03/02/10 78 W - + 7 - 5 Returning All Units to Service?

Discussion topic for the day, though this may be a short one. Listening to recent city and county structure fires, a familiar radio traffic presents itself. "All other units can return to service" says the Incident Commander. Then the question is asked, "can EMS units also return to service?" Is the second question redundant? Did command truly mean all units, or just all fire units? Or does it vary?

Speaking from personal experience, I have gone ‘available’ after the “all units” broadcast only to hear “EMS if you would, remain on scene a little bit longer”. OK, not a problem. The other part, and this is hard to put into words without maybe pi**ing someone off, is that maybe some of the EMS folks don’t understand the total ICS system (which is why you still hear “EMS Command” from time to time”), or that maybe some EMS folks don’t fully understand fire ops and how that works. Those are just off the top of my head. Think about it, all fire personnel have a certain degree of understanding of EMS ops because all of the departments here in our county run EMS calls. A significant number of EMS personnel have no any fire background at all other than responding to the occasional building fire.
DJ - 03/02/10 - 11:14

To me, it should apply to everyone. Sort of redundant, because you’d think if EMS was needed they would have said “EMS we have a patient for you” or something similar.
Silver - 03/02/10 - 11:16

It should apply to all personnel. The same problem exists in other counties as well. If command says “All units” that should be taken at face value and truly include all units. Too often you hear EMS say “Can we clear also?” If the EMS units would return to service when “all units” is announced, the incident managers who perhaps didn’t want EMS to clear will learn their lesson after they have to summons them back. It won’t happen but a couple of times. Newer/weaker incident managers/commanders often do not remember that they are responsible for managing all aspects of the incident. Often command is established and the IC focuses solely on their respective discipline. Fire, Police and EMS personnel MUST come together on incidents and communicate with each other and make sure there are clear lines of authority to include operational groups/divisions/branches under the IC. One of the most common “problem areas” brought up at an incident critique is that Fire, EMS and Law Enforcement essentially run 3 different commands on the same scene and never communicate with each other. Many times they never meet face-to-face. The largest stakeholder in the incident should wear “THE VEST” and truly be in command while sitting/standing face-to-face with the other branch directors. Overall, Wake County agencies from all 3 disciplines do a great job communicating with each other and managing serious incidents. The Raleigh motel MCI is a perfect example of incident management at its best – one competent incident commander who very clearly and effectively manages all aspects of an incident.
JT (Email) - 03/02/10 - 12:05

You’re right, it only has to happen a couple of times. However, in defense of some of the ICs out there, whenever a fire unit checks on scene, most of the time I hear them. Over a period of time, a lot of my EMS brethren have come to rely solely on ‘pushing the button’. That’s OK for the single unit response, I suppose (call me old fashioned but I do like to hear it). But any time we are responding to a call with a TAC channel (since that indicates at least one other unit is responding with you) I like to announce my actions- “EMS 4-1 on TAC37”, “EMS 1-2-2 on location”, etc. Who knows, maybe someone’s paying attention.

And yes, making contact with the IC, face-to-face, to say “we’re here” is a must. Of course, you do have to get out of the ambulance for that.
DJ - 03/02/10 - 12:15

Dale you are right on! Many of our own EMS people never use the radio anymore – and even worse aren’t proficient in it when they do need to. Verbalizing your response, arrival, and acknowledgement of updated information is essential. Even moreso, we have to get our EMS people to go to the Tac channel!
JT (Email) - 03/02/10 - 12:52

Sometimes EMS gets to tact channel and can’t get a word in edge wise. Responded to a MVC and because of all the fire trucks, chiefs and stations talking we can’t get on the radio.
GE - 03/02/10 - 14:15

GE: You are correct. However, almost everytime that EMS goes to a structure fire, they spend more time talking about where to park on the assigned TG while the firefighters are trying to communicate and get the upper hand on the fire. Anytime a working fire/major working fire is declared, EMS should probably switch back to dispatch and get another TG for EMS operations and stick the Dist Chief with the overall commander so that there can be efficient incident management. All that being said, frivilous radio traffic is something that we all need to work on.
marcus - 03/02/10 - 19:15

Marcus, You are correct. Radio traffic can get out of hand on both sides. I think as a group EMS does try to get off the main tac channel as soon as possible. However, there are some who can’t treat a patient, or put out a fire because they are to busy talking on the radio. Be Safe!!
GE - 03/02/10 - 20:14

Well GE, I will definitely have to agree with you on your last post.
Marcus - 03/03/10 - 05:11

Well DJ and JT, you guys have pretty much summed up my thoughts. I will add that there seems to be a common problem of balancing radio traffic. Those who need to announce their status usually don’t so the IC doesn’t know they are there or what they are doing; and then, the ones who need to minimize their radio traffic don’t know what information/status change is relevant. JT you nailed it when you said that IC’s will learn their lesson when they say, “Cancel all units not on the scene” then EMS should vebalize that they are clear. If the IC didn’t mean for them to clear, then lesson learned. On the other hand, those who are in an IC role should be thinking BEFORE they change the “status” of the call and ask themselves, “Who is coming, who do I need, who can I cancel?” If you need EMS then simply “cancel all fire units not on the scene” and even throw in a “have EMS proceed” just for those EMS folks who wouldn’t understand the word FIRE and ask, “do you still need EMS?”. If everyone would just take a deep breath, think for a second and then speak on the radio the whole system would sound and operate much better.
BW - 03/03/10 - 07:42

anti-marcus - 03/05/10 - 15:26

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