Firefighter Portable Radio Safety Tips

June 01, 2015

Firefighters need reliable portable radios to keep in contact with each other. It can literally be a matter of life and death! Here are some tips for taking care of your portable radios as a firefighter.

Unprotected radio cords can melt, causing communication to be disrupted for you and possibly others if it disrupts that channel. It’s best to keep the cord under your protective jacket so it’s safe from the intense heat. Most firefighting gear now comes with radio pockets on the front, which is certainly handy, but it then leaves the cords exposed to heat.

These pockets also cause problems when a firefighter is leaning over on his hands and knees. Radios can and do fall out of these pockets (40% of the time), and the way they are positioned horizontally as you lean over can affect signal strength. Plus, the dangling cord drags on the floor and can get caught on debris and equipment. So even without heat, it’s still best to keep your radio inside your jacket.

Instead, place the radio in a leather strap close to your body, then put your coat on top of it with just the mouthpiece sticking out, protecting the vulnerable cord. This way the radio also stays in a vertical position even if you’re on your hands and knees. You’re also safer this way because if your hands are pinned high, you have the mouthpiece to turn on and if your hands are pinned low, you can hit the talk button on the radio itself.

If your fire department is not aware of the most up to date studies regarding radio safety and use, it’s something you should mention. The latest studies are showing that exposed cords and carrying radios horizontally is a significant risk. We highly recommend going over these studies with your team to see if your safety regulations should be updated with this new information. Above all, be safe!