Ten Codes

By Michael J. Legeros

"They have numbers for everything!" says a twenty-three year-old fe-
male from the backseat of the Bluesmobile.  'Tis Friday night, mid-
night, or near-midnight, in the parking lot of the Garner Wal-Mart.
The former *twenty-four hour* Wal-Mart.  Our third-person passenger
is commenting on police slang that keeps chirping from my scanner.
Or, rather, from the scanner *speaker* on the "hump" beside her.
"Ten-sixteen," she hears.  Then talking, then silence.  "Ten forty-
six."  More talking, more silence.  "Signal four-four," and on it
goes as we head toward northwest Raleigh, the signal getting
scratchier and scratchier as we approach the Glenwood Avenue Wal-
Mart.  Which is also closed.  Even with a fading signal, though, we
can still decipher the dispatches, both numbers and spoken specif-
ics.  Such as the location of the call, or the description of a ve-
hicle, or the occasional "suspect reportedly armed with [blank]."
(That last one'll stop car-conversation on a dime!)

As the longtime driver of said scanner-equipped vehicle-- a 1995
Ford Taurus, royal-ish blue, with fuzzy dice in front, pink, a hip-
shakin' hula girl in back, and a motor with less than two weeks to
live-- I both barely notice and am constantly aware of the staccato
squawking.  The aforementioned speaker-- positioned on the "tranny
hump," so it doesn't compete with the tape deck-- is connected to
one of two "police radios."  Bolted to the front floorboard, the
scanners can receive but not transmit on the various radio frequen-
cies used by local public-safety agencies.  And, it can also eaves-
drop on airplanes, baby monitors, (older) cordless phones, fast-food
windows, and even cellular calls!  (*Analog* cellular calls, that
is.  And only those that "bleed over" from the factory blocked fre-
quencies.  And it's also illegal, so I don't do it.)

Why *two* scanners?  Well, a better question might be why *only*
two?  Yours Compulsive possesses *five* such devices (read: toys).
In order as presented here, I have one at the house, one in my Anvil
Case, one spare somewhere, and the pair in the car previously noted.
As for the deuce in the deuce, that story goes something like this:
years ago, after upgrading my "mobile" from a crystal-tuned "Regen-
cy" to a user-programmable "Bearcat," I decided to keep the first
one, too, because, well, I liked its red, flashing lights.  (The
Bearcat has a backlit, yellow LCD display.  It's cool, but it ain't
no red, flashing light!)  Also at that time, I saw a need for "si-
multaneous monitoring."  Like at a large fire, when "dispatch" is
talking on one channel and "command" is giving orders on another,
and *both* of whom I wanna listen to at once.  (And then for those
*really* big fires, I can reach into the ol' case, grab my "hand-
held," and monitor *three* convos at once!"

A bit of background-- I've been riding around with a scanner like a
geek since *before* my fire-department days, having been "bitten" a
year earlier while working as a traffic reporter.  My first duty,
prior to reporting from the ground and then once and only once from
the air-- because I barfed-- was working the "police desk."  I'd sit
beside a "base station" scanner, cock an ear for accident reports,
and report whatever was happened to the reporters.  (Sick aside:  so
what exactly happens when a person "Ralphs" in a light plane?  If
you're like me-- and this time you're probably glad you're not-- you
hastily open the window and *attempt* to direct your "emergency out-
put" away from the plane.  Then, after landing, you help clean the
inside of the cabin.)

Thus, my ear-- my right one, actually-- was well-trained before be-
coming fully immersed in the lingo, first as a full-time firefighter
for the City of Raleigh and, later, in a move that cinched the ac-
climation process, as a "911" operator slash dispatcher for the Ci-
ty/County Emergency Communications Center, located in a bunker, er,
basement below City Hall.  ('Twas a tour of duty of mere months.  In
order of my training, I answered "911" calls, looked up DMV info,
entered criminal records information, dispatched county police cars,
managed "car to car" traffic in Raleigh, "rode along" once or twice,
and, on those gloriously challenging Friday and Saturday nights, sat
in the "hot seat" and directed the entire Raleigh Police Department.
And it was a *blast*!)

These days, one decade and an entirely different career-path later,
riding with a scanner serves a different purpose than on-the-job
awareness.  Such as a convenient warning of just-happened wrecks
during rush hour.  Or learning if a particular fire station is about
to receive an alarm.  (You know, if I want my "fix.")  Or simply to
find out where the fires are, if I'm in the mood for gawking and/or
picture-taking.  Scanners are great *weekend* entertainment, too,
for those colorful, late-night police calls.  And, last but hardly
least, a "mobile" makes for one *heck* of an ongoing reality-check.
In a city the size of Raleigh, car accidents-with-injuries are as
common as ignored non-smoking signs.  Daily and maybe even hourly.
Plus those more-gruesome sounding "pin-ins" and "f - frank's" (for
fatalities).  Don't know that I necessarily drive any *safer*, mind
you, but I know what to expect if my vehicle meets another!

