BIRs or Brief Initial Reports don’t just inform your fellow responders of what is going on when you arrive. They also let dispatch know what the situation is, who is in charge and what additional resources may be needed upon arrival. Although your dispatcher may have a caller statement, it is nothing compared to the informative scene size-up that we will get from trained personnel.
Leading up to the Response
We need a great BIR from you because callers may not give the call taker/dispatcher an accurate description of the event. Some reasons why could be due to:
-Not always knowing how to describe what they are seeing.
-Difficult to estimate the size of an area or building, even trickier is estimating liquid spill sizes.
-Panic and aren’t able to say anything when they make the call.
-Over or under exaggeration. Adults sometimes over exaggerate (it is catching my house on fire! but in reality the fire was contained to a mailbox 40 ft. away) Children downplay and are calm (I was cooking on the stove and it caught fire, turns into full kitchen/dwelling fire)
-Could be deaf or mute
-3rd or 4th party caller, i.e. someone who is not on scene and received a call from someone else to call 911, or an alarm company
Why Your Dispatcher Needs a Good BIR
Dispatch needs to know if the call needs to be upgraded or downgraded. Is it upgrading from a single engine response to a rescue call or is the dwelling fire now a single unit response for a shrub on fire with no extension?
Although it may not be common in certain areas, it lets dispatch know that you are at the right place. As a firefighter you may not double-check an address when you arrive because hello, the house on fire! There is a chance that there is more than one house fire or more than one car accident on a street.
Are you arriving on a townhouse fire when you were dispatched to a trailer fire? Are you arriving on a ten car pile-up when you were dispatched to a single vehicle? This BIR gives your dispatcher the go-ahead to start the notifications on their side per their policies.
What Makes a Good BIR
BIRs can range from something short to something lengthy. You should always follow what your SOPs dictate but I’ve found that some good information to include is:
-Who you are
-What unit you are on
-Type of structure/object
-Updated address (if not provided one on dispatch)
-Condition report or description
-Who has Command
-Next unit’s orders
Your BIR and the Radio
When you key the microphone to make that great BIR here are a few radio transmission tips:
-Take a deep breath
-Key up for one second to open all the transmitters
-Give the information
-Release the microphone button
-If needed take a pause between lengthy transmissions (some radio systems only allow the microphone to be open for a specific amount of time)
A good technique your dispatcher may use is to repeat your requests back to you. Listen carefully so you know they copied all of the resources you requested.
Practicing BIRs in a nonemergency situation will only make you more prepared for what to say when you do arrive on a working incident. A fantastic and informative BIR doesn’t only help your fellow firefighters but it also helps your dispatcher visualize the scene and prepare for the next step in the incident.