The market for land mobile radios is worth over $8.24 billion. They’re an essential tool for all first responders.

A fire department radio is one of the most important types because it’s designed to fit the needs of firefighters.

These devices are portable, don’t require an internet signal, and allow for clear communication with and identification of all users. They’re part of an essential system that every fire department needs.

Read our guide to understand what fire radios do, why they’re so essential, and how to use them.

What Is a Fire Department Radio?

Fire departments should run like well-oiled machines where every member remains in constant contact with one another, and this is impossible without the right communication devices.

A fire department radio is a portable, two-way radio operated by either the fire department, a regional communications center, or another agency.

Almost all departments have a fire department radio, but some have entire radio systems. Radios are the core components, but they may also include fire radio scanners, dispatching systems, and mobile data terminals.

A fire department’s equipment needs depend on its size. The more officers they have and the wider their service area, the more devices they’ll need to uphold quality communication.

Why Are Fire Department Radios Important?

Emergency conditions can change at any time, and every member of a response team needs to know about these changes. They may also need guidance on what to do while under stress.

These reasons and more explain why clear communication for first responders is so essential.

A few of the many benefits of a fire department radio include efficient communication, portability, easy identification, and simple power and signal requirements.

Quick, Clear Communication

There are over 370,000 career and 745,000 volunteer firefighters in the U.S. across 29,705 fire departments. All of these individuals can’t communicate without a dedicated system.

News bulletins, such as those delivered by National Fire Radio, only notify listeners of changes in policies and schedules. They may provide information on emerging fires, but it’s not enough to keep responders safe.

Fire department radios allow users to communicate with each other about changing conditions. This can be the difference between life and death in the field where a small wildfire can become a raging inferno in seconds.

Fires are also one of the most stressful situations anyone can encounter, causing even the most experienced experts to make mistakes. Having a calm voice coming through a fire department radio helps prevent this. 


Basic PPE or personal protective equipment for firefighters weighs approximately 45 pounds. Adding other tools such as axes, flashlights, or thermal imaging cameras increases that weight to up to 77 pounds.

Carrying this load causes strain on firefighters’ bodies and increases the potential for injury. They don’t have room for a bulky communication device.

A fire department radio is portable, light, and easy to use. The buttons are easy to press and find amongst all the other equipment the firefighter has to wear. 

The right fire radio strap will help keep it secure so that it doesn’t fall off while the firefighter is in the field. 

Identifying Firefighters

Fire department radios make it easier to identify individual firefighters. This is achieved either through the letter system or by identifying individual radios.

The letter system identifies firefighters by a letter and their riding position on a fire rig. The officer may be identified as Ladder 1A, the driver would be Ladder 1B, and the crewmembers would be Ladder 1C, 1D, 1E, and 1F.

Smaller fire departments can also assign each firefighter their own radio identified by their name and rank.

Knowing where every member of the department is at all times is essential. It makes the task of finding the individual you need to convey a message to easier and helps ensure everyone gets out safely during an evacuation. 

Power and Signal Requirements

A fire department radio runs on batteries that are long-lasting and easy to replace. They don’t require an internet signal; as long as the required stations are open, the department can communicate with each other.

How Can I Use a Fire Department Radio?

Once firefighters understand why they’re so important, they need to learn how to use a fire radio.

Wear the radio at head level. There should be a mic on the lapel with an antenna near your shoulder. Be sure to get a fire department radio strap to keep it secure. 

The first officer or unit on the scene must transmit a “size-up” of the situation. It must include the location and address as well as a brief description of the situation.

Consistent updates are essential but should never keep the team from communicating with each other.

Keep the lines of communication open at all times so that traffic tones, maydays, and other important signals don’t get blocked. 

How firefighters speak to one another over their radio is just as crucial as when and why. The best standard to follow is the 5 C’s of radio communication; consciseness, clarity, confidence, control, and capability.

Every firefighter should receive regular training in how to use their radio. This includes briefs and lessons on topics such as radio standards, what to say in an emergency, and other important topics.

Face-to-face communication is also important. It’s a useful way to fill any gaps in radio communication and make sure that everyone is clear about what to do.

Where Can I Get a Fire Department Radio?

A fire department radio is part of the communication system that allows officers and firefighters to communicate with one another. 

These radios are a life-saving addition to a firefighter’s already heavy set of tools. They prevent mistakes and allow for updates on the current conditions of a fire.

All firefighters should receive regular training on how to use them properly. They should know what each part of their radio does and how to speak to one another.

Look to BK Fire Radios to find the exact brand of fire department radio you need. Contact us for a price quote today.