Managing the Fireground Mayday

Over the past five years, the fire service has placed a new emphasis on firefighter rescue, an emphasis never before considered to be necessary.

Proactive ladders

Four-point scene lighting/Entry-point lighting - Provides enhanced firefighter accountability and directional orientation for lost or disoriented members.

Back-up/Safety lines - Provides an additional line of support incase of rapid-fire development.

Proactive security bar removal - Establishes secondary means of egress for interior crews incase of rapid-fire development or an air supply emergency.


The effectiveness of any fireground operation and the overall safety is truly a basis of standardization. Do you have standard operating procedures/guidelines that enable proper decision-making and firefighter accountability? Standardization creates predictability, and predictability enables fireground commanders to manage and forecast the needs of the modern fireground.

Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines - Well established SOP's/SOG's create operational effectiveness for fire departments across the country. Each and everyday firefighters from different agencies successfully suppress the evils of fire utilizing standardized (proven) suppression techniques. The safe and effective management of a Mayday incident is dependent upon a structured, predictable fireground based on firm rules of engagement.

Incident Management System - The failure of some departments to adopt and enforce a standardized approach to incident management continues to be a contributing factor of firefighter fatalities each year. Strong, early presence of a fireground commander is paramount to effective fireground management. Regardless of your department's size, staffing, response, etc., the first arriving officer should establish command. The idea or concept of passing command to the next company is an open invitation to freelancing. Any fireground that lacks an early command presence is destined for disaster.

Basic Structural Tactical Initiatives - The effective use of Basic Structural Tactical Initiatives (Sept. 2000, Voice) establishes a standardized, and predictable fireground that ensures all necessary actions are properly assigned and completed in an orderly fashion.

Standardized Communications - Fireground communications continues to be on-going problem in the fire service. NFPA 1561 states the communication systems shall meet the requirements of the fire department for routine and large-scale emergencies. Emergency scenes become very hectic within a short period of time. Radio communications occurring between the Incident Commander, attack crews, pump operators, mutual aid companies, and dispatch can easily be missed. It is imperative that on-scene operations be given fireground tactical radio channels that are separate from the normal dispatch frequencies.

Firefighters operating on-scene must be capable of communicating between themselves and the Incident Commander without being talked over by dispatch or other companies. In a small fire department, one radio channel for dispatch and a fireground communications channel might be sufficient for most situations. A larger fire department requires several additional radio channels to provide for the volume of communications relating to routine incidents and for the complexity of multiple alarm situations.


The deployment of a Safety Engine/RIT is often times the direct result of a sudden hazardous event that inevitably leads to chaos. Strict discipline and strong enforcement enable fireground commanders to adequately account for and assign the necessary crews to complete the task without the fear of freelancing or contradictory actions.