National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Being Ready for the Mayday

This week’s featured firefighter near-miss report focuses on three elements of fireground operations that must be in place to support a successful ending if a firefighter experiences a Mayday. Personal safety equipment, communications, and accountability systems provide layers of protection and support to the firefighter in distress and those working to locate and remove the firefighter from danger. This week’s report focuses on communication.


“While on an automatic aid working a residential structure fire, poor use of radio communication was experienced. Crews were advancing a 1 3/4″ line on the first floor of a two story house on a basement from the Alpha side to the Alpha/Bravo corner. My crew of four was advancing a 1 3/4″ line from the Charlie side back door to the Alpha/Bravo corner in the basement just below the crews above. My crew was experiencing heavy smoke and heat conditions while advancing to the seat of the fire. Once the fire was knocked down, several attempts were made to notify Incident Command of the conditions of the fire but were unsuccessful due to the amount of heavy radio traffic. It took several minutes to get through to Incident Command to notify them that the fire was out and overhaul was being performed…Poor communication can easily turn into a bad day for a fire fighter if they are unable to get through to Command when in danger.”

The approach of the reporter is akin to putting up the traffic light before the tragic collision occurs. The basement fire is rife with danger. The opposing hoseline potential is great when there is an outside entrance available. The crew operating above the fire has no way of knowing how long the fire has been burning beneath them or how much weight the weakening floor joists can hold. In the event of a mayday, heavy radio traffic can often drown out those who have the most important message to transmit. Once you read the entire account (CLICK HERE), answer the following:

1.      How would you rate the radio traffic on your incident scenes: light, medium, or heavy? Cite specific examples to support your position.
2.      Define “essential message” in relation to radio transmissions. How many messages do you hear on your fireground that you would define as “essential”?
3.      What “personal safety equipment” would you consider as a minimum for a firefighter to carry when he entered a structure?
4.      Does your department’s accountability system plot where personnel are on the incident scene, or is it just a mechanism to tell the incident commander who is on the scene?
5.      If you were to be caught in a mayday situation and couldn’t get through on the talk channel, what other steps could you take to call your mayday?

Being ready for the Mayday is more than just reading about being ready and observing how others handle the highly emotional event. Reviewing accounts of Maydays are an essential component of Mayday preparation. Practicing Mayday drills is a second essential module. Last but not least, maintaining a constant vigilance for the emerging Mayday situation is the third side of the Ready for Mayday triangle.

Have you experienced a mayday and no one responded? Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow.


Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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