500 Maydays Called in Rookie School

For the first time, Mayday Doctrine was incorporated in a Firefighter I course. The mayday training addressed the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains of learning at the mastery level of performance.

To simulate the mayday parameters, Training Dividion.com built the "Entrapinator." This training prop is made of 6 Modules each representing a mayday parameter (photo 2). Students are in PPE, with radio, and blacked out facemask. Mod one is lost/ trapped; the student enters the box but can not get out (photo 3). Mod 2 (lobster trap), the student gets stuck and can not go forwarded or backwards (photo 4). Mod 3 the students get stuck again this time on simulated wires (photo 5). Mod 4 ceiling collapse, panels are lowered on to the student (photo 6). Mod 5 simulates falling through the floor (photo 7). Mod 6 the firefighter is trapped and must breach a wall to escape (photo 8). At each module the student must call mayday and insure that command has received the correct LUNAR information. The first and second time through the Entrapinator the students are coached through each module if needed, to increase their skill and confidence. The third time, they are tested and must pass with 100% competency. Students who do not meet this standard are remediate with individual instruction until mayday calling master is achieved.

When the class went to the burn building a piece of chain link fence was used to simulate ceiling collapse, a wire rope snare was used to get them stuck (photo 9), and a doorway was blocked shut to trap them (photo 10). These mayday props were used during blacked out mask drills while advancing hose lines and while conducting searches. The mayday situations were repeated again under live fire and smoke conditions at the burn building. As soon as downed firefighter received conformation of their mayday from command the instructors let them out of the prop. The student then reported they were free to command, to cancel the mayday, and that they would contain their assignment. Two instructors were used for these evolutions to insure student safety at all times.

It was determined that adding the mayday situations during live fire and smoke evolutions in burn building (this can not be done in acquired structures) with two dedicated instructors did not add any additional risk factors to the students. It must be remembered that these students were 100% component and confident in there knowledge, skills, and abilities to call mayday before being confronted with mayday parameters under live fire conditions. Being confronted with a mayday parameter during live fire must not be imposed on an untrained or unprepared firefighter, regardless of their years of experience, because the resulting stress may trigger an uncontrolled, incorrect, and possibly dangerous response.

From this work we developed a detailed Mayday Calling Task Analysis for the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domain which consists of 43 tasks (Figure 1 Word). This information was used to developed draft standards for five Mayday Calling Job Performance Requirements (JPR) that students were tested to. A total of 126 test items were identified (Figure 2 Word). The authors do not assume this to be the final definitive work on Firefighter Mayday Standards, JPRs, or curriculum. Others are encouraged to use and build on this information. We understand there are national standards making and curriculum development systems for creating fire service doctrine. It is our hope that these prestigious organizations incorporated mayday doctrine in their deliberations and publications.

By the end of Boot Camp Fourteen 22 firefighters had called 500 Maydays. Over the next 30 years we hope these firefighters never have to call a mayday for real but they have been training to do so. Now, they must maintain that mayday calling competency throughout their fire service career because their life depends on it.


We understand that various fire department may want their firefighters to report deferent types of information in a different order.

We chose the LUNAR system for the following reasons.

When the word mayday is heard over a fire ground radio it is understood that the RIC is needed to enter an IDLH environment to rescue a firefighter. With just that one word command can begin the process of determining who called and where they are suppose to be by requesting a PAR. After the word mayday is communicated, if the only word the downed firefighter can get out is their location e.g. "Division 2" we know they are on second floor. The IC should know what companies were sent to the second floor.

When giving Location we taught our rookies to also give their quadrant on the floor using the Quadrant A, B, C, D, & E system (Figure 3 Image). If the downed firefighter can report their Unit e.g. "Engine 24" command has a better idea of their location. By giving their Name "Smith" command knows specifically who the RIC is looking for, this is critical if more then one firefighter is brought out to insure that no one is left in the building. Finally, Assignment lets command know what the firefighter was doing e.g. "Checking for Extension". Some fire department's also want the firefighter to report their air supply if they can, so "A" can be for Assignment and Air Supply.