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Dane County (WI) Fire and EMS

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Dane County Fire/EMS Services Radio Communications Protocols

Dane County Public Safety Communications (PSC), in association with the Dane County Fire Chiefs Association and Dane County EMS Association, publishes a Communications Protocol to be used by all fire and EMS agencies throughout the county. Established in 1993, the protocol has been regularly reviewed and revised. Version 9 of the protocol is being released to coincide with the implementation of the DaneCom trunked radio system effective November 1, 2016.

Dane County Communication Center

All fire and EMS agencies in Dane County, with the exception of Monona Fire, are dispatched by the Dane County Communication Center, known as "Comm Center" on the radio. There are two primary dispatchers assigned to fire and EMS, one for the Madison channels and one for the County channels. Secondary dispatchers are assigned specific channels during incidents or heavy traffic periods.

Madison Fire Department

The Madison Fire Department (MFD) provides fire and EMS services to the City of Madison, the Village of Shorewood Hills, and the Town of Blooming Grove, and EMS services to the Town of Burke. MFD uses the Madison Area Public Safety trunked radio system for all administrative and fireground communications. MFD has five primary dispatch talkgroups, shown below.

Channel Name Channel Usage
Ch 1 Admin Alerting, administrative messages, single engine response
Ch 2 Fireground Secondary fireground, single unit on-scene
Ch 3 Fireground Primary fireground, multiple unit response and on-scene, MVA with extrication
CMED 4 Secondary EMS, fireground patch with external departments
CMED 5 Primary EMS, MVA

Routine Communication

Routine dispatch communciations, such as unit status changes and administrative messages, are primarily handled on Channel 1. Additional agency channels are available for internal communications, training and special events.

Call Alerting

All MFD Fire and EMS units are equiped with AVL, allowing the closest units to be dispatched. If the closest available units are "on air", the Comm Center will sound an alert on Channel 1 and proceed with the alert message. If units are in quarters, the appropriate Station Alerting talkgroup will be multi-selected with Channel 1 before the alert tone and message is given. Each station's alerting radio can be used to acknowledge on the station's alerting talkgroup.

Single Unit Fire Response

Single unit fire responses, such as automatic alarms, odor investigations, elevator rescues, wires down, and certain minor fires, are dispatched and acknowledged on Channel 1. On-scene communications may take place on Channel 1, or be moved to Fireground 2. During heavy traffic conditions acknowlegement and response may move to Fireground 2, to allow the Channel 1 dispatcher to focus on alerting new calls.

Multiple Unit Fire Response

Multiple unit structure fire and vehicle fire responses are dispatched on Channel 1 with acknowlegement, response and on-scene communications typically occurring on Channel 3. If Channel 3 is occupied, the Comm Center will assign an unused channel, with the primary backup Fireground 2 and the secondary backup CMED 4.

EMS Response

EMS calls, including routine MVAs, are typically assigned CMED 5 for en-route and on-scene communications. MFD protocol typically requires an engine or ladder to be dispatched with EMS for medical calls. MVA calls requiring extrication and technical rescues are typically assigned Fireground 3. EMS calls with external agencies, such as mutual aid fire response or ALS intercepts, may be assigned a county channel or be patched to a city channel, typically CMED 4.

County Fire and EMS

All Fire and EMS agencies in Dane County except Madison Fire Department (see above) and Monona Fire Department are dispatched by the Comm Center on the DaneCom county fire talkgroups. The DaneCom talkgroups are named similarly to the previously used analog conventional channels, however their uses have changed, in some cases substantially. Talkgroup names are typically spoken with both the channel letter and phonetic name, such as "Units responding to the call acknowledge on J John."

DaneCom Fire Talkgroups
Channel Name Channel Usage
A Adam Administrative messages
B Baker Routine fire response
C Charlie Routine fire response
D David Routine fire response
E Edward Routine EMS response
F Frank ALS intercept
G George EMS overflow
H Henry Wide area unit-to-unit
I Ida Coordination
J John Joint Response

Routine Communication

Routine dispatch communciations, such as unit status changes and administrative messages, are primarily handled on A Adam. Each agency also has one or more talkgroups assigned for internal communications, training and special events.

Call Alerting

Call alerting is handled via standard two-tone paging on the VHF analog paging channel. Alerts are also simulcast on the DAPAGE DaneCom talkgroup.

EMS Response

Routine EMS calls will typically be handled on E Edward. ALS intercepts will be assigned F Frank for coordination between the inbound BLS and intercepting ALS units. Multiple intercepts are allowed on F Frank. During heavy traffic or mass casualty incidents overflow calls may be assigned to G George. Mass casualty incidents may also be assigned additional talkgroups, beginning with H Henry and I Ida.

Routine (non-IDLH) Fire Response

Routine Fire calls will be assigned to B Baker, C Charlie, or D David roughly based on the EMD priority level assigned to the call. These calls are considered to not pose an Immediate Danger to Life or Health (IDLH). Multiple calls may be assigned to the same talkgroup. If the Incident Commander believes that the incident has become an IDLH incident, they will request the Comm Center to re-assign the incident under the IDLH critieria.

IDLH Fire Response

Fire responses that pose an Immediate Danger to Life or Health (IDLH), such as interior firefighting, hazardous materials, or technical rescues, will follow the new IDLH protocol. This protocol is designed to address concerns with the reliability of digital trunked communications in a tactical situation, and reduce unnecessary traffic on the fireground channel. Responding units will acknowledge and respond on J John, the Joint Response channel. Responding units will communicate with the Comm Center on J John until reporting on-scene. A separate analog fireground channel will be assigned for on-scene communications.

Analog Fireground Channels
Channel Name Channel Usage
DANETAC 1 County shared Fire/EMS/LE fireground/tactical
DANETAC 2 County shared Fire/EMS/LE fireground/tactical
FR FG1 Fitch-Rona fireground
FR PS Fitch-Rona public safety, shared Fire/EMS/LE fireground/tactical
MC FG McFarland fireground (pending)
MO FG Monona fireground, also used for routine calls
ST FG Stoughton fireground, also used for routine calls
SN FG Sun Prairie fireground, also used for routine calls
Additional Analog Channels
IFERN MABAS coordination
MARC 1/2 Multi-agency mutual aid, primary LZ coordination
VTAC10 Backup dispatch
VTAC12 Multi-agency tactical

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