Chicago Fire Department ~ Radio Terms and Lingo

Photo Courtesy of Tim Olk-Northern Illinois Fire Ground Photos

Photo Courtesy of Tim Olk                                                                                                                  



Still Alarm is a fire department response to a report of a building fire. This response is two Engines, two Trucks and a Battalion Chief. With a confirmed fire (“Working Fire Response”), a Command Van, R.I.T. unit and Squad are added to the Still Alarm assignment. The RIT unit or Rapid Intervention Team includes the Squad Company, one truck, ALS (advanced life support) ambulance, and one Battalion Chief.

High Rise Still Alarm is four Engines, four Trucks, three Battalion Chiefs, one Squad, one ALS Ambulance, one EMS Field Officer, and RIT Truck. There is an extra response even when no fire is confirmed because of the extra risk of high-rise fires.

Box Alarm is a fire department response to an activated fire alarm from a pulled box located in or just outside of a nursing home, hospital, theater, government building,or other place of public assembly. The response for a is four Engines, two Trucks, one Battalion Chief.

Cold Box Alarms are a the same as a Box Alarm with the same response.

Working Fire Response fills out of the Still Alarm tab when a confirmed fire is reported by arriving firefighters or a high volume of phone calls reporting the fire.  A Working Fire response is two Engines, two Trucks, a Battalion Chief, the RIT Truck and RIT Battalion Chief, often called “the RIT team” a Squad Co. ALS Ambulance, EMS Field Supervisor and a Command Van.

Still and Box Alarm is usually requested by a Co. Officer, but under urgent situations the Fire Alarm Office will transmit a STILL and BOX Alarm. If a caller reports that someone is trapped in a fire building, multiple structures are reported to be on fire, a large commercial building is on fire, a building collapse has occurred, or a major transportation incident has occurred (plane crash, train derailment, etc), then a Box is transmitted for the alarm. A Still and Box Alarm response is four Engines, two Trucks, one Tower Ladder, one RIT Truck, with RIT Chief, a Squad Co, two Ambulances four Battalion Chiefs a Deputy District Chief and a Command Van.

Extra Alarms 2-11 Alarm response is 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, 1 Tower Ladder, 2 Battalion Chiefs, 1 District Chief, 1 Air Mask Truck, Media Affairs, plus any additional equipment and a Deputy Commissioner.

3-11 Alarm response is 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, Deputy Fire Commissioner, plus any additional equipment ordered by the Incident Commander.

4-11 Alarm response is 4 Engines the Fire Commissioner plus any additional equipment ordered by the Incident Commander.

5-11 Alarm response is 4 Engines plus any additional equipment ordered by the Incident Commander.

SPECIALS ALARMS is any equipment needed above a 5-11 alarm ordered by the Incident Commander. M.A.B.A.S. Box Alarm is a suburban response to the City of Chicago or a need for Chicago Units to respond to a suburb.

MAYDAY EMERGENCY is a response when a Firefighter is down, lost or injured, trapped inside the fire building, where a life-threatening situation exists. MAYDAY RESPONSE response is an automatic upgrade to next higher alarm, A second RIT Co. 3 ALS Ambulances, Collapse Rescue Units (5-2-1 & 5-2-2) 1 Air Mask Unit, 1 Light Wagon, plus any additional equipment ordered by the Incident Commander.

Expressway Vehicle Fire response is 2 Engines, 1 Truck, 1 Battalion Chief. The second Engine will stay off the expressway and seek a positive water source connection to relay to the apparatus on the expressway.


Pin-In Accident involves the need for extrication operation to free one or more people from a vehicle. In many cases, as in a rollover, the pin-in response is called automatically by the alarm office. Occasionally rescuers learn that a person is trapped when they arrive on the scene and request a pin-in response. Often in rollover crashes, people are able to get out on their own while the pin-in companies are responding. A pin-in response includes 1 Truck, 1 Engine, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 Squad Co., 1 ALS ambo and a EMS Field Officer.

EMS Plan 1, is a response of five ambulances, 1 Engine, 1 Truck, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 EMS Field Officer and 1 Asst. Deputy Chief Paramedic.

EMS Plan 2, is a response of five additional Ambulances, 1 EMS Field Officer, 1 Deputy Chief Paramedic, 1 Triage van, 1 Command van, one Deputy District Chief and Media Affairs.

EMS Plan 3, is a response of five attional Ambulances, (For a total of 15 Ambo’s) 1 District Chief, 1 Chief Paramedic, in addition to the EMS Plan 1 and 2 response.


Building Collapse response is a FULL Still and Box Alarm response and both Collapse Units, plus any additional equipment ordered in by the F.A.O. and/or Incident Commander.

HazMat response of 1 Engine, 1 Truck, 1 Squad Co., 1Battalion Chief, Haz-Mat Rig 5-1-1 or 5-1-2 and an Ambulance. Haz-Mat responses occur on their own, such as in a fuel spill or chemical spill, but also occur as an additional response to working fires where hazards are present at the fires.

Specialty Rescues is a special response(s) for high angle rescues (scaffolding rescues, water tower rescues, high rise rescues) and confined space rescues or trench rescues. Confined space rescues often involve hazardous materials, such as poisonous gases or low oxygen conditions.

Water Rescues is responses to boats in distress or on fire, drowning, near drowning, boat crashes or downed aircraft in the water. The responses includes 1 Engines, 1 Truck, 1 Squad Co, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 ALS Ambulance, Scuba Divers Apparatus, 6-8-7, helicopter 6-8-2 and Engine Co. 2. Squad Co’s. are also with ready to go Scuba Divers upon arrival to the scene. R.I.T. Response is 1- Truck Co. 1- ALS E.M.S. Ambo. 1- E.M.S. Field Officer and 1- Battalion Chief, that is designated to rescue firefighters that become endangered or trapped. A R.I.T. Unit responds to all working fires and higher alarm assignments.

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