Communication is an important skill to implement in practically every aspect of one’s daily life. Whether it be spoken, written, or non-verbal, communicating messages to one another gives others an idea of what one is thinking and how to appropriately respond to them. Communication within teams is especially imperative, as it ensures effective teamwork and completion of tasks. Within the fire service, practicing proper communication skills amongst team members and with those being serviced is vital to performing the job safely and to the best of one’s ability.
There are many benefits to communication. At the forefront of these benefits is informing others of what one is currently doing, planning to do, or has already done so that others may have the adequate information necessary to determine what actions they should next engage in. Communicating current situations to others is also helpful in that those informed of an issue can help to solve the problem quicker and perhaps more accurately than one could do by themselves. Keeping up a healthy amount of communication with others, especially teammates, can alleviate any confusion that may otherwise occur.
Those who are not aware of information that others have been notified of will lead to conflicting responses and make a task more difficult to complete. It also affects relationships by enhancing trust levels between group members and allowing teams to feel more comfortable sharing and communicating with their group, which strengthens the overall quality and effectiveness of the team and their work. Communication among team members must also be quick and clear, as to relay messages in times of emergency when information must be given fast so as to respond rapidly. Therefore, proper communication is a dire tool necessary to succeed within the fire service and to aid people who find themselves in need of the team’s help.
When a team experiences a lack of communication, negative consequences are a near certainty. Seeing as communication is a tool used to deliver messages and information from one person to the next, there can be an understandably high amount of confusion amidst poor communication. Whether the problem is that the communication is unclear or that there is a complete neglect of the skill altogether, the result will leave many team members unclear as to what is happening and how to react. Communicating a message incorrectly will harbor the same unsatisfactory results, leading to improper reactions and total mishandling of the situation. In many cases, rather than alleviating a problem, miscommunication often intensifies a bad situation, increasing the amount of time needed to resolve a problem and leaving team members disgruntled and distrusting of their poorly-communicating teammates. Thus, it is important not only to communicate, but to do so effectively and as quickly as possible, especially in instances of emergency. Within a department such as the fire service, miscommunication can easily lead to tragedy which could have otherwise been easily avoided had proper communication skills been put into play.
An example from the fire service which deals with the importance of communication is equipment inspections and the performance of tools used during the job. When looking over equipment, it is necessary to alert a fellow team member or leader if a piece of equipment does not pass an inspection or is not performing correctly. Failing to inform another member of faulty equipment can result in that equipment failing on the job when it is being depended on. Should one find that a hose is not functioning correctly or that a wheel on the truck seems to be unusually low on air, it should be immediately reported to the proper member to be looked at and fixed if needed. If an issue is truly concerning and is deemed an emergency, this should also be communicated so that the team member knows it is a problem that should not wait to be handled. This can prevent disastrous occurrences and ensure the team’s safety when working on the job at hand.
Another example which displays the importance of communication within the fire service is in the face of an emergency. If the team is responding to an emergency call in which a building is ablaze and must be put out quickly, each team member must alert their mates of any issues or observations of particular interest at the scene. If one teammate notices there is an innocent person trapped inside the burning building, it would not be entirely proper to dive in after them in hopes of saving their life. Instead, it is important to tell other teammates that a person is in dire need of help so that they may aid in formulating a quick plan to rescue the person. Without proper communication, one may put themselves and others in eminent danger unknowingly. Alongside that factor, it can also confuse and concern fellow teammates who are unsure of what you are doing. Relaying information to others, while it may waste valuable time, can make up for that loss by saving even more valuable lives.
Whether in a state of emergency or not, communication is vital to ensure a team’s success. Every issue, concern, idea, and important observation should be communicated to the proper recipient in a clear and effective manner. This builds trust among teammates and gives others a chance to decide how to respond. In a field such as the fire service where emergencies occur often and it is the team’s job to address them, communication can save jobs, save time, and most importantly, save lives.