Mastering the Ten Codes

By Sally Smith

Are you new to the world of firefighting? Firefighters are some of the most indispensable community members. Not only do they save lives on a regular basis, but they are also responsible for keeping our property and communities safe from fire hazards.


If you are looking to join this noble profession, then one thing you will need to learn is the firefighter codes, also known as the ten codes. These are verbal instructions given from a dispatcher over a radio and signify important information you will need to do your job. Read on to learn more about firefighter codes and some tips on how to learn them.


Ten Codes for FirefightersFirefighter codes


Here are the ten codes that firefighters need to know. As you can see, there are many of them that are meant to cover a wide variety of different commands and reports. The commands are verbal and are expressed as “ten-” followed by the corresponding number.


  • 10-0 Caution
  • 10-1 Unable to copy — change location
  • 10-2 Signal good
  • 10-3 Stop transmitting
  • 10-4 Acknowledgement (OK)
  • 10-5 Relay
  • 10-6 Busy — stand by unless urgent
  • 10-7 Out of service
  • 10-8 In service
  • 10-18 Quickly
  • 10-19 Return to …
  • 10-20 Location
  • 10-21 Call … by telephone
  • 10-22 Disregard
  • 10-23 Arrived at scene
  • 10-24 Assignment completed
  • 10-33 Emergency
  • 10-39 Urgent — use light, siren
  • 10-40 Silent run — no light, siren
  • 10-41 Beginning tour of duty
  • 10-42 Ending tour of duty
  • 10-43 Information
  • 10-50 Accident (fatal, personal injury, property damage)
  • 10-51 Wrecker needed
  • 10-52 Ambulance needed
  • 10-60 Squad in vicinity
  • 10-61 Isolate self for message
  • 10-62 Reply to message
  • 10-63 Prepare to make written copy
  • 10-64 Message for local delivery
  • 10-65 Net message assignment
  • 10-66 Message cancellation
  • 10-67 Clear for net message
  • 10-68 Dispatch information
  • 10-69 Message received
  • 10-70 Fire
  • 10-71 Advise nature of fire
  • 10-72 Report progress on fire
  • 10-73 Smoke report
  • 10-74 Negative
  • 10-75 In contact with …
  • 10-76 En route …
  • 10-77 ETA (estimated time of arrival)
  • 10-78 Need assistance
  • 10-79 Notify coroner
  • 10-84 If meeting … advise ETA
  • 10-85 Delayed due to …
  • 10-86 Officer/operator on duty
  • 10-87 Pick up/distribute checks
  • 10-88 Present telephone number of …
  • 10-97 Check (test) signal


Tips on how to learn the firefighter codes


These codes are very important because they give firefighters and other emergency personnel a way to communicate efficiently. Each code explains exactly what’s happening without going into detail and wasting valuable time.

Find the Firefighter Code of Ethics here.


Therefore, it is very important that you learn these codes too if you want to be a firefighter. While it may look like a lot, these firefighter codes aren’t that difficult to remember if you practice. If needed, you can quiz yourself using flashcards or get a friend to help read from a list and ask you the correct responses. You can also try writing them down as a way to study, as research has shown that writing something down will help embed it in your memory. Reviewing the codes before going to sleep each night will help too.


Regardless of how you learn them, mastering these firefighter codes will help take you one step closer to your career as a firefighter.