I was listening to the radios in the rig the other day and heard a brush fire come in. The location was at an area where four different agencies come together. I could hear two of the agencies on my radio, both of which are area coordinators for the regional mutual aid system.
Both of the agencies that I could hear sent full brush responses, one included aircraft. I know the other two agencies sent units, because I could hear them trying to raise units from the first two agencies on their networks.
It sounded like a cluster, as the initial units committed to the incident went to their initial assigned tactical channels while the various chief officers were on several command nets, talking, trying to determine who's fire it was and who the central resource ordering point would be. I could sense the frustration in the chief's voices as they tried to talk to other chiefs on other networks while one of the dispatchers did not seem as helpful as some of the others.
Despite all of the communications heartache, the initial units were able to pick it up in short order. The chiefs we able to get their end figured out rather quickly and it was all good. I'm just glad it was them and not me.
I am NOT being critical, but on the surface, it seems that some of these issues could be worked out, as these agencies work together all of the time. They have been doing this for the last hundred years and have spent millions of dollars on sophisticated communications equipment that allows them to talk to each other. Yet, comm is still an issue.
Sometimes, I wonder if it is an issue that can truly be solved. Maybe, it is a problem that can only be managed and the goal should be to minimize impact rather than solve to solve it. Before dismissing this thought, run the following scenario through your mind:
Take six or seven type "A" personalities and put them in a room barely large enough to fit them in. Chain them to chairs and turn the thermostat up as high as it will go. Interject some form of loud, distracting background noise. Hook these hard chargers up to electrodes that are capable of delivering very painful electric shocks. Place ringing telephones in front of each one, with a little sign on them that says "urgent".
Now that the stage is set, give the group several major problems to solve and place unreasonable time deadlines on the issues . Then, give each participant a major issue of their own to resolve and place someone behind their shoulder to oversee their actions and breathe down their neck.
Tell them to get started, turn on the phones and shock them every time they don't make a correct decision or properly communicate important information. Give them a "love shock" every once in a while just to watch them convulse.
While all of this is going on, monitor the communication between the participants as well as the communication between the participants and the outside entities. I guarantee it will be less than ideal. And that is when everybody can look at each other, touch each other and is monitoring each others "channel".
In the initial phases of a multi-jurisdictional incident, all of the distractions are there, but none of the non-verbal communication tools are. You are reduced to dealing with a voice over a speaker at that point and often, you are trying to deal with several voices of several speakers. Each voice with their own system supporting them.
Again, I am not sure this issue will ever completely be solved. Maybe the best answer is to do away with all of these smaller agencies and form regional agencies or even state wide fire departments. At least then, we won't waste time trying to figure out whose fire it is.
Nahh. Well, at least not until after I retire. It has taken me almost 30 years to figure out the K.B.F.P.D. I don't want to start over again.
Thanks for reading,
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