Public-safety personnel should use plain-speech communications instead of the traditional 10-code languages currently used by most first-responder organizations, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) declared in a position statement released today.

The Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System (NIMS) recommends using plain-speech language but it is not a requirement, an APCO spokesperson said. With today’s announcement, APCO becomes the first major public-safety association to express support for the NIMS recommendation.

Although most public-safety entities use 10-codes, they frequently are agency specific—a fact that leads to inconsistencies.

“[Emergency agencies] all different versions of 10-codes, not a single version, like the one adopted by APCO,” an APCO spokesperson said.

With this in mind, using plain-speech language is particularly important when incidents require multiple public-safety agencies to interoperate, according to the APCO position statement.

“The impact of plain speech communications upon the public safety communications center allows the dispatcher and the field responder to use common language descriptors to indicate the nature of the event, situation, and person(s) that is the topic of the radio transaction,” according to the statement. “The abandonment of agency specific 10-Codes and dispatch signals support the incident command concepts to effectively coordinate response activity not only in multi-agency disaster situations but in routine intra-agency operations.”