By Ray McCormack
To increase our collective efficiency on the fireground, the fire service should investigate the implementation of the “Urgent” message. An “Urgent” is different from a traditional Mayday in that it is a stepped-down transmission of need. Fireground emergency communication is often graded upon need, which is often manifested solely in the requester’s volume and urgency. The need for a standard message prompt in the form of “Urgent” helps classify requests and makes for more orderly fireground communications.
The use of the term “Urgent” prior to announcing the specific request is one form of message transmission. Another is to specifically transmit just “Urgent,” and await a reply from command. Either style will require a command acknowledgement of the message. With the “Urgent,” we are highlighting a request or observation and requesting some form of action - or appraising command of our action in response to the situation.
When an “Urgent” is broadcast over the tactical channel, all must listen up as to the specifics mentioned as well as the response from command. The use of this signal may step on other transmissions and requires normal fireground traffic to cease until this situation has abated. The acknowledgement of any message is always important, as it is a signal of accountability. When messages of an urgent nature are given, accountability must be maintained due to the high probability of repeated communications between at least two parties on a focused topic.
Categorization of “Urgent” messages is also helpful: so that message remain succinct. Rambling messages under the “Urgent” umbrella are all wet. To develop categories of urgent messages, departments must look at common fireground events that place firefighters in danger, but do not reach the level of a “Mayday” transmission.
Common events that endanger firefighters: fire extension, loss of water, and predictable event-triggers, all fall within urgent messages. Sometimes an “Urgent” may be needed just to break through routine traffic: The frustration of the originator to continue to wait in line for their message to simply be heard can lead to an “Urgent” prompt. The message itself may not fall under strict criteria, but if it pings too long under call waiting, then maybe a truer, more formal urgent need will emerge. The point is that we have a form of communication that lies between standard fare and “Mayday.”
You can always upgrade from an urgent to a mayday with some criteria of messaging; however, the Urgent is a less dramatic message prompt to hear than Mayday. With urgent, we know there is a heightened need, and that danger still lurks, but one of the main differences is that we can usually remove ourselves from the area as opposed to being trapped by a situation.
The deployment of a rapid intervention team may or may not be part of your Urgent message deployment package. Response to Urgents, fall under a situation evaluation that may only involve the confirmation of the message to verification of repositioning. All messages on the fireground are not created equal: The grading of messages into set parameters greatly assists all fireground communication when used properly. Let’s not just let the importance of a message get diluted due to a stacked delivery and lack of a prompt. Command the urgent and get heard for increased tactical safety.
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