NIOSH Issues Safety Advisory on Portable Radio Volume-Power Knob

June 21 • 2021

Firefighter using walkie talkie by fire engine

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program has issued a Safety Advisory on “Preventing Freewheeling of Public Safety Portable Radio Volume-Power Knob” addressing an investigation of a line-of-duty death on January 5, 2020, when the nozzle fire fighter fell through a floor during a modular home fire and was killed by advancing fire.

Investigators noted the volume-power knob could freewheel (spin freely) and were made aware that this was a previous issue with portable radios in this fire department. Sometimes, the small O-ring that provides friction under these knobs provides insufficient friction, allowing the volume-power knob to move freely as a result of contact with personal protective equipment (PPE) or tools in the same pocket as the radio.

Fire fighters should check portable radios for this issue and seek manufacturer guidance to resolve this issue. NFPA 1802: Standard on Two-Way, Portable RF Voice Communications Devices for Use by Emergency Services Personnel in the Hazard Zone, scheduled for publication in spring 2021, aims to make portable radios more environmentally rugged and enhance their overall performance.