10 Codes Vs. Common Terminology (Plain Language)

There has been a lot of debate in the past on whether to use 10 codes or common terminology (plain language.)  People have their own personal preference.  10 codes was a part of our vocabulary for so long, I find myself still wanting to use them.  It is hard to break a habit.  10 codes are simple, if you’re aware of what the code means, but if you are called to multi-jurisdiction incident, or to mutual aid, its best to use common terminology.   10 codes, for one department, may not have the same meaning, for another department.   “10-8” en-route, may mean something totally different in another department’s language.  For example, 10-8 could mean “en- route”, or “out of territory.”  It would be like speaking a different language, thinking we know what the other department is saying, but totally missing the meaning.

Common terminology or plain language is a national wide trend that is recommended to emergency responder departments.   Common terminology (plain language) is advised by the NIMS, National Incident Management System.  Communication is vital in a life or death situation.  It is vital in managing resources to the maximum output.  I was in a class many years ago, that had a session on communication.  The one thing I remember is a class exercise we did as a team of two.  We were instructed to pear off in two’s, and listen to the teacher’s instruction. The instructor advised the class to put two chairs together, with the backs to each other, so we could not see one another, nor see the instructor.  The instructor would give us a sheet of notebook paper.  He then would instruct us, on what to do with the paper.  He said to hold up the paper in front of you and tear off the top corner.  Next fold the paper in half.  Then tear off the opposite corner to the corner 1st torn away.  Next cut out the center of the paper with scissors about the size of a quarter.  There were several other directives he advised us to do with our sheet of paper.   Finally unfold the paper and turn your chair forward and share the artwork with your partner and see if it matches theirs.  My paper did not match my partners.  You see the instructor did not say how to hold the paper (by length or width) before tearing off the edges, but we interpreted what he said, different than was meant.  If you didn’t start right, it didn’t end right.  So even when we use common terminology or plain language, we have to know what we are trying to say. The instructor held up his paper and showed us what he wanted from us.  I’d say most of the class didn’t hear what he was trying to say.  There were all kinds of different designs crafted by students that day.

Case Study: Adam and Eve.

From the very genesis of time, people have had trouble communicating with one another. We all are familiar with the account of Adam and Eve.  I’ll give you a little update.  God created man and woman and they lived in the Garden of Eden.  God gave Adam and Eve instructions on what to, and not to eat.  It was clear and precise information, which was understandable to say the least.  God instructed Adam, you can eat of any tree in the garden, but you must not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. (Genesis 2 v 16 & 17 ,NIV.)  That is very clear.  If someone says, “you do this you die,” I understand that clearly.    Then came the enemy.  The serpent was on the scene, and he tempted Eve to eat of the fruit forbidden by God.  The serpent told Eve, Did God say, you must not eat of from any tree in the garden?”(Gen 3v1 ,NIV)   The serpent took Gods words and twisted them to fit his own plans to tempt man to fall.  Adam and Eve perhaps was half listening to Gods instruction fell as; we all do, at times, to the schemes of the devil.  (Gen 3v6, NIV) says she gave the fruit to her husband and he did eat as well.  The narrative, gives us the insight that perhaps Adam was with Eve during, the temptation to eat, instigated, by the serpent.  This is the penalty that we all have been sentenced to DEATH.  The Garden of Eden was said to be, by a famous 20th century evangelist, “Paradise Lost.”


Communication is vital in this fast paced world.  There are computers, I pads, and fancy phones that take an instruction manual, just to show us, how to dial a number.  These are instruments that we need to read, on how to operate the phone, before we can be effective with it.   The most basic form of communication is talking one to another.   A successful Marriage is hinged on communication.  Our relationship with our kids should be communication based.  Communication with our co-workers is key to harmony in the workplace.   Our relationship God is one of the most important relationships we can have, and it is related to communication.

  • Listening is also part of the Communication process.  If we fail to hear the rite street address, it can lead to loosing valuable response time.  If we fail to hear what our spouse is saying, it can hurt a marriage.  If we fail understand, how to hear from God, it can cause us to become anxious with life’s problems.  Communication is a big part of life.  Finally as someone once said “ Speak, use words, when possible.”

Be Safe.



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