Health & Safety

Mayday Monday: Down Firefighter CPR

By Tony Carroll

May is a tough month for the D.C. fire department. Over the last 20 years, we have lost several members in the month of May. This month’s Mayday Monday remembers Lt. Kevin McRae, who died after a fire on May 6, 2015. Lt. McRae was a poster child for the department. Born and raised in D.C., he came on through the cadet program and was appointed to Engine 6. Eventually promoting to lieutenant and after a stint at the training academy, Kevin found a home at his original assignment. As the officer in charge of E-6 on May 6, 2015, Lt. McRae suffered a heart attack while fighting a fire at an apartment building in their first due.  

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Above, photo from the incident at which Lt. McRae lost his life.

Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of line of duty deaths for firefighters. During 2018, 59 of the 86 reported line-of-duty-deaths were due to heart attacks. Sudden cardiac death requires CPR as soon as possible, yet CPR for a firefighter in full PPE is difficult. The key to survival is to start chest compressions quickly and to get the turnout gear off to gain access and to make the CPR more efficient. This must be practiced before it is needed.    

This month we will practice firefighter CPR. There have been several organizations to provide techniques for this vital skill. All of them present steps to quickly start CPR and to remove the downed firefighter’s turnout gear. One consideration that seemed to be missing: what if the member in trouble is face down, or prone? D.C. Recruit Class 387 has developed a move to quickly flip the downed firefighter from face down to face up. Watch the video above to see the technique and to learn the steps of firefighter CPR.

Please look at the video and practice this vital skill. Prehospital care has transitioned to a high-quality CPR for our civilian cardiac arrest patients. The results have been very good. We should provide our members who suffer a cardiac emergency with the same level of expertise. To do that, we must practice and be prepared for this horrible event. Make this Monday the day you practice.

Please send pictures of you and your crew performing this month’s skill/drill to [email protected]

Tony Carroll is a battalion chief with the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

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