Cop language

Sign postFor decades, police across the country have used 10-codes for frequently used radio messages. We all know at least one of them, 10-4, which means "message received, OK." Now the National Incident Management System, a subdivision of the FEMA, is calling for clearer, more easily understood language.

NIMS is driving for the currently used 10-code system to be replaced with plain English commands, arguing that:
  • All local responders, as well as those from other jurisdictions and other states, must know and use commonly established operational structures, terminology, policies and procedures.
  • Everyone must communicate clearly with each other and coordinate response activities effectively.
  • Everyone has to speak the same language - plain English.
NIMS is serious about the issue and carries a big stick. Resistance to comply will result in the loss of federal preparedness funding. Goodbye 10-codes, hello plain English!

The effort is part of a larger campaign to improve communication from the federal goverment to the people. In 1995 a group of federal employees began meeting to try to spread the use of plain language. This group, now called PLAIN—the Plain Language Action and Information Network, remains at the center of the movement in the United States. There is also a long-standing Plain English Campaign in the U.K. They define plain English as "something that the intended audience can read, understand and act upon the first time they read it. Plain English takes into account design and layout as well as language."

So far both movements have been mainly concerned with written language. NIMS is taking an important step by extending the effort to the airwaves. Spoken language is communication too. Why shouldn't it be as clear as possible?

Let's hope that there will be less 10-1 and more 10-2 after the conversion.