Section III-14


Radio Guidelines


Purpose:  To establish standard guidelines when communicating on hand-held, mobile or, base station radios.


Scope:   Guidelines shall be adhered to by all personnel responsible for operating  hand-held, mobile, base station radios.  It is imperative that proper equipment operation be followed at all times and discipline be maintained while transmitting voice traffic.




Three Star Fire Department has the capabilities to communicate on several frequencies.  The Common Fire Channel (Channel 1) and Three Star Fire Department’s private Channel (Channel 3) is most commonly used. There will be incidents when we may deal with mutual aid companies on Mutual Aid Fire Channel (Channel 5) or other county frequencies.  It is imperative that strict radio discipline be exercised on any and all channels at all times.  A list of frequencies programmed in most radios is listed at the end of this section.


Each person will be issued a hand-held radio.  Strict radio discipline shall be adhered to at all times.  Any abuse of this guideline will result in appropriate discipline, not excluding possibility of hand-held being turned in.


Use of all Three Star Fire Department radios (including the base station, apparatus, and hand-held portable radios) must be in accordance with all Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations governing their use.  Personnel with a radio installed in privately owned vehicle are not exempt from following these guidelines. 


Each person entering and departing the fire district should make other Three Star Fire Department personnel aware of this by communicating such over Three Star Channel 3.  If returning to district while Three Star Fire Department is actively on a call, request to assist shall be made to the Incident Commander.


No member will yell, scream, or use inappropriate language while using department radio equipment to transmit on FCC regulated/monitored frequencies.  All radio messages must be transmitted in a clear, concise, and professional manner in order to communicate efficiently while avoiding any confusion.  It is essential to avoid unnecessary messages and/or the use of "run on" sentences.  Personnel should also be alert to the possibility of background noises when transmitting.


Firefighters and officers must always use the appropriate identifier, either their own individually assigned number (301, 315, etc.), apparatus identifier (Engine 31, Brush Truck 3, etc.), or their riding assignment identifier (Nozzlemen, Engine 32 Officer, etc.).  When personnel utilize a radio, they will identify the destination the message is being directed to and their identifier and whatever other message is being transmitted, i.e.  "Command this is 315, request a pike pole for overhaul in upstairs bedroom to the left”.


When using the radios, one must yield to officers unless either an emergency or urgent situation exists and then the appropriate guidelines must be followed.

Dispatch Guidelines


Efficient and professional communications is essential, as it can impact the success or failure of any firefighting and/or rescue operation.  The difference between life and death could very well depend on the effectiveness of dispatch.  The following guidelines will be observed each and every time a call for service is received:


1.      Upon receipt of any tone for Three Star Fire Department, acknowledgment of the call must be made.  Any Officer responding shall acknowledge dispatch ONLY after completely understanding the type of incident, location, and any other amplifying information.  Under no circumstances will any Three Star personnel acknowledge receipt of a call if any of the call is unclear.  If no officers are in district, or it is unknown who is in district, senior firefighter in district shall acknowledge.  Senior firefighters, normally drivers of apparatus, shall acknowledge only after completely understanding the type of incident, location, and any other amplifying information. 

2.      Acknowledging a tone from out of district is strictly prohibited.

3.      After acknowledging the call on Channel 1, each responding unit shall announce receipt on Three Star Channel 3 (315 responding to the station).

4.      Do not tie up frequency with unnecessary traffic. When transmitting information over the radio, keep it short and concise, ensuring vital information only is passed. 


Responding to Call


      1.  The Officer of each apparatus departing the fire station shall notify dispatch of identifying apparatus number along with number of personnel (i.e.  Central Dispatch from Engine 32, Engine 32 responding to (location) with 5 personnel).


2.  Upon arrival, the officer of each apparatus will notify Central Dispatch that they

are on-scene.  If apparatus is first on-scene, Officer will take Command and give a disposition of scene.  A quick assessment or scene size-up from the Incident Commander is critical.  If additional resources are required, the Incident Commander shall notify Central Dispatch immediately.


