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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fuzzy Brain Radio Follies

Engine 51, Engine 57, Mayberry Engine 13, Medic 98.... traffic accident.... tac channel is TAC2.

Ugh. Engine 51 is first-due. I look at the clock. 02:24. Ugh. OK, here we go.

The fuzz is heavy. I pull out in trusty 51 and grab the mic to come online.

Engine 51 is responding.

10-4 Engine 51.

I then hear a couple of other sort-of-nearby units from our agency start our way, ready to turn around if not needed.

Then I look at the radio. Oops... I used the FireMed channel.... but they answered me anyway and just went with it, without a poke. Thanks, guys.

I pick up the mic again to advise dispatch that I am cutting over to Mayberry's response channel to touch base with Engine 13 when they come up. You see, they don't have the fancy-schmancy 800MHz system we have, so on M/A someone has to go meet them on their channel.

As I key the mic, I abruptly realize that I never changed channels in the first place. I am still on FireMed instead of TAC2. Since I came online first, as first-due I am the one responsible to initiate the correction and make sure everyone is moved over to TAC2.

I have two messages in my fuzzy head, and I have already keyed the mic. (#1) I am going over to Mayberry Channel 4 for a moment. (#2) Let's move all responding units to TAC2.

My fuzzy brain, under pressure (mic is keyed), smashes these two messages violently together.

Dispatch from Engine 51, let's move all responding units to Mayberry Channel 4.

Oh crap, did I really just say that on the air?

I really fubar'd this. I can visualize every guy on a responding unit, as well as anyone else listening, staring at their radios as if they just channeled radio traffic from the Burger King drive-thru. Say what? You want us to... did he just say that?? Not all units responding even have the capability to go to Mayberry's channel.

And I'll be danged if the dispatcher didn't just go with that, too, nary skipping a beat.

10-4 Engine 51. All units responding on the traffic accident, move to Mayberry Channel 4 per Engine 51.

I wish he had put the brakes on and called me on the goof... but off we go before I can pipe up again to fix it.

So... some guys just follow orders and go to Mayberry Channel 4 as directed, some stay on FireMed to see what my next move is because they realize I am fuzzed up and should come out of it soon, while still others go to TAC2 as we were supposed to have done all along. Once I let the livestock out of the pasture, I wasn't sure how to get them corralled again. From there on out, it was a great big communications Charlie Foxtrot.

Thankfully it was a one-car, non-injury wreck, not a lot of coordination involved in finding units, whichever channel they went to, and telling them to cancel.

Lesson to self (and I rant about this to the new guys constantly): Engage brain and think over your message before you key the mic.

The Captain sat me in the office for a few minutes the next day, just to make sure I still knew the protocol for M/A and TAC channels. He knows it was 0-dark-30, but he had to check. I don't blame him.


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