Clear multi-agency communication

Control Measure Knowledge

This control measure should be read in conjunction with:

Early identification of the need for a multi-agency response can save lives and reduce harm.

Fire control personnel can begin effective communication, co-ordination and virtual co-location through the agreeing and sharing of interoperable communication methods early during the incident – before all initial responding organisations are in attendance – to establish good working practices.

At any incident, no single responder organisation can appreciate all the relevant dimensions of an emergency straightaway. Shared situational awareness and joint understanding of risk need to be established to help all responding agencies understand:

  • What is happening and what is being done about it
  • What might happen next – or in the near future
  • What effects the next steps may have

Initial contact between fire control personnel and other agencies begins the process of sharing information about an incident. Except for announcement talkgroups such as National Talkgroup 20 (NTG20), communication between fire control personnel and other agencies should:

  • Be an exchange of information, rather than a one-way broadcast
  • Allow for clarification of information and language by all parties
  • Be recorded for later replay and recall using:
    • Incident logs
    • Recording systems
  • Remain open until jointly decided that it is no longer required (in the case of significant incidents, such as major incidents)

Exchanging information between agencies

Sharing information received during the management of emergency calls and from operational personnel between agencies supports an effective multi-agency response. What information is shared, and when it is shared, will depend on:

  • The nature of the incident
  • What information is known
  • What information is required, for example other emergency responders need to know whether there is a safe route to the incident
  • The stage of the incident; is this the initial exchange between agencies or an update?

Information shared will include some or all the following:

  • The location of the incident
  • Whether a safe route and safe approach have been identified
  • Details of known hazards and risks, including information stored on mobilising systems
  • Details about people at risk
  • Significant decisions made so far, such as whether an operational attendance is being made
  • What response has been mobilised
  • Details about the estimated time of arrival of key resources (unless they are already on scene) and their general capabilities, such as:
    • The first resource due to arrive on scene
    • A rescue boat attending a water rescue
  • Whether resources will be going to the incident location, a rendezvous point or a holding area
  • Where initial commanders should co-locate, when this information is known
  • Any significant incident developments, such as a withdrawal of operational personnel for safety reasons or a change of safety advice being given to emergency callers
  • Any apparent limitations of the fire and rescue service response and any capabilities required from other agencies to support an effective response (for example, once operational personnel reach an injured animal, they may need a veterinary organisation to treat the animal)

Plain language and common terminology

The use of commonly understood, non-service-specific language will help fire control personnel communicate effectively with other agencies and prevent misunderstandings.

Fire control personnel should communicate with other agencies:

  • Using plain language, following the principles of accuracy, brevity and clarity
  • Clearly and concisely, avoiding unexplained acronyms or technical jargon
  • Using commonly understood terms rather than call signs or local references for operational resources

Commonly agreed terms and abbreviations, such as those contained in the Glossary for the Joint Doctrine, can help fire and rescue services develop effective communication practices with other agencies.

Accessibility of risk information

Relevant information, such as site-specific risk information, should be made available to fire control personnel so that they can access and understand it as easily as possible. Critical information that needs to be seen and acted upon by fire control personnel – such as sharing information about hazards posing a threat to emergency responders – should be easily accessible through the mobilising system and be highlighted to fire control personnel for their immediate attention.

Risk information provided to fire control personnel should be written in plain language, easy to understand and current so that it can be acted upon, shared and understood by other agencies involved.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions