Every day, across the nation, emergency responders are dispatched to calls with situations ranging from basic structural fires to complex search and rescue operations to domestic violence or assaults. Emergency responders answering those calls for help oftentimes arrive at a scene with limited information, so communication between themselves and their colleagues becomes of the utmost importance. When responding to a hazardous material incident, personal protective equipment (PPE) may need to be worn, which can significantly impact the ability to communicate.
The most common way for responders to communicate with each other during an emergency scenario where PPE must be worn, is through the use of in-suit communications (ISC) equipment – radio accessories that enable them to communicate effectively without relying on just using a radio (which can be difficult or impossible to use in some PPE). ISC equipment are extensions of responders’ portable two-way radios and typically consist of microphones, headsets, earpieces and activation accessories such as push-to-talk devices or hands-free voice-operated exchange. However, each of these tools has different strengths and weaknesses which must be carefully considered by responders before they use this equipment in the field.