Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-65-03

Fire Service Communications Centres

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-65-03


Communications/Resource Centre


March 2001


Fire Service Communications Centres


Under Review


To assist municipalities and fire service managers in development and provision of fire service communication centres.


At the present time fire service communications services are delivered through a myriad of systems. These include dedicated fire service communications centres, other municipal communications centres such as local police, third party government communications centres such as OPP and Central Ambulance Communications Centres and third party private communications systems such as answering services and private telephone companies. Fire phones and telephone inter-connect systems are also used to a limited degree.


Since their inception, fire service communications systems have continued to evolve. Advances in technology have taken fire service communications to increasingly complex integrated multi-line telephone systems including 9-1-1, and multi channel radio systems supported by computer aided dispatch (CAD) and geographic information systems (GIS). Adequate technical support must be provided to maintain and improve these systems.

Related Functions:

If it is not possible for a fire department to provide dedicated fire service communicators, it is strongly recommended that a qualified third party agency provide the service.
Because of the increasingly specialized nature of fire service communications, it may not be possible for private third party providers to continue to deliver fire service communications services.

Fire department managers must have input into the operation and management of the selected communications delivery system. They must have the ability to address issues as they develop. Also, fire department concerns must form an integral part of the long-term planning process for the communications centre.

In those cases where multiple agencies combine to deliver this service, there is a need for a clear and concise operating agreement between the parties. The structure of the management committee should be incorporated into the operating agreement between the various agencies participating in the centre.

The following are areas of consideration for inclusion in agreements:

  • parties involved
  • intent of agreement
  • extent of the fire department management role
  • services to be purchased/provided
  • define area(s) to be protected including map of the area(s) served, (if streets or roads are used as boundaries, are properties on and accessible from both sides of the street or road included?)
  • apparatus and equipment to respond, personnel to respond - minimum and/or maximum number including any variations for different occurrences
  • arrangements for extra assistance, if needed
  • costing arrangements, including;
  • annual costs
  • any administrative fees
  • payment schedule including any special arrangements relative to ancillary services
  • provisions for failing to supply the services, or any part thereof
  • authority to contact communicators directly by specific persons
  • provisions for amending the agreement
  • provisions for terminating the agreement
  • arbitration (dispute resolution) clause(s) in case of disagreement regarding the intent of any provision of the agreement

The fire department should seek advice and input in development of the agreement from its municipal solicitor.

Because of increasing complexity of fire services communications, wherever possible, dedicated fire service communicators should provide services. The call takers must elicit proper and full information from the caller, provide appropriate instructions to the caller, and transfer appropriate information to the responders.

Regardless of how the service is delivered, it is critical that all fire service communicators receive training that reflects the unique nature of fire service communications. While a number of agencies provide training for communicators, fire service communicators must also be trained to:

  • support the incident management system used by the fire service
  • support the accountability and entry control systems used by the fire service
  • support the functions of the safety officer at an emergency incident
  • support personnel working in a potentially violent situation

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;
Communications Centre/Resource Centre
04-64A-03 Communications Best Practices
Ontario Fire Service Communicator Standard
NFPA 1221