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.

Search Equipment - Standardized residential search techniques are seldom deployed during the Safety Engine/RIT search operations. Additional search guideline and tagline systems should be immediately summonsed if prolong, multi-company search operations are necessary (Consider carrying a complete Tagline/Guideline search system on each apparatus).

Thermal Imaging Cameras - TIC cameras should be part of every Safety Engine/RIT initial cache of tools. If prolonged search operations are necessary, multiple TIC cameras may be needed to expedite the rescue effort. The Incident Commander should consider requesting additional TIC cameras immediately upon notification of a trapped, lost or disoriented member.

Photo Courtesy Timothy E. Sendelbach
Safety Engine/RIT personnel establish a secondary air supply prior to victim removal.

Fans - Proper ventilation will certainly enhance the survivability of our downed comrades. Is PPV the answer? Motorized fans provide and outstanding means of ventilation, but with that, they also bring about many complications to the rescue operation - i.e. continued CO production and increased noise which can further complicate fireground communications. Consideration should be given to alternative ventilation techniques and electrical fan usage to enhance rescue efforts.


The Incident Commander should establish a rehabilitation sector or group if not previously established. The designated Rehab Officer must also serve as a personnel monitor for the Incident Commander. Incidents involving trapped or disoriented firefighters tend to cause members to act beyond their personal limitations and often times further complicating the incident at hand. The Rehab Officer should immediately report any unusual behaviors (severe emotional distress or physical fatigue) to the Incident Commander to prevent reassignment.

Due to the emotional stress and trauma involved in such an event, it may be advantageous to establish a site that is remote or isolated from the incident to help reduce the emotional/mental stress of the incident.

Photo Courtesy Timothy E. Sendelbach
Safety Engine/RIT personnel are met by heavy fire as they attempt to make entry.


Although no firefighter, fire officer or incident commander ever wants to terminate a rescue effort, firefighter safety must remain a top priority. The Incident Commander must continually evaluate the degree of risk being encountered by rescue personnel to ensure rescuer safety. As unfortunate as it may be, the Incident Commander must terminate the rescue efforts when conditions begin to jeopardize the safety of those involved. No decision, order or assignment ever given by the Incident Commander throughout his/her career will ever bare equal weight, it's decisions of this nature that will ultimately decide the number of members lost or injured.



2. CALL FOR PAR (Personnel Accountability Report)
Calling for an immediate PAR report enables the incident commander to quickly and effectively identify the number of personnel involved, the general area of the structure involved, and potentially the extent of the rescue effort. PAR reports, like search efforts should be first requested from the personnel in the area of most danger (i.e. Flashover occurs in Division 2 Sector C - members operating in that immediate area should be accounted for first).

The importance of an immediate PAR report cannot be overstated. Until the incident commander knows exactly how many firefighters/crews are directly involved (trapped, lost, etc.) he/she cannot properly initiate an effective rescue effort. The PAR report enables the Incident Commander to prioritize the fireground, and potentially limit the response area, which will in turn expedite the Safety Engine/RIT search and/or rescue effort.

Requesting help early will pay dividends in the effective management of the Mayday incident and subsequent Safety Engine/RIT deployment. Incident Commanders, who fail to request additional assistance early, will find themselves needing to utilize on scene personnel who may have met or now exceeded their personal limitations. Safety Engine/RIT deployment and rescue efforts require firefighters who are at their fullest potential to overcome the physical and emotional demands of such a response. Fresh personnel throughout are an absolute necessity.