Handling the Mayday: The Fire Dispatcher’s Crucial Role

Issue 6 and Volume 165.

BY P.J. NORWOOD “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.” If this message were sounded on your fireground on a dispatch or nonfireground frequency, would your fire dispatcher know how to handle it? This article explores an area in Mayday training often neglected in many departments: the communications center. Fire dispatchers need to understand what a Mayday is, the conditions under which a firefighter calls a Mayday, and the immediate actions the incident commander (IC) will take when a Mayday is called before they can see their role during the Mayday. Mayday is an international distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It signals a life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators; in some countries, local organizations such as police, firefighter, and transportation organizations also use the term. The call consists of the word Mayday stated three times in succession. This is done to prevent the message from being mistaken for a similar-sounding phrase…

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