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.

The deployment of the Safety Engine/RIT should only be done after a quick briefing of the known facts from the IC and/or accountability officer. The success of the Safety Engine/RIT rescue operation is solely dependent on time. By adequately identifying the last known location, number of personnel, and possible situation causing the Safety Engine/RIT response, the responding Safety Engine/RIT personnel can properly prepare themselves for the assignment and ensure the appropriate equipment is deployed.


1. PAR Report:

2. Initiate Safety Engine/RIT Search Operation: The Safety Engine/RIT crew shall initiate a search operation utilizing a technique that is expeditious, self-orienting and tractable for subsequent crews.

3. Hazard assessment: Upon locating the downed, trapped or disoriented firefighter(s), Safety Engine/RIT personnel must quickly perform a hazard assessment to ensure their own safety. Personnel must identify any potential safety hazards that exist including: collapse, entanglement, fire impingement, etc.

4. Identify victim needs: Initial Safety Engine/RIT personnel should immediately assess the needs of the downed member including: air supply, hose line needs to defend against fire impingement, extrication needs, etc.

5. Initiate victim(s) removal - if possible: Initial Safety Engine/RIT personnel should begin to extract the victim(s) if possible. An initial progress report of the teams findings and actions should be relayed to the IC.

6. Provide medical care: Upon removal from the hazard zone the on scene EMS personnel should provide immediate medical intervention.

7. Personnel Accountability Report (PAR): Once the victim(s) have been extracted from the hazard zone an immediate PAR report should be requested of all on scene companies.

8. Post-incident analysis / debriefing: Following all Safety Engine/RIT deployments a formal post-incident analysis should be conducted to review, revise and update existing procedures. Additional consideration should be given to requesting the assistance of an outside Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) team to enable involved members to express their feelings regarding this incident. As an absolute necessity, we must make every effort to "Take Care of Our Own" and the initiation of a CISD is a much-needed step in the healing process.


Today's fire service is faced with a variety of hazards far exceeding years past. The modern fireground continues to consume on average one hundred firefighters a year. As fire service leaders and trainers we must instill in each of our members the importance of pre-fire planning and standardize operating procedures that are strictly enforced on a continual basis. It is without question, that our preparatory efforts in the pre-incident phase will ultimately decide the success or failure of the "Mayday!" incident.

Fireground commanders will face no greater challenge throughout their careers then that of an incident in which the life of a fellow firefighter lies in the balance. It's through our continuous efforts of high-impact, focused training, and our willingness to learn from our past successes and failures that will enable the fire service to avoid repeating what is oftentimes viewed as a disturbing past.


As I conclude this article, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and respect to the following fire service professionals: Michael Baker, David Becker, Robert Bingham, John "Skip" Coleman, James Crawford, Rick Lasky, Jay Olson, Joseph Ross Jr., and James Smith who have shared their expertise through the referenced articles which have provided the necessary information for the men and women across the fire service to properly prepare for the unfortunate event we commonly term the "Mayday!"

This article is dedicated to ensuring that we the fire service learn from the past in hopes of providing a safer future.


  • Baker, Michael T., Ross, Joseph B. Jr. (2000, Jul.) The 3 W's of Saving Our Own Firehouse, p. 82-85
  • Becker, David S. (2000, Nov.) Rehab Ops, JEMS, p. 37-38, 40, 42, 44, 46-47
  • Bingham, Robert C. (1997, Feb.) Improving Fireground Radio Communications, Fire Engineering, p. 38, 42, 44-49
  • Coleman, John F., Lasky, Rick (2000, Jan.) Managing the Mayday, Fire Engineering, p. 51, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62
  • Crawford, James K. (1999, Apr.) Rapid Intervention Teams, Are You Prepared For The Search? Firehouse, p. 50, 52-54
  • Lasky, Rick (1998, Jul.) Good Communications Vital To Fireground Survival, Fire Engineering, p. 10, 12, 14, 18
  • Olson, Jay B. (1998, Dec.) "A.W.A.R.E.": A Lifesaving Plan for Rescuing Firefighters Fire Engineering, p. 52- 58
  • Smith, James P. (2000, Dec.) Firefighter Safety: Our Constant Goal, Firehouse, p. 18, 20-21