October 29, 2015
Five minutes into a seemly routine fire in a small two family you hear a crew on the floor above you call a MAYDAY. It’s a quick transmission and you were not quite ready to hear it, you didn’t hear the details and there is no follow up….
This is potentially one of the most stressful and challenging moments we can come across in our career. Hearing, or worse having to call a MAYDAY.
First up let’s deal with the stigma of even calling a mayday in the first place. We all know we work in an environment where peer pressure is at its highest, it’s what makes us want to improve ourselves, impress our peers with our skill set and knowledge. But could it hurt us? Could we be put in a situation that has all the potential to go bad and be reluctant to call for help at the fear of a bit of healthy ribbing after? Sure we could, sitting here reading a witty blog its easy to see that’s a bad idea, and a little (or even a lot) of teasing down the road is worth going home to our loved ones. Another reason we may not call is thinking we can fix the issue and get out alone. Wouldn’t it be better to have the help coming early and turn them away if they are not needed? The take away is, if we think we are in trouble, or could be in trouble soon, we should make the call. OK, I think we all get the message.
The next thing to look at is what situations we are calling the MAYDAY for? The first that comes to mind is being lost, but other reasons could include being trapped, low on air or a Firefighter down.
OK back to our friends upstairs, did they do all they could do to help their situation? Could they have done anything better when calling the mayday? Its easy to second guess crews after the fact and play firehouse quarterback but with a little practice we can give everyone a better shot of having a positive outcome, those in peril and those coming to help. Here are some ideas to think about.
Like all communication we have to send a message, have other parties receive that message and hopefully have them relay back to us they understood the message. This, in the fire service (much like life) is where most of our problems begin, old radios, bad reception, busy scenes, poor language and lack of uniformity all compound to the communication breakdown.
What we need is a system that we have practiced and rehearsed (preferable in stressful conditions) that we all understand, that is uniform, that is the same language.
You may already have your own department procedures in place, what’s important is that like hand signals, whistle commands or speaking German, you just have to all be using the same language.
Here is what we teach at CTR and what it looks like in action, Watervliet, NY MAYDAY, RIT/FAST and Sterling F4 Escape System Training Course
The Mayday itself
“MAYDAY MAYDAY, ENGINE ONE, MAYDAY
Command: “Engine One, go ahead with your mayday”
“This is Lieutenant Hall with Engine One, we are working on the second floor in the rear, possibly the kitchen, we were attempting to extend a handline to the rear bedroom, a ceiling has came down on us, FF Jones is trapped, we are attempting to remove rubble and free him, we need help, a stokes and more air, we are running low”
Command: “Received Engine One, we will be sending help to your location, second floor rear
Breaking it down
It is widely taught to use the L.U.N.A.R. acronym, representing the following
Assignment or AirSupply
Knowing the unit helps us confirm the location of the members in need of help (If we knew where they were going to work). We have to make sure the task they were assigned to do gets covered as to minimize the potential of things getting worse. Knowing what has happened (ceiling down, low air, fall through the floor) allows us to anticipate the needed tools and resources for the rescue. We can then follow our department’s procedures and activate the FAST team.
We all know how fond I am of acronyms so I choose to put it in a more logical package, still however providing all the pertinent information. Either way you choose to work through it, the key is to practice. The best way to practice this skill, like many others, is in a more real life like stressful situation. Here at CTR we have a Firefighter obstacle course designed to stress the Firefighter in different conditions while teaching composure and self-rescue along with calling a calm readable mayday.
Next time you are bellying up to big red, take a mental note and think about what you would say right now if things went sideways.
A little practice or rehearsal here and there will help make it all the more smooth when it really matters. Don’t forget that after we call a Mayday we have to remember that once the issue has been resolved, or the crew is able to self-rescue, we must cancel the mayday so we can go back to normal fire ground activities.
If you are interested in this course or any other fire ground or technical rescue training please do not hesitate to contact us here
Check out some photos from previous classes on our Facebook Page
Remember the key to our success is good communication
As always be safe out there