Comms considerations at major incidents
By the USFA/IAFF
As incidents grow, interoperability should be planned for in the command structure. When developing interoperable command structures, many interoperability tools may be employed.
Technical staff plays a pivotal role in providing these technology tools to meet the operational requirements. The technical staff must be familiar with the operational objectives and command structure to supply the appropriate technological tools.
A communications unit leader is part of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) command structure.
The technical staff should receive the appropriate training to fulfill these roles successfully. Communications unit leaders in the NIMS command structure provide a central point of contact to develop a communications plan to meet the interoperability needs on a large incident.
When interoperating, determining the number of channels needed to support the incident must be a consideration. It is always important to account for the amount of radio traffic on a channel and to reserve some air time for unforeseen needs such as a Mayday.
Complex operations that are communications intensive should have their own channel to ensure that there is adequate on-air time and reserve capacity for unforeseen events.
Shared or patched channels can be used when there are common tactical objectives. Before patching channels or using gateways that essentially tie channels together, the amount on each of the channels must be a considered. If both of the channels are near saturation, the patch or gateway will make communications nearly impossible.