Deputy Chief Lindsey Plummer runs communications for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and has been a part of the fire service for more than 28 years. He wears a lot of different hats as a deputy chief, he says. One of his main hats is acting as the liaison between government agencies to oversee projects like the new fire training center development and communication upgrades at the department's 911 center.

The department shares space at Miami-Dade's 911 center with police dispatchers. When calls are received, call-takers forward the data to the appropriate first-responder agency. The fire-rescue department is responsible for dispatching only fire-related calls, Plummer explained.

Plummer works alongside city officials and uses that opportunity to ensure those at the top understand the fire service's role and why operational procedures and equipment are needed to serve the community successfully.

"In a system as large as ours, you run into things that are not quite understood by other agencies, so we have to put it in layman's terms for them to understand," he said.

Plummer's everyday challenge is to ensure that his communications department meets the needs of its clients: its firefighting units and the community. Success means dispatching at the most expedient rate and making sure that communications are concise so requested resources are deployed correctly.

"For an assignment like a grass fire or a building fire, we have to make sure they get the resources, such as helicopters," he said.

The department operates over a conventional, Motorola-based UHF system. Officers and firefighters use handheld, two-way radios and trucks/units carry mobile units.

"The challenge from the communication side is just making sure the system is robust and that should there be failures we are able to overcome them — and apply and adapt as we face these challenges on a daily basis," Plummer said.

Plummer said dead spots exist, but the department and its officers of aware of the areas.

"If we find an area does not produce [the] communication we need, then we would enhance that by taking out a repeater or moving one," he said.

Plummer's beat includes the Everglades National Park — a large part of the department's territory — where rescues can be harried. The team often has to use helicopters to locate and rescue those lost or hurt in the area.

"Usually when we are out in the Everglades, it's more so done by helicopter. It's just the challenge of getting to an individual should they be stranded in the Everglades," he said. "You know, we have air boats, all-terrain vehicles, so the challenge is physically finding the person and extracting them."

Undeniably, fire events can be tragic. Plummer knows this, but admits it's always tough to get a call about a fire-related death.

"We are always working to try and eliminate that portion of what we do," he said.

Mary Rose Roberts is the associate editor for Urgent Communications.