10-4 no more in Webster County

Law enforcement and public safety agencies in Webster County are changing the way they talk to one another in an effort to make their communication easier and eliminate confusion.

As of 6 a.m. today, all public safety agencies in the county will stop using what’s known as the “10-code” and begin speaking in “plain talk.” Instead of using codes such as “10-4” and “10-8,” those who use the radio will now actually state what they are doing.

The change to plain talk is a result of a recommendation from Homeland Security, which stated in its 2004 National Response Plan that agencies should move away from the 10-code so that, in an emergency situation, all those responding know what everybody is saying.

Assistant Fort Dodge Police Chief Kevin Doty said this was done because not every agency has the same numbers assigned to the same codes.

“In times of incident command, the 10-code from one agency to another may vary,” Doty said. “If I’m giving a 10-code for something, another agency might think I’m referring to something else, which would cause miscommunication. Because of that, there’s a push for all public service agencies to go to plain talk.”

Doty said Webster County has used the 10-code for many years, though he wasn’t able to say for exactly how long.

“We’ve used it for so long that it’s become second nature,” he said. “We’ve told our people that this change was going to happen, so they’ve known for awhile.”

Still, Doty expects there will be officers who will take time to get used to speaking in plain talk simply because of how long the 10-code was used.

“I foresee it taking a little time to go away,” he said. “It’s going to take time for everybody to think about it instead of using the 10-code.”

He said the code was originally started as a way for officers to communicate without people knowing what they were saying.

“Realistically, you can figure out what people are saying,” Doty said.

However, he added that not all the codes are going away. Some will continue to be used, at least for a little while.

“As time progresses we’ll probably stop using those too,” Doty said.

Sheriff Jim Stubbs said his department is also prepared for the change.

“We’ve been in the process of switching for about a year, as has most everybody in the county,” Stubbs said. “The 10-code isn’t utilized like it was anymore.”

He said he expects the transition to be “seamless.”

“People won’t even notice,” he said, adding that the switch to plain talk will help the department’s operations.

“There’ll be less confusion as far as what comes through the dispatch center,” Stubbs said. “If someone uses a code that’s not typically used, whoever receives it might not be quite sure what it is. It’ll be much easier for everybody involved.”

Doty agreed with Stubbs.

“There shouldn’t be any doubt as to what’s being said,” Doty said.

He added that this will also be a positive change for the Fort Dodge Police Department.

“I think it’s a good move,” he said. “It’s probably something we should have done a long time ago.”