How To Handle Emergency Messages

Following are some major points to consider when handling emergency communications.  If you find yourself dealing with an emergency, the natural tendency for a lot of people is to get excited and loose composure.  Try real hard to relax, size up the situation, think about what the other person receiving your communications really needs to know.  Effective communications often times results from being a bit slow so you do it correctly.  Compose a brief message in your mind or on a pad of paper that does not require the person at the receiving end to ask repeats or ask for more information from you.  The near perfect message handling is when a message you send is received perfectly and no one comes back asking for more information from you.  We are trying to avoid unnecessary message handling which ties up the single pipe we all must use.

Some of these points are redundant but they are all trying to drive home an important point:

  • Listen.  Listen.  Never turn on a radio and start transmitting.  Listen to see if the radio channel is being used.  Also, listen to see how important the message seems to be that is currently taking place.
  • Calculate in your own mind the priority of your message.  How does your incident you are dealing with stack up with what the city is dealing with?
  • Avoid useless chatter.  Remove extraneous words and phrases.  Be concise!  Some operators actually write down the message on a pad of paper before passing it over the radio.
  • Before speaking, determine if information needs to be transmitted.  Can your message wait till later?
  • Formulate what information is being communicated and put the information in a short,concise and meaningful report.
  • The very first part of your message should be your name.   (Ham radio operators use call signs.  Because Placentia RACES operators are expected to listen to your transmissions, they will probably reply with their call sign instead of their name).
  • The second part of your message should be your location.  We need to know where you are located.
  • When speaking into a microphone use a loud, clear and controlled voice — avoid shouting — avoid speaking rapidly.  Try to stay calm as you talk.  Some radio microphones work better if you talk, not into the microphone but across it.
  • If you have an immediate emergency that, in your mind, is way more important than the current radio traffic, wait for a break in the transmissions and transmit the words BREAK BREAK BREAK!  Everyone should know that hearing “break” “break” “break” means that that operator has a dire need to pass a message NOW!

The whole idea behind emergency communications is to say nothing until it is important. Say it concise.  Say it once.

About Donald McLaren

BA degree at California State University at Fullerton. Worked at CSUF for about 40 years as a technician responsible for the repair, maintenance of the RTVF television studio, edit bays and equipment checkout. Lectured and instructed studio and location lighting. Currently retired.
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