First Responder families: Terms for working and working away


This section describes some of the codes used by various services, including in the Police, Fire and Ambulance services. Children learn these terms at a young age and all family members tend to fear certain codes as listed below.


Parents often ease their fears by emphasising their high-level training, specialised equipment, and ability to work as a strong team with other highly trained individuals

Police Force and Fire Service Terms

Work words

  • I’m working Days
  • I’m working Nights
  • I’m on recall, or I’ve been recalled (someone on the team is sick, so they have to extend their shift)
  • I’ve got an RDO (rostered day off) or PDO (Program Day off)
  • Relievers
  • Hold back – we have to stay on the job longer
  • OT ( overtime)


These codes are ones that children and family members tend to fear.

  • 801 - Police are in danger
  • 504  - these codes represent incidents like a car accident, drugs, rape etc.

Phonetic alphabet

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.


Personnel can be deployed to a fire or other incident which involves working away.


  • Strike Team
  • Task force
  • Team (a group on the job)
  • S/O – Sarge
  • Target – those they are looking for

Ambulance Service Terms

Work terms

On call - not on duty but ready to attend work cases anytime.

Call-out - a request to attend a work case while on call, usually an emergency call.

Call-off – called to attend a case while on a meal break.

Days – day shift

Nights – night shift

Co-ord – coordination centre

Words and codes

Various words and codes indicate the type of response, such as urgent, non-urgent, within 2 hours, etc.

Various codes also indicate specific case types – Code 2 = cardiac arrest, code 4 = deceased, code 9 = person trapped, etc.

Last modified: Friday, 20 October 2023, 2:49 PM