Fire agencies getting in sync

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Supervisors with Littleton Fire Rescue, West Metro Fire Rescue and South Metro Fire Rescue are being trained to talk the same talk.

“We run with each other a lot, so we want to communicate identically,” SMFR Capt. Ken Walker explained during a training session July 25.

They’re using the Blue Card Command Certification Program, designed to bring departments into compliance with national standards required to be eligible for Homeland Security funds.

“Each department wants to get better at running a call themselves and, in turn, as a group,” said Walker. “This way, we can kill two birds with one stone.”

A major focus of Blue Card is the actual words the firefighters are using on scene, so everyone understands each other and radio chatter is minimized. Walker said the goal is to be clear, concise and brisk with their orders.

“Radio time is very precious, and people can get killed in the first five minutes,” he said.

The supervisors sit in classes, then practice what they learned by running virtual drills on computers, communicating via real radios. On July 25, the scene was a burning strip mall. They worked on eliminating extraneous words like “at this time” or “please,” and whether to call a particular truck a “ladder” or a “tower.”

“This training and certification program produces incident commanders that make better decisions that will potentially eliminate the lethal and/or costly mistakes that cause injury, death and unnecessary fire losses in the local response area,” according to the program’s website.

There’s been some concern about how long the training takes firefighters out of service. Chief John Mullin said the 50 hours of training for all 39 supervisors will require taking one engine out of service for the duration. Past training meant down time for two engines and one ambulance, he said, calling this an improvement.

Joel Heinemann, president of the Littleton Firefighters Association, thinks Blue Card will generally be a good thing. But he is concerned that until the whole department is trained, not just the supervisors, it could create confusion.

“In general concept, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Anything to improve communication is a step in the right direction.”

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