Fight Fire With Words: How Better Communication Leads to a More Effective Emergency Response
Most fire chiefs are at least aware of the need for better, more modern communication tools. The legacy channels typically utilized by fire departments tend to be highly inefficient, requiring a significant investiture of time and effort for even brief updates. They are often impersonal, widening the gulf between leadership and volunteers.
There's also the issue of efficiency. With the exception of radio, legacy departmental systems are incredibly time-consuming. As a result, many fire departments end up leveraging an array of different platforms, from SMS to messaging software to platforms like Zoom.
The security issues of consumer messaging apps aside, this unnecessary complexity creates a range of communication problems, each of which can interfere with the effectiveness of a department's emergency response process.
WhatsApp. Facebook Messenger. Zoom. Microsoft Teams. SMS messaging.
Simply put, there are too many different ways for modern workforces to communicate. The sheer volume of choice is both overwhelming and disruptive. In an ordinary workplace, this means low morale and lost productivity.
In fire & rescue, it can be a safety hazard.
Firefighters are under enough stress as it is. They don't need the added pressure of having to maintain a presence on multiple apps just to keep in touch with their colleagues. They cannot afford to jump between different platforms just to stay connected to other members of their team.
A Disconnected Workforce
By its nature, the fire department is an environment that's prone to the development of communication silos. A firefighter from one district is unlikely to ever even meet a firefighter from another. Even firefighters who work different shifts in the same fire hall are unlikely to communicate beyond the occasional greeting.
The lack of a shared communication platform only further contributes to this disconnect. Left unchecked, each team ends up with its own internal culture. Its own preferred communication platforms and tools.
This may not interfere with a department's general day-to-day. However, what happens when volunteers from different teams have to work together? What happens when two firefighters who've never met outside of the occasional group training exercise have to rely on one another during a major crisis?
Without a unified internal culture, issues with coordination are almost certain — and in a sector where team cohesion is critical to team safety, this is not acceptable.
Communication overload isn't just stressful. It's also time-consuming. Let's say, for example, a fire chief needs to reach out to multiple groups of firefighters.
In the absence of an internal framework, they have several options.
Phone trees. The chief's first choice is to either phone each firefighter themselves or to phone each battalion chief and have them get in touch with their teams. Either way, the process ends up costing both time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere, especially during an emergency.
Email. Alternatively, the chief can send out a mass email to each station and team. Although this does take less time than leveraging a phone tree, there is no guarantee that people will receive or respond to the emails in a timely fashion. This makes the channel completely unsuitable for anything time-sensitive.
Platform hopping. Last but not least, the chief can either maintain a presence on every single tool utilized by their fire teams or mandate that each assistant and battalion chief uses a shared platform through which leadership can communicate.
None of the above solutions are particularly effective. Either they're too inefficient, too complicated, or have too many points of failure.
Efficiency. Safety. Effectiveness.
Whether during day-to-day operations or during an emergency response, fire staff at all levels need the ability to seamlessly and immediately connect with one another. Fire chiefs need to be able to quickly speak with multiple groups at a moment's notice. Fire departments need a means of ensuring that different fire halls don't end up falling into isolated communication silos.
Legacy communications infrastructure simply doesn't allow for this functionality. But Unio does. Inspired by the unique needs of first responders, it's built to simplify communication within fire & rescue.
It does this in several ways:
Empower firefighters to communicate their way. Unio supports rich messaging, group chats, on-the-go file sharing, and both voice and video calls. Personnel can intuitively communicate in whatever fashion is best-suited for their current situation.
No more complexity. With Unio, everything is in one place, from departmental announcements to priority messages. There's no longer any need to platform hop or play the guessing game — everyone's using the same platform.
Know who's who. With Unio's dedicated groups feature, it's easy to tell what division and team each firefighter belongs to. This allows leadership to effortlessly convey targeted messages the moment they need to be sent.
Efficiency is the foundation of an effective emergency response. Communication is a core driver of efficiency. From top to bottom, fire personnel must be able to connect with one another at a moment's notice, no matter the situation.
Because in an emergency, every second counts.