Effective communication

Control Measure Knowledge

Fire control commanders usually lead their teams to manage and support multiple incidents and situations while undertaking other fire control activities.

Effective communication is fundamental to achieving successful and safe resolution of incidents and situations. Obtaining accurate information promptly is crucial for situational awareness and subsequent decision-making. It helps the fire control commander perform their role firmly and confidently and ensures that all incidents and associated fire control activities are supported safely and effectively.

Communication also plays a vital role in co-ordinating activities, completing tasks and handing over command. Sharing accurate information promptly with all relevant personnel is critical for developing a common understanding of what is happening now and what needs to happen next.

As well as exchanging information, good communication helps to build relationships between people. These relationships are important for people to be effective when performing their tasks to resolve an incident. Fire control commanders should be aware that effective communication is essential for good leadership; it makes it easier for people to follow instructions, understand briefings and have confidence in what is being said.

Effective communication should:

  • Provide information that is:
    • Clear
    • Relevant and concise
    • Timely
  • Be easily understood
  • Include active listening
  • Ensure verbal and non-verbal communications are aligned
  • Ensure assumptions are questioned

The following key principles should be considered in maintaining an effective communication strategy:

  • Information received in support of incidents and shared with an incident ground is accurate, appropriate and timely
  • Information is obtained from a reliable and credible source; if it comes from another type of source, it should be checked and verified
  • Information received from an incident ground is recorded accurately using incident logs
  • Appropriate methods of communication are used if there are security implications or a need to relay sensitive or distressing information
  • Recipients are provided with relevant information via a suitable method

A good flow of information is essential to ensure the effective management of fire control activities. The fire control commander should ensure they:

  • Gather information, issue instructions and receive situation reports
  • Understand the information they receive, including differences in terminology
  • Challenge information to confirm that it is current and valid
  • Identify conflicting information and confirm what is correct
  • Issue instructions to personnel
  • Receive situation reports from all incidents or ongoing activities
  • Assess and provide for the needs of other agencies
  • Brief personnel about the tasks they need to perform
  • Thoroughly brief personnel to share any safety-critical information

For multi-agency incidents the M/ETHANE message protocol should be considered when exchanging information about the incident with other emergency responders and agencies.

Fire control commanders should ensure that suitable arrangements for communications with operational incidents are established and maintained. At an incident it is usually the role of command support, under the guidance of the incident commander, to establish arrangements for communications, including communication with fire control.

The fire control commander should consider the extent of the communications required to meet the activities of fire control, which may include:

  • Ensuring effective communication and information flow between fire control personnel
  • Maintaining communication links with incident grounds
  • Ensuring radio channels and call signs are correctly assigned
  • Establishing communications with other agencies
  • Establishing communications with other control rooms
  • Using talk groups
  • Requesting the support of a communications tactical adviser
  • Ensuring effective communication with other officers and personnel who are not at an incident ground
  • Ensuring the JESIP Control Room Supporting Principles are prioritised appropriately during multi-agency incidents

Effective handover

Ensuring there is an effective handover between fire control commanders is a crucial step in changing command. The new fire control commander will base their situational awareness on the situational awareness of the current commander and then develop it from the full range of available information. Ineffective handovers can lead to poor situational awareness and can result in inappropriate or ineffective decisions being made.

There may be occasions where a fire control manager or operational officer is called upon and who may decide to take command. In such situations the fire control commander should brief the manager or officer on current situational awareness. It should be made clear to both parties when command of the fire control room is handed over, and incident logs should be updated accordingly.

Fire control commanders should ensure that an effective handover occurs at the change of each shift and that fire control personnel are appropriately briefed. This may be achieved by one-to-one handover between fire control personnel, team briefing or another suitable method, but information and situational awareness must be shared effectively where appropriate while maintaining the activities of the fire control function.

When transferring command, briefing or debriefing, fire control commanders should communicate clearly and concisely. A recognised structure from their own fire and rescue service – such as IIMARCH – will assist others to engage with, follow and understand the information. Such structures also help to identify when something may have been omitted. Fire control commanders should check the recipient’s understanding of important communications to ensure both parties understand the information.

Further information regarding the IIMARCH briefing model can be found in JESIP Joint Doctrine: Interoperability framework.

Handovers should include:

  • Information on all ongoing incidents including command structure and communication lines
  • The most recent M/ETHANE or informative messages received for ongoing incidents
  • Information on any other incidents that may have or require actions, or that may generate social media or other interest from members of the public
  • Information on the resources currently deployed to incidents
  • Information on operational cover, including resources at standby locations
  • Information on any other local, regional or national resources in use
  • Information on reports made to National Resilience Fire Control via the reporting tool
  • Information on any specific plans or arrangements for emergency call management
  • Information on any contingency arrangements in place, such as those resulting from an equipment failure

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions