Basic Radio Communications

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Starting a Transmission

  • Make sure you are on the correct channel (Fidalgo Island Departments typically work on Tac 2 or Tac 6).
  • Listen for other traffic, wait until the channel is clear.
  • Before transmitting, use 1 or 2 seconds to think about exactly what you are going to say.
  • Press and hold the talk button and wait for the 'bonk' before speaking.
  • Begin your transmission with the unit you are trying to reach and then give your unit.
    • ex: 11-24 calling dispatch "Cascade from 11-24"
    • ex: 11-22 calling Chief "11-01 from 11-22"
    • ex: 11-17 calling Coronado command "Coronado Command from 11-17"
    • ex: Command calling dispatch "Cascade from Coronado Command"
  • Say what you need to say. Keeping it brief and professional.
  • Release the talk button.
  • If unsure of the answer to the question being asked of you on the radio, reply with, "Check and Advise, Standby one." Which means, "I will investigate and get back to you, please give me a moment."

Putting the Station "On The Air"

The first Firefighter at the Station after receiving a call may notify Cascade. This lets all other responding units know you are there and waiting for more crew personnel to respond. Furthermore, due to Skagit County agreements, Cascade must be notified or they will continue to dispatch additional crews to this call.

  • ex. "Cascade Mt Erie Station 1 staffed with 1 awaiting crew"
  • ex. "Cascade Mt Erie Station 2 staffed with 2 awaiting driver"

Acknowledging a Transmission

When someone talks to you, you often need to acknowledged that you heard them. Include the key details of what they told you in your 'copy'.

  • "Cascade 11-24, copy short"
  • "11-12 from 11-24, copy, continuing non-priority"

Going En Route

When leaving the station for a call you need to let dispatch know.

  • "Cascade 11-24 en route with 4"
  • "Cascade 11-12 en route with 2, non-priority"
  • "Cascade 11-22 en route with 3 to Rosario Rd" (in case of multiple incidents).

If you heard the short report be sure to mention it in your 'en route' radio traffic. Otherwise dispatch will usually ask you if you copied it and you'll end up with twice the radio traffic.

  • "Cascade 11-17 en route with 2, copy short"

Arriving on Scene

As you arrive you need to let dispatch know you've arrived on scene.

  • "Cascade 11-24 arrived on scene"

If you are the first unit arriving, or one has not been done yet, you should give a scene sizeup as well.

Leaving the Scene

When you leave a scene dispatch needs to know so that they can clear you in their system.

Most calls will end with "complete and available". This tells dispatch that you have left and are ready to respond to another call immediately.

  • "Cascade 11-16, complete and available"

If you are done at the scene, but not ready to respond:

  • "Cascade 11-16, complete and out of service"

To clear everyone (usually done by an officer):

  • "Cascade 11-12, all Mt. Erie units are complete and available"

Establishing Command

Most non-med calls should have command established. This is done by the first in unit. Command can then be transferred if needed. The command is usually named after the street the incident is on. If the incident is located on a major road (Hwy 20 for example), using a cross street as a command name may be better.

Note: When the call is on Deception Pass Bridge or at Pass Lake, do not call it Deception Pass Command or Pass Command. Instead go with Bridge Command or Lake Command. The term 'pass command' is what you say when you are giving up command to someone else.


  • "Cascade 11-22 establishing Rosario Command"
  • "Cascade 11-03 establishing Jura Command"
  • "Cascade 11-08 establishing Bridge Command"

When the call is over, command needs to be terminated.

  • "Cascade 11-22, Rosario Command is terminated"


Occasionally, our apparatus go out of service for various other reasons, like training or standby, throughout the day. It is important that Cascade knows when a unit is out of service and, just as important, when it is back in service.

To put a unit out of service, call Cascade and explain that the apparatus will be out of service for a "detail".


  • "Cascade 11-22 will be out of service for a Training Detail"
  • "Cascade 11-22 will be out of service, Standby Detail at the Fairgrounds"

And When Returning to Service:

  • "Cascade 11-22 back in service, Training Detail Terminated"
  • "Cascade 11-22 clear of Standby Detail at Fairgrounds, in service"


See EMS Radio Report

Law Enforcement Call Signs

You may hear law enforcement officers referred to by their call sign. For instance "David19 is on scene."

Each agency has its own:

Agency Call Sign
Anacortes PD David
Burlington PD Henry
Mt Vernon PD X-Ray
Skagit County Sheriff Union
Sedro-Woolley PD George
Swinomish PD Ida