(And for former members of "the profession," it's grand fun catching
the occasional outburst from a grumpy dispatcher or frustrated field
officer.  Same for the out-of-breath excitement of the first-arriv-
ing unit at a working fire.  Or those rare bits of unintended humor,
like this gem heard years ago, when the fire department responded to
a "child locked in a vehicle."  One of the city's two rescue trucks
had been dispatched, 'cause they were the ones equipped with "Slim
Jim"-type tools.  Apparently noting the long response time, a Dis-
trict Chief contacted one of the closer engine companies.  The ex-
change went something like this:  "Engine XX, respond with Rescue
YY."  "Chief, we don't have any tools to open a car door."  "Do you
have an axe?"  [ Long pause ]  "We're en route.")

Now, back to our back-seat passenger and her Friday observation of
"having numbers for everything."  She's speaking of "ten codes," a
numeric form of shorthand best known by "Ham" operators, CB radio
owners, and anyone who ever watched a bad trucker movie in the Sev-
enties.  Breaker, breaker.  The codes are designed to both clearly
and *quickly* communicate exact meaning.  They eliminate any head-
scratching if trying to tell if someone said "affirmative" or "nega-
tive."  Or just plain "yes" or "no."  Ten codes are also short and,
thus, more quickly free the channel for others to talk.  And that's
crucial when things get busy and multiple operators-- such as police
cars or fire trucks-- all have something to say.

Here in the Capital City, the fire department uses the same set of
ten codes as the police department, as well their special "signals."
Such as someone shooting (signal 101) or someone shot (102).  The
fire department also has its *own* codes and numerous, non-cryptic
descriptors.  Like "condition red" and "nothing showing."  Thus and
overall, fire calls are probably the easiest of public-safety fre-
quencies to understand.  In fact, they're just as easy to receive!
Simply tune any VHF scanner to 154.370 and you, too, can hear what's
shakin', hoppin', or burnin' on down around town.  (For fire calls
in the *county*, use 154.190.  That's the frequency for the "volun-
teer" departments that serve the smaller towns and unincorporated
areas around Wake County.  Oh, and for the Cary Fire Department,
which operates on a set of frequencies most older scanners can't re-
ceive, try 154.235.  It repeats all dispatches, but not "car-to-car"

So let's go and start scanning!  You'll hear about blazes, infernos,
and assorted conflagrations.  And medical stuff, too, 'cause the RFD
is a "first responder."  Meaning, whenever an ambulance is sent for
something life-threatening, so is a fire truck!  (The logic:  there
are nearly five times as many fire stations as ambulance stations in
Raleigh.  Guess who usually gets there first...)  And so, for every-
one with an old "police radio" in the garage, perhaps owned by a re-
clusive aunt or somebody's crazy brother-in-law who always wanted to
be a cop, here's what you'll hear if you tune into the trucks.  In-
cluded below-- no, not more lists!-- are summaries of the typical
calls that the Raleigh Fire Department responds to.  Plus various
codes, signals, top-secret plans, and even a mess o' Web addresses
for even *more* information!  Like a complete list of ten-codes!  Or
the street addresses *and* apparatus rosters for every fire station
in Wake County!  See you at the fire scene...



In Raleigh, as in most municipalities, reported fires are basically
dispatched in one of two ways:

  o single-engine
  o full-assignment

The former are those smaller-scale smokers, like car fires or trash
fires.  They typically require only "engine" (or "pumping engine" or
"pumper") to handle.  Full-assignments, on the other hand, are dis-
patched to the "barn burners"-- the larger (or *potentially* larger)
weenie-roasts, such as kitchen fires or apartment fires.  The "dis-
patch" consists of *two* engine companies, one "truck company" (or
"aerial apparatus"), and a "chief."  (Meaning "District Chief," at
least in Raleigh.)

Single-engine calls include:

  o brush fire
  o woods fire
  o trash fire
  o dumpster fire
  o vehicle fire
  o fuel leak
  o gas leak.

Full-assignments are dispatched to:

  o kitchen fire
  o house fire
  o apartment fire
  o structure fire
  o odor investigation
  o smoke investigation
  o electrical investigation
  o odor of natural gas
  o fire alarm.

For fires reported in buildings, a full assignment is augmented by a
*third* engine, for rapid intervention, and a rescue unit, to search
for and, if necessary, remove any occupants.  And for vehicle fires
on the Beltline, *two* engines are often dispatched, one heading in
each direction.


Upon arrival of a reported structure fire, the "first in" (or "first
due") unit-- engine, truck, chief, or other-- radios one or more of
the following conditions:

  o "nothing showing"
  o "smoke showing"
  o "light smoke"
  o "heavy smoke"
  o "heavy smoke, all units continue 10-33"  (lights and siren)
  o "condition red" (visible flames)

plus a physical description of the building:

  o "two-story"
  o "brick"
  o "residential"
  o  etc.

and the estimated amount of fire:

  o "code one" - no fire, or fire can be extinguished with amount
     of water carried in "booster tank" and using smaller-diameter

  o "code two" - fire requires larger amount of water from hydrant
     and use of medium-diameter hose.  Also results in automatic
     dispatch of Battalion Chief, Safety Officer, and breathing-
     air unit, as well as notification of necessary utility com-
     panies, emergency-shelter agencies, etc.

