Basic Survival Skills and the Probationary Firefighter - Part 3

So far in Parts 1 and 2, we have discussed the core basics of firefighter safety and survival that every new or probationary firefighter must develop and attempt to master over the course of their fire-service careers. There’s so much to learn and so...

For example, “Mayday – Mayday – Mayday, Firefighter Smith to Command. Myself and my partner have become disoriented and are lost in the cellar of the fire building near the Charlie side. We have less than half of our air remaining.”

This statement at least provides critical information to begin a rescue. The RIC and the IC know that there are two members who are lost in the cellar somewhere near the rear of the building. We know that their air supply is very limited and must be augmented. A short statement such as this will allow the RIC to mobilize using a search rope, begin in an area where the members are reporting themselves to be, and bring supplemental air to aid the lost members. Furthermore, other members may be operating nearby and have heard the Mayday transmission and can render immediate assistance. Critical information must be passed up and down the chain of command to constantly paint an accurate picture.

Many departments teach the easy to remember acronym LUNAR (location, unit, name, assignment, and resources needed). Each part of the LUNAR acronym identifies key information needed after the Mayday is transmitted. The Mayday transmission is an important skill that every new firefighter must know how to use. At the very least it can send out help to you as soon as you say it!

Remember, the very moment you think you are in danger, transmit the Mayday. Don’t wait until it’s too late (see Figure 2). Your air supply is limited and a rescue is a time-consuming process.


This article begins to break the ice and identify key elements of firefighter survival. The next part in the series will include additional skills and techniques that every firefighter must know. Safety and survival requires constant training and effort. Remember, these are not buzzwords but rather techniques and skills that are insurance policies. More next time …


  • Norman, John. Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics 3rd Edition, Penwell Publications, 2005.

ARMAND F. GUZZI JR. has been a member of the fire service since 1987.  He is a career fire lieutenant with the City of Long Branch, NJ, Fire Department and is the deputy director of the Monmouth County, NJ, Fire Academy where he has taught for over 20 years.  He has a masters degree in management and undergraduate degrees in fire science, education, and business administration. View all of Armand's articles here. He can be reached via e-mail at or