As firefighters combat another round of wildfires in Colorado this summer, research shows that the way those firefighters communicate can play a significant role in having a good outcome on the fire line — or a disastrous one.
Timothy Amidon, an assistant professor in the Department of English at Colorado State University, has more than 15 years of experience in the fire service as a firefighter and officer with Westerly Fire Department in Rhode Island, a fire instructor with the Rhode Island Fire Academy and a technician with Rhode Island Search and Rescue. He has devoted his academic research to understanding and improving firefighter communication.
About 100 firefighters die each year in the line of duty, and many more are seriously injured. Structural and equipment issues can play a role in these casualties, but communication problems are a factor that is often overlooked or misunderstood.
If a firefighter is unable to correctly interpret fire behavior and communicate important information back to the rest of the team, for instance, the situation can quickly escalate to danger. Firefighters must learn how to use aural and radio literacy to rapidly process and prioritize communications in a high-stress environment. Firefighting communication is complicated, and Amidon has examples of incidents in which miscommunication has led to tragedy.
Amidon is available for interviews. To schedule one, contact Jeff Dodge at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-491-4251. A story about a lecture he gave at CSU this spring, along with high-res photos, can be found at http://source.colostate.edu/fighting-fire-with-words/.