Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-64a-12

Communications Best Practices

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-64A-12


Communications/Resource Centre


March 2001


Communications Best Practices


Under Review


To assist municipalities and fire service managers in the development of best practices and procedures which record benchmark times.


This guideline is a suggested model for fire department communications benchmarks.

  • A key factor in determining the effectiveness of the delivery of fire protection is measuring the performance of the fire service in relation to the time the original call was received in relation to functions implemented on the fire ground or emergency scene.


While many benchmark times may be gathered and customised to meet local needs and circumstances, it is recommended that, as a minimum the following times and information be recorded mechanically or electronically by every communications centre;

  • Date and time call originated
  • Date and time call originally answered (9-1-1 or local)
  • Date and time call conferenced (9-1-1)
  • Date and time call answered by downstream agency (9-1-1)
  • Date and time alarm dispatched
  • Date and time alarm acknowledged
  • Date and time each apparatus mobile
  • Date and time each apparatus on scene
  • Number of personnel on each apparatus
  • Date, time and name of officer assuming command
  • Date and time agent was applied
  • Date, time and name if command is transferred
  • Date and time "All Clear", if applicable
  • Date and time "Under Control", if applicable
  • Date and time "Loss Stopped", if applicable

Wherever possible fire service communication centre clocks should be synchronised with other public safety agencies serving the same area.

Service Delivery Implications:

There is a need to manage each of the components of the call-taking process in order to improve performance and efficiency to reduce the total intervention time at a fire emergency.

  • A reliable communications system directly impacts on the ability of a fire department to provide effective fire protection to a service area.
  • An effective system can result in reduced intervention time thereby reducing injuries, loss of life and property due to fires and other emergencies.
  • An effective system contributes to a safer work environment for emergency responders and contributes to the timely response to non-emergency assistance to the public.

Policy Requirements:

Specific communications centre policy should be developed to establish:

  • the maximum time allowed to answer incoming emergency lines
  • the maximum time allowed to record and commit initial emergency incident data
  • the maximum time allowed to alert fire crews
  • the maximum time crews are allowed to depart station
    the maximum time allowed prior to initiating a second alert or implementing automatic/mutual aid if a station fails to answer or respond to an alarm
  • identified circumstances that would allow communicators to automatically call for additional assistance without direction from the incident commander.
  • See NFPA 1221, for the percentage and time expectations for completion of tasks.

Codes, Standards, Best Practices:

Codes, Standards, and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.

See also;


04-64-12 Fire Service Communications Centres
NFPA 1221