3.  Each consecutive apparatus enroute or reporting on-scene shall follow above guidelines.  Upon acknowledgement from Central Dispatch, the Incident Commander shall have all Three Star Fire Department shift to Three Star’s working channel for direction, coordination, and any other instructions.  Drivers and officers must monitor radio traffic and communications while responding to all incidents.  These communications are an integral part of their size-up process and will provide vital information about the conditions at the scene.  The Lieutenant or Acting Officer must be aware of transmissions related to problems that may be encountered at the scene, such as water supply problems, people trapped, location of the fire, heavy smoke condition, etc.  It is the Incident Commander’s responsibility to continuously monitor Tipton County Fire Channel 1 and to pass vital information back to Central Dispatch. 


4.  All communications on-scene shall take place on Three Star’s working channel (Channel 3) unless otherwise directed by the Incident Commander.  If working with Mutual Aid companies, another frequency may be directed. 


      5.  Upon completion of the emergency, the Incident Commander will radio Central Dispatch and inform them that all Three Star Fire Department Apparatus are enroute back to the station and that command is being terminated.


      6.  The last apparatus back in station shall report to Central Dispatch that all units are back at station.


Mayday, Emergency, and Urgent Situations


In the event of certain emergencies or urgent situations, there are a series of special guidelines designed to alert Incident Commanders, officers, and other firefighters to limit or halt communications.  It is absolutely essential that all personnel are aware of these guidelines and alert to their use.  Failure to yield the radio frequency during a MAYDAY or Emergency can be potentially tragic.  When the following guidelines are used, all non-critical radio traffic must come to a halt as explained below.  This will allow the Incident Commander to efficiently manage the situation.



In the event of a MAYDAY (trapped, lost, seriously injured, or immobilized firefighter; impending structural collapse, etc.), the firefighter should transmit (on the designated working channel) their radio identifier with the word MAYDAY repeated twice (example:  “315 with a MAYDAY, MAYDAY!” or “Nozzle Team 1  with a MAYDAY, MAYDAY!”).  Upon hearing a MAYDAY all units must immediately cease all non-critical radio broadcasts to allow incident command to communicate with the firefighter(s) in danger and to better manage the MAYDAY situation.


In the event of an EMERGENCY, (less severely injured/ambulatory firefighter, location of injured or trapped civilian, notification of structural deterioration or other serious hazard, etc.), the firefighter should transmit on designated working channel their radio identifier with the word EMERGENCY (example:  “315 with an EMERGENCY!” or “Engine 31 Officer with an EMERGENCY!”).  Upon hearing an EMERGENCY call all units must immediately cease all non-critical radio broadcasts until the incident commander has addressed the emergency situation.



In the event of an URGENT, (important tactical information, declining water pressure, disrupted water flow, or other critical issues that can impact operations), the member should transmit on designated working channel their radio identifier with the word URGENT (example:  “315 with an URGENT!” or “Engine 31 Officer with an URGENT!”).  Upon hearing an URGENT all units limit non-critical radio transmissions until the incident commander has addressed the urgent situation.


No user of the radio will intentionally cut out another user (from Three Star Fire Department or another Fire Department) of the radio system.  It is also very important to know Three Star Fire Department is not alone when using these radio frequencies.  We are constantly being monitored and the level of professionalism on the radios is a reflection of our entire department!


Frequencies that are programmed into our two-way handheld and mobile radios:


Channel #

Frequency Title


Tipton County Fire


Tipton County Fire –TA


Three Star Fire Department


Three Star Fire Department – TA


TN Mutual Aid


Tipton Ambulance


Munford Fire Department


Covington Fire Department


Hospital Wing - 205


Hospital Wing - 280


Hospital Wing - 340


Fayette County Fire


Fayette County – Fire Ground Channel 3


Shelby County Fire


Shelby County Fire – Fire Ground Channel 3


Tone Only  (Tipton Fire)