Fire, police to abandon long-used 'ten-codes'

August 14, 2005
Tyler Riggs
The Herald Journal, Logan Utah

Valley police and fire agencies have received the "10-4" to change the way they talk to each other in the coming months.

The agencies are starting to implement the National Incident Management System (NIMS) along with every other agency in the country, as mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Association.

While the bulk of NIMS involves creating a plan for police and fire departments and cities to communicate with other agencies, part of the process will require officers and firefighters to stop using "ten codes" and move to a new way of speaking called "Clear Text." ...

One reason FEMA is mandating that all agencies start using standardized words to communicate with each other is so agencies from different states can understand each other. With ten codes, for example, Utah and Idaho have different meanings assigned to different numbers, creating problems with officers cross state lines to work. ...

"The plain language, I think, is much better than the ten codes," [Smithfield Police Chief John] McCoy said. "I think it's been something that's been needed for a long time in law enforcement." ...

He said that when he worked in California and his department switched from ten codes to plain language, it took about two years before everyone was speaking the same. ...

All agencies are required to adopt NIMS by October, and local agencies are expected to start training on all aspects of NIMS in September.


'10-4' is deep-sixed

Thursday, March 31, 2005

By BRIAN MOSELY; Shelbyville Times-Gazette

The days of hearing "10-4" on the police scanner or the phrase "10-46" to describe an automobile accident with injuries will become a thing of the past next year when Bedford County dispatchers adopt new "plain English" standards being implemented by the federal government.

According to Cathey Mathis, director of Bedford County 911 Communications, all federal preparedness grants could be lost if the county does not comply with the new plain talk standards.

"That's my understanding," Mathis said. "But it's not just communications, it's going to be for all emergency departments, fire, EMS (emergency medical services) sheriff's department and police. We're all going to have to go to plain language."

For years, the "10-codes" have been the standard on emergency communication frequencies nationwide and have been popularized in many television shows about law enforcement, such as "Adam 12." But now, the Department of Homeland Security is developing the National Incident Management System (NIMS) at the request of the president.

"The way I understand it, is that if one department doesn't use plain English, then there will be no grant funds for anybody," Mathis said. She said she became aware of the changes last week during a district meeting of EMA and 911 officials and directors.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NIMS "integrates effective practices in emergency preparedness and response into a comprehensive national framework for incident management."

"The NIMS will enable responders at all levels to work together more effectively to manage domestic incidents no matter what the cause, size or complexity," according to FEMA.

So instead of saying "10-46," emergency personnel would now have to say "motor vehicle accident with injuries."

"Instead of saying '10-4' we would say 'affirmative," Mathis said. "Instead of '10-50, you would say 'negative.'" Mathis was not sure which of the standard words would be used, but if someone reported a fight, "it would be called a fight."

NIMS was developed to provide a system that would assist emergency managers and responders from different jurisdictions and disciplines to work together more effectively to handle emergencies and disasters.

While most incidents are handled on a daily basis by EMS, fire personnel, and law enforcement in a single jurisdiction, cooperation and coordination between the organizations makes for a more effective response, FEMA states.

According to the federal agency, when the NIMS is adopted and used nationwide on Sept. 30, 2006, which is the deadline for full NIMS compliance, it will "form a standardized, unified framework for incident management within which government and private entities at all levels can work together effectively." Mathis confirmed that they will be making the changes by the federal deadline.

The NIMS will provide a set of standardized organizational structures such as the Incident Command System (ICS) and standardized processes, procedures and systems, FEMA reports. The procedures are designed "to improve interoperability among jurisdictions and disciplines in various areas -- command and management, resource management, training, communications."

Mathis said she had downloaded a manual from FEMA and said she would probably have to take a test to come into compliance with the new standards. "The responding agencies are going to have to (take the test) and I'm sure I will too." The test can be taken online and the federal government is giving classes as well.

The federal agency says that "ability to communicate within ICS is absolutely critical. Using standard or common terminology is essential to ensuring efficient, clear communication. ICS requires the use of common terminology; that is, the use of plain English."

"We already talk plain English to EMS, and have done it for several years," Mathis said.

"Common terminology in communications is necessary to support mutual aid and the infusion of new responders coming to an event so they will be able to communicate with one another," FEMA states on its NIMS website. "All exercises you participate in should feature plain English commands so they can function in a multi-jurisdiction environment."

Mathis said there would no doubt be some cost involved with all the changes, training and testing, but she did not have an estimate of how much it would be.

FEMA states that field manuals and training would be revised also to reflect the plain English standard, "but it is our intention to take a practical common sense approach to this, and not cut off funding to a city because we hear of first responder who happens to use ten codes."

Feds Plan to Oust Police Codes, Hope to Get a 10-4

John Knicely,

WPSD; NewsChannel 6

Monday, August 22, 2005

Police and emergency agencies will soon have to do away with radio codes, often called 10-codes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is pushing agencies to talk in plain English.

FEMA says there's no room for misunderstanding in a national emergency. Codes between different agencies often vary.

For example a 10-65 for the Graves County Sheriff's Department means an officer is okay. A 10-65 for Mayfield Police located in Graves County means an alarm is going off.

If agencies don't comply by September of next year, FEMA is threatening to cut off federal funding.

"We're saying that in order to continue federal funding from any of the departments and federal agencies, they need to meet those requirements by the end of (Fiscal Year) '06," said Gil Jamieson of FEMA.

Graves County Sheriff Jon Davis believes the threat of losing federal money will be enough to prompt all departments in our region to make the switch to plain English, but he doesn't think it's a perfect solution.

"Even using regular language you're going to have to have some clarifications," Davis said. He also fears that using regular language over the scanners will result in a flood of phone calls.

"When people hear a fatal accident they're going to contact emergency services to find out what's going on," Davis said.

Atlanta Police and Fire Change Codes
Jun 17, 2005 By News Staff

New signals and codes have been implemented between the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, according to Atlanta's City Newsbytes newsletter. Police and fire will now have one set of 911 signals and codes to communicate with one another.

The codes and signals will be in "plain talk", which is recommended by The National Incident Management System Standard for effective communications between levels of government and private entities. Plain talk is communicating without the signals and the use of words that make it easy to understand the emergency.

Currently, there are 95 signals and 34 codes used by police and fire. Prior to the consolidation there were 95 fire signals, 91 police signals, three fire codes and 31 police codes.

The new codes and signals are helping to enhance the efficiency of dispatchers who send calls to fire and police personnel. They also create a more accurate compilation of statistical data.

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington noted that the departments decided to make the change when they reviewed their current process of handling emergency calls and determined that the consolidation of fire and police codes would allow them to better serve the public when they are needed most.