  o "code three" - fire requires very large amount of water from
     one or more hydrants and use of largest-diameter hose.  Also
     results in automatic dispatch of a "second alarm" (or second
     full assignment), plus the previously listed "code two" units,
     and maybe one or two Assistant Chiefs


Both upon arrival and during "suppression," various "fireground" lo-
cations may be mentioned:

  o "command" - location of commanding officer

  o "staging" - where incoming units park and await instructions

  o "rehab"   - where medical personnel monitor and administer
                aid to firefighters

plus six "sectors" identifying the "fire building," as facing from
the street:

  o "sector 1" - front
  o "sector 2" - interior
  o "sector 3" - rear
  o "sector 4" - left
  o "sector 5" - right
  o "sector 6" - roof



Life-threatening medical calls cause the nearest engine or truck
company to be sent, to assist (and usually arrive ahead of) the am-
bulance.  For calls requiring extra hands, such as a person to per-
form CPR, one or more firefighters will also ride to the hospital:

  o "code blue" (not breathing)
  o "cardiac"
  o "chest pains"
  o "choking"
  o "code 7" (deceased person)
  o "cva" (cerebrovascular accident, e.g. stroke)
  o "ob" or "ocean boy" (obstetrics)
  o "od" or "ocean david" (overdose)
  o "poisoning"
  o "severe bleeding" or "subject hemorrhaging"
  o "signal 86" or "86" or "subject 86" (someone down)
  o "subject down"
  o "subject unconscious"

Special Medical

For crime- or violence-related emergencies, police officers are also
dispatched.  And until the scene is "secure," the fire truck and am-
bulance wait around the corner:

  o "102" (someone shot)
  o "68" or "68 attempt" (suicide)
  o "shooting"
  o "stabbing"
  o  anything requiring forced entry into a residence.

Vehicular Accidents

Accidents involving cars, trucks, trains, tractors, motorcycles, bi-
cycles, or unlucky pedestrians as dispatched as either:

  o "10-50" (vehicle accident)
  o "10-57" (vehicle accident, hit and run)

with one of three qualifiers:

  o "pd" or "property damage" or "property damage only"
  o "pi" or "personal injury"
  o "f" or "f - frank" or "fatality"

and any additional descriptors:

  o "vehicle overturned"
  o "vehicle down an embankment"
  o "vehicle leaking fuel"
  o "vehicle on fire"
  o "subject pinned"
  o "subject thrown from vehicle"
  o  etc.

For "property damage" calls, an engine company is sometimes sent to
"wash up" gas, glass, or debris.  For "personal injuries," an ambu-
lance is added.  For subjects reportedly "pinned," a rescue unit al-
so responds, in the event "extrication" is required.  (Happily, most
reported "pin-in's" are not.)

Special Accidents

Rescue units, of which Raleigh has two of and a third on order, are
also dispatched when special extraction or extrication techniques
are required:

  o drowning or water emergency
  o building collapse
  o construction accident
  o electrocution
  o elevator stuck
  o persons trapped above ground
  o persons trapped below ground.

Aircraft "Alerts"

Local aircraft emergencies are dispatched as "alerts" and, not sur-
prisingly, usually occur at or around the airport.  And though RDU-
has its own "crash-fire-rescue" (or "CFR") department-- with three,
brand-new, giant white "crash trucks" code-named "Casper" #2 through
#4-- additional agencies are dispatched as required.  The choice and
amount of "mutual aid" is determined by several factors, including:

  o aircraft in air
  o aircraft on ground or missing


  o on airport property
  o off airport property


  o size of aircraft


  o number of "souls" aboard

For in-flight emergencies, the CFR units wait at the end of the run-
way until the plane arrives.  If additional departments have been
dispatched, incoming units are staged on the closest access road to
the runway.  Nearby fire departments to RDU include Raleigh, Cary,
Morrisville, Apex, Western-Wake, and Durham Highway, plus Parkwood,
Redwood, Bethesda, and Durham (City) on the other side of the county


Size is everything.  Hazardous-materials responses can range from a
single engine to an entire assignment, plus additional assorted res-
cue, command, breathing-air, and haz-mat units:

  o chemical odor
  o chemical spill
  o chemical alarm activation
  o carbon monoxide alarm activation
  o fuel spill
  o leaking vehicle
  o leaking train car
  o leaking storage tank.


The rest of the rest is mostly mundane.  Assisting invalids.  Check-
ing smoke detectors.  And other assorted service calls.  Ergo, the
stuff of non-emergencies.  And, no, I've never heard the Raleigh's
Bravest called to get a cat out of a tree.

* (but were afraid to ask.)

                     PLEASE SIR, I WANT SOME MORE

For more information, please consult the following superb Web sites:

  o Raleigh/Wake scanner frequencies

  o Raleigh/Wake fire department codes

  o Raleigh/Wake ten codes and phonetic alphabet

  o Raleigh police dispatch and disposition codes

  o Raleigh fire station locations

  o Raleigh fire apparatus roster

  o Wake County fire station locations

  o Wake County fire apparatus rosters

  o RDU airport emergency codes

  o Photos of all of the above

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros


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