Communications are obviously an important aspect of Fire Police operations.
Here is some brief information on how we manage it given our units unique requirements.

On-Scene Communications

As a unit we own a number of Icom VHF Handheld radios which members utilise for on-scene communications, using a mix of NZFS Simplex Frequencies and Repeaters from the Hutt Civil Defence network, which we are permitted to utilise in a cooperative/non-interference manner.

The Icom sets are a rugged set and are of a commercial type approved for operation on Emergency Services bands. They are kept onboard our vehicles (mainly RIMU4928) and made available to members depending on each jobs unique requirements.

The Unit also has a small number of NZFS Issue Simoco VHF handhelds, with which the Icom's are programmed to interact. During 2009 the NZFS migrated to UHF service for fireground communications in the Wellington area, and the Unit were issued with a small number of UHF radios. The channel plan on these radios is similar to the VHF but being in a different band, these radios are unable to interact.

HVFP maintain the Simoco and Icom VHF sets for communications between individual Unit members, and also for liason with Rural Fire and Civil Defence; the Officer in Charge will carry one of the UHF radios for coordination with the wider Fireground.

Vehicle Communications and Turnouts

When the Unit is activated the pagers carried by each member of the Unit will be activated by the Fire Communications Centre. This usually signals that RIMU4926 (or 4928) has been attatched to a callout and provides address details, plus any other relevant info.

Our vehicles are fitted with standard NZFS Land Mobile Radio (LMR) equipment, which provides voice comms with the Wellington Fire Communications Centre (Firecom). The LMR also allows electronic signalling of vehicle status messages which greatly improves the efficiency of the radio network. From turnout, through to the first Situation Report (SITREP) that a NZFS unit puts into Firecom, no voice calls are required - though there are still circumstances when a verbal arrival message is put through (allowing other responders to also hear the message.)

As the vehicle is responded we signal the Commcen - via the LMR - that we are responding. At that stage Firecom will, if the need arises, call us via radio or phone and provide further detail about the call. In the event we are responding a second vehicle (or a vehicle which is not yet associated with the call), we will contact the communications centre with a "K38" as described below. At present the Unit SOPs call for both RIMU4926 and RIMU4928 to be responded to most calls.

Terminology and Codes

The appropriate use of 'codes' over radio frequency can greatly streamline our ability to get the message across. The New Zealand Fire Service has developed a series of 'K' codes that is used both by the NZ Fire Service and the various Rural Fire Forces that are also managed by the Fire Communications Centres.

Additional to these, the NZFS adheres to the CIMS (Coordinated Incident Management System) structure which provides for a standard set of codes and abbreviations (often known as 'prowords') common across multiple agencies. This provides for inter-agency communications to run smoothly and without 'jargon' difficulties.

As a result you will hear many CIMS terms used on our radio frequencies, some of these are listed below.

CIMS Terminology

ICP - Incident Command Point (usually the NZFS or RFF Command Unit in Attendance, typically Wellington 2114 or Upper Hutt 9480 at a large incident)
IC - Incident Controller
SA - Staging Area
SFP - Safe Forward Point
SITREP - Situation Report

NZFS "K" Codes

Status Messages
K0 - not available
K1 - proceeding to incident
K2 - in attendence at incident
K3 - on RT outside normal turnout area
K4 - on RT inside normal turnout area
K5 - on RT available at incident
K6 - on Telepager
K7 - at normal station
K8 - at residence (on phone)
K9 - off RT - state location
KE - unable to proceed (state reason) (spoken as Kay Echo)

Support Services
K11 - (state support service and if necessary the reason)
K11-1 - police required - confidential
K12 - suspicious fire (reporting only)
K19 - victim support required

Appliance Movements
K22 - is your appliance available for a further call?
K22-2 - have you any appliances that can be released?
K25 - proceed to, and standby at (state location)
K25-1 - appliance standing by and awaiting instructions at (state location)
K26 - appliance still engaged at incident for (state time)
K26-1 - appliance still engaged, no additional developments
K28 - appliance is to return to station
K28-1 - return further or specific responding appliances

Radio Procedure
K31 - request permission to go off RT (fires and standbys)
K32 - radio test - how do you receive
K33 - radio test received satisfactorily
K34 - repeat your last message
K35 - verify address of call
K35-1 - request map reference
K36 - contact Comms Centre by phone
K38 - associate this call sign to incident (state incident address)
K39 - retransmit your current status (MSU or verbal)

Incident Ground Communications
K41 - fatality (indicate number with suffix)
K42 - No Longer In Use
K43 - all available manpower utilised
K44 - command or control point established (state OIC and location)
K45 - command responsibility changed to (state name)
K46-1 - stop message-false alarm good intent
K46-2 - stop message-false alarm accidental
K46-3 - stop message-defective apparatus
K46-4 - stop message-malicious
K46-5 - stop message-alarm agent in attendance
K46-6 - stop message-nothing showing on indicator panel

K47 - stop message-message unchanged from informative
K48 - stop message-details to follow by telephone

Trial Evacuations
K51 - trial evacuation to be held at (state location and time)

K52 - was a 111 call received from (state location)
K53 - evacuation was successful

Arrival Messages
K55 - first appliance in attendance-special service call
K66 - first appliance in attendance-non property fire
K77 - first appliance in attendance-nothing showing investigating further
K88 - first appliance in attendance-property fire apparently small
K99 - first appliance in attendance-property fire well involved