Throw Back to Basics: Mirrored Command

Mirrored command vehicles at an incident scene.

By Brian Zaitz

We have all practiced for the Mayday situation. We have gone through countless mnemonics to improve our chance of survival. We have conducted survival drills and air management training. But have we taken a hard enough look at how command reacts to a Mayday situation? What will happen to the command structure if a Mayday is called on your next fire?

One method to consider is the concept of “mirrored command.” The mirrored command model is simple: two command vehicles establish themselves on the scene in close proximity, ideally next to each other. The vehicles are both set-up as command with the initial incident commander (IC) having the scene. The second command officer arrives and assists the IC all while “mirroring” the command board and accountability in his own command car. The idea is redundancy—yes, redundancy–which creates fail-safes for accountability and resource tracking. The two vehicles work separately, however the ICs work together to monitor radio traffic and resources.  Make no mistake, there is only one IC who makes the calls for the scene and conducts radio traffic; the second command officer simple oversees and monitors.   

The mirrored command model really comes into play with a Mayday situation; if a Mayday is called, the initial IC commands the Mayday/RIT operation from the initial command post. The assistant to the IC or the second command officer seamlessly takes over the fireground operations and transitions the operations to his car with everything already in place. This provides several advantages on the fireground: it reduces concurrent high-risk operations running out of one command car, it reduces the chance of a loss of accountability and maintains current mitigation practices in play reducing the chance of incident expansion and freelancing.

Mirrored command, as with any tactic, is only effective if it is practiced and trained on. No matter whether you use mirrored command or not, make sure your department has a procedure in place for command to operate during a Mayday situation to allow for the successful rescue of the down firefighter as well as continued firefighting operations. 

Download this training bulletin as a PDF HERE (242 KB).

Brian Zaitz Brian Zaitzis a 15-year student of the fire service and the Captain-Training Officer with the Metro West Fire Protection District. Zaitz is also an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC , an instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy, and the Board of Director with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He has several degrees including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelor’s in fire science management, and master’s in human resource development. Zaitz is also a credentialed chief training officer through the Center for Public Safety Excellence as well as a student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.


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