Effective communication devices and procedures are a critical component in emergency operations.


Firefighters should have a method of two-way communication suitable for the circumstances so that they can send and receive the information they need to do their jobs safely, particularly in environments which are immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH).

Actions for employers

Employers must provide training on radio equipment to firefighters. Training should include how to use portable radios while wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).

Employers should also:

  • determine those circumstances where each firefighter should be provided their own radio
  • make sure that communication devices and procedures are used in conjunction with entry control and incident command systems (guidance note 2-1 Incident command and guidance note 5-1 Firefighter accountability and entry control)
  • develop procedures to address radio communications congestion
  • make sure that plain language is used when communicating
  • identify dead zones within response areas and plan accordingly
  • put in place a reliable maintenance and repair program
  • develop procedures/ operating guidelines for the regular testing of all radios and radio features, including any emergency buttons or electronic radio identification codes that may exist
  • consult with planning and building officials during new building construction to understand how it may impact the fire radio network
  • consult with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative, when considering new or upgraded radio communication devices and determining procedures for their use

Considerations for radio communications devices

When considering new or upgraded radio communications devices, consider the following:

  • whether the device can be operated without removing the face piece of self-contained breathing apparatus
  • ease of operation in full PPE – especially gloved hands
  • the need for intrinsically safe radio ensembles
  • features that may safeguard against accidental shut off or accidental channel changes
  • durability and resistance to damage from water, chemicals, extreme temperatures and rough handling
  • the need for radio interoperability with other emergency response agencies
  • multiple channel capabilities that enable effective fire ground communications
  • in-building radio coverage and the potential need for in-building or mobile repeater solutions
  • the need for talk around or simplex functionality in addition to main radio channels
  • the need for hands-free operation

Applicable regulations and acts



Read firefighter guidance notes:

Read the IAFC position on Assignment of Portable Radios/Two-Way Communications Devices to Every Firefighter on the Fireground