Interoperability is defined as sharing of both voice and data with multi discipline, multi jurisdictional and multi state in times of emergency or planned events. Post 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina reports showed major gaps in the ability for agencies to talk with each other and share information.
In past ten years, major improvements have been made on both a national and local level to fill in these gaps. But it's not just about the infrastructure, such as towers and radio systems, but the training to use them all is equally important.
Using interoperability daily, or for planned events big or small is a great way to be ready when the unplanned event happens. Like every other part of the fire service, being prepared and practicing is what makes the unplanned emergencies run smoothly. Having interoperability channels in your radios, practicing with radios, and keeping radios up to date is just as important as having hose and tools in your trucks, training with them and performing routine maintenance.
One of the most common questions I receive is “can you tell me what all these buttons do on my radio”. Anyone who knows me knows how much I stress the importance of knowing your radio. Your radio is your lifeline; it’s your only way to communicate to the outside world from your scene. Being able to call for more resources, a mayday, or other notifications is done via radio. Being familiar with how it’s programmed, the channels available, and how to use it, could save your life.
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Dennis Nazzaro has been a Firefighter/EMT in Western Massachusetts for over 20 years, and has worked for the Northampton Fire Department since 2004. He also works for the Department of Fire Service (DFS) Special Operations Team, and the Massachusetts Fire Academy (MFA) as an instructor. Dennis is a Communications Unit Leader and Technician (COML/COMT) for the Massachusetts Communications Unit (MACOMU) and the Northwest Massachusetts Incident Management Team (NWMIMT). He is also a member of the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Interoperable subcommittee and Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee policy and programs subcommittee. Dennis has been involved with development of the MIFOG, SCIP, MTCP as well as WMLEC expansion and working with local, regional and state communication systems.