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Improving Radio Discipline

Effective and efficient radio communication requires that all wildland firefighters have a solid foundation in basic communications. The following references pertain to basic communication skills.

Basic Communication
Mind Tools – Communication Skills
Web page has various links regarding improving communication skills

Active Listening

 The Art of Active Listening
Aging I&R/A Tips, National Aging Information & Referral Support Center

Mind Tools on Active Listening
Mind Tools, 2005

Online Courses

Effective Communication (IS-242)
Emergency Management Institute
This 8-hour self-study course is designed to improve your communication skills. It addresses basic communication skills, how to communicate in an emergency, how to identify community-specific communication issues, using technology as a communication tool, effective oral communication, and how to prepare an oral presentation. Students download the course material and enroll/obtain certificate by completing the online test at


The following articles and publications pertain to radio communication and the importance of radio discipline during fire operations.

A Failure to Communicate
Ken Frederick and Mike Tuominen, Public Safety Communications, August 2010

Confusion in the World of Wildland Fire Radio Communications
Pam McDonald, "Let's Talk Training" newsletter, Spring 2010

Current Status, Knowledge Gaps, and Research Needs Pertaining to Firefighter Radio Communications Systems
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health/TriData Corporation, September 2003

Effective and Efficient Communication with Aerial Resources
Gil Dustin, Air Tactical Program Manager, BLM NAO, "Let's Talk Training" newsletter, Spring 2010

Firefighter Safety and Radio Communication
Curt Varone, Fire Engineering

Radio Discipline and the Fireground Radio Channel
Jim McCormack, Fire Nuggets, November-December 2009

Radio Discipline on the Fireline
"Let's Talk Training" newsletter, Spring 2010

Radio Silence
William L. Pessemier, Fire Chief, June 2005

Special Report: Improving Firefighter Communications
Adam Thiel and Hollis Stambaugh
U.S. Fire Administration/Technical Report Series, USFA-TR-099, January 1999

Tune In to Radio Discipline (pamphlet)
National Interagency Incident Communications Division

Voice Radio Communications Guide for the Fire Service
U.S. Fire Administration/International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), October 2008



The following references are intended to provide wildland firefighters with tools to practice and enhance their radio discipline.

Exercises & Presentations

Online Courses

Aviation Management Directorate’s online course regarding aviation radio use. 

Say It Right – Mastering Radio Communications
Pilot-based interactive radio communications online training. 
(Module 2 is beneficial to all radio operators. Going through the entire course may give ground firefighters insight and respect for aviation communication.)


NIFC's Mike Tuominen discusses problems and solutions related to fireline radio discipline


Great Basin 2011 Air-to-Ground Frequency Naming Convention


Wildland Fire Communications
NIFC site dedicated to wildland fire communications (see related links for VHF-FM Narrowband Basics training information)

Building Our Future Through Innovation light bulb   BUILDING OUR FUTURE THROUGH INNOVATION

As budgets get tighter, the BLM Fire Training Unit is looking at ways to more efficiently and effectively train its workforce. Part of this effort includes the collection of innovative training ideas and practices from the field that can be used across the nation.

Are you doing something on your unit to develop efficient and effective radio operators?
  • Do you record radio conversations and analyze them with a technical proficiency checklist that you’ve developed?
  • Have you developed standard operating radio phraseology that you use during wildland fire operations?
  • How do you train your crew members about radio discipline?
  • Do you have an idea for a BLM radio communication training tool that could be developed and would like to be a part of bringing the concept to fruition?
We’d like to hear from you and see your products regarding radio communication as well as other areas of BLM fire training. For more information about Building Our Future Through Innovation or to submit your ideas and sample products for co, contact Pam McDonald at or 208-387-5318.