it is you just told them.


    • lieutenantlemon says :

      That’s a good one. I think another comment touched on this, but that is similar to “Engine 54 WILL BE en route”.

      If I were a dispatcher, my response would be, “Ok, let us know when you ARE en route.”

      Thanks for the comment!


  7. FMCH says :

    I don’t remember where I saw it, but there is a video of an FDNY engine responding to a fire, and the officer says on the radio “Engine XXX is also responding by the way.” That my friends is made of 100% win.


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