If you are on our scene, you are accounted for using department issued ID/accountability tags. Each department on scene are responsible for keeping track of their own men, until they are in the Red zone. Once inside of the Red zone, an accountability tag is handed to the IC. From there it is the same accountability system as any other department. Inside of our county, all depts have the same style tags. They are 1/2" X 2" velco backed plastic tags with last name. Each dept is a different color too.
We have two tags. One stays on our person, one we leave in the apparatus we arrived on scene with. I keep one on my SCBA mask bag and hook it above my seat enroute. The other is on my bunker coat. I'll admit, I don't think anyone really pays attention to them, and I think our accountability is very lax.
My dept also has id tags that stay cliped on to each persons helment untill on the scene of an incident. The IC of the incident puts someone in charge of our accountability board, which is labled with a specific task, a team leader(usally a line officer), and who all is on that team. We have used this system for a very long time and works very well.
Most all of the 54 departments in Harris County have gone to the Grace Electronic Accountability system. A transceiver is attached to the SCBA or the individual, and is activated automatically when you dismount the apparatus. Utilizing laptop computers, the accountability officer knows what apparatus and personnel are on scene and their status at all times.
We use the two tag system. One Yellow tag to stay in the truck and another tag that is used for entry.SCBA trained and qualified FF's have a green tag for entry and Non-SCBA FF's and juniors have a red tag to indicate exterior only. Our tags are laminated paper which can be cut open to reveal the inside medical info.
At my department we issue our members two id tags with there pictures on it and emergency info one to place on a ring in the rig and one they give to ops officer when making entry into a burning structure our mutual aid departments also have the same tags and accountability system and we train on them alot.
Our department just purchased the Passport accountability system.
Not that expensive and should improve efficiencies at an incident.
There are more expensive ones on the market.
Are they better?
Can't answer that.
We use a "status board" and tag in and out....Safety Officer is in charge or in his place senior firefighter or someone is assigned....it is broken down by Interior team, rehab, Rit and all times are recorded...manditory rehab is also closely monitored.....
The best system we've found is the IMS AlliancePassport Accountability system that is used in Seattle, Phoenix, and a lot of other places. It is intuitive, doesn't require bulky dog tags on the helmet rear (which are forgotten half the time anyway), the components are compact, and the command boards make it easy to track your span of control.
It is also easy to track the crews' entry times, tasks, and locations, plus the command boards have all of the basic firefighting prompts.
Ben you are right, there were many issues with them.They have made some changes, and among those is a repeater for use in large commercial structures, which lessens the loss of signal issue.
The newer programming allows for a PAR to be conducted without tying up the fireground radios. A single click on the laptop signals each unit to respond. Each firefighter must acknowledge by pushing the button on the T Pass. They do alert very easily, so someone is usually in alarm at any given time, especially in rehab.
They do eat batteries, and I have to keep a constant supply on hand. They are a pain in the division C.
I personally would prefer something a little more simpler, but hey, my tax dollars at work, and they didn't ask for my opinion. If it hadn't been for a county grant, we probably wouldn't have them.
We looked at the repeaters for our Type I and Type II multiple occupancies, but we couldn't find a way to string them where they wouldn't be either a) moved by hoselines or firefighters bumping into them, b) where they wouldn't be vulnerable to heat if they were near the fire and c) where we could find them after the fire if acoustic ceilings collapsed or if something combustible like hotel window drapes melted down over them during a fire.
We spent our county grant on hazmat equipment instead.