Mayday Monday: Incident Command and the Mayday

By Tony Carroll

The staff here at Mayday Mondays was involved in a recent Twitter conversation about the command post.  What’s the best place for the incident commander (IC)?  Out, in front of the fire building?  Inside of a chief’s car?  Mobile or stationary?  All of it centered on missing the Mayday message.  Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for this.  A 2010 fire in Bridgeport, Connecticut, saw this issue was a contributing factor to the loss of two veteran firefighters.  You can read the NIOSH report here.

And watch a video about the fire below.

This issue will require the attention of all involved:

  • The firefighter in trouble to call the Mayday as soon as trouble is identified.
  • The IC to hear the call and respond.
  • The dispatch center to assist.
  • Other units on the fireground.

We have emphasized calling the Mayday in several Mayday Monday skill/drills.  This month, we will try to help the IC.  A Mayday event will be stressful for all involved and research has shown that checklists assist those faced with managing the emergency.  Thanks to Traditions Training, here is a link to the D.C. fire department’s Mayday checklist. The checklist is good if the IC is familiar with using it and has practiced.  This month’s skill/drill is to simulate a Mayday call and utilize the checklist to manage the simulation.  Here’s a suggested session:

  1. With several radio equipped members, simulate a fireground.  Maybe use the last fire the company responded to as a framework.  Assign members to act as a unit.
  2. Organize the incident as is usually done.
  3. Have a member make a Mayday call.
  4. Use the checklist to manage the Mayday.
  5. Review and repeat.

This doesn’t need to be complicated. As you get into the swing of these sessions, add radio traffic from previous incidents.  Include your dispatch center.  Make computer simulations.  Whatever you do, just do something. 

Thanks for reading this month’s Mayday Monday.  Please send in pictures of you and your crew performing the skill/drill.  Remember, it’s a great way to honor those that have fallen in the line of duty.  See you next month.

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

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