The operation had gone to a defensive mode due to the heavy fire volume in the mattress factory. The priority was to contain the fire to the structure of origin. Exposure 2 was a 10-foot alley; exposure 3 was a rear yard; and exposure 4 was a similar attached three-story building of ordinary...
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The policy must stress to line supervisors the key role they play in the MAYDAY process. Lieutenants, captains and district or battalion chiefs are the eyes and ears of the IC. It is imperative that every member at an alarm scene (firefighters included) be empowered to call a MAYDAY. Without this privilege, timely and crucial actions cannot occur. All fire department personnel must understand there is a chance that they might have to call a MAYDAY for themselves or others.
Due to the dynamic nature of firefighting, situations develop which rapidly affect the entire fireground or incident scene. Sometimes, it is not feasible to request the IC to the rear of the building to make a determination on a hazardous condition.
All members should be at a level where they feel comfortable in being able to identify "imminent danger" (Syracuse General Order 2.19.1) and then appropriately following that up with the decision to transmit a MAYDAY. The need for a portable radio becomes obvious at this point.
Accountability is now among the hottest topics in the fire service, and it cannot be accomplished without a radio. Every team should have radio communication with the IC, to aid when there is a roll-call, and at the very least, to call for help.
What Happens When A MAYDAY Is Called?
Initially, all fireground personnel on the scene should be made aware of the MAYDAY. This task (simulcast a declared MAYDAY on all fireground channels) should be undertaken by someone not intimately involved with the MAYDAY.
In Syracuse, the fire dispatchers are distant from the alarm scene. Their base transmitters are more powerful than the portable radios used on the fireground. They often monitor channels other than the main dispatch channel, and possibly will be aware of the unfolding MAYDAY as the IC officially declares it.
Depending on conditions, portable radios might be sufficient to reach all members on the fireground to notify them to begin or institute a MAYDAY emergency. This is not meant to signal a free-for-all. The intention is to bring all personnel to the same heightened level of awareness.
Members must be cognizant and the MAYDAY procedure must address the basic idea that all fireground activities underway shall continue. Members shall not exit the building or incident area unless told to do so by the IC. Some fire service members have equated a MAYDAY call with total building evacuation. This is not the case.
WARNING! Portable radios and accountability tags do not prevent deaths on the fireground. Firefighters have lost their lives in various fires. They had portable radios but they did not call a MAYDAY.
Every department MAYDAY procedure must stress the priority such a request will receive. Once a MAYDAY has been declared over the fireground channels, it is key that all radio transmissions be kept to an absolute minimum. Only those transmissions that are directly related to the MAYDAY should take place.
Having additional radio channels for fireground use becomes critical in a situation when there are two separate incidents for example, a fire suppression effort and a MAYDAY rescue operation. If possible, the IC should direct all members to go to another channel for fireground operations. This will give the on-scene personnel a working channel that will not interfere with the MAYDAY channel.
Nuts And Bolts
The intent of the main body of the MAYDAY policy is to have in place a definite course of action that will occur every time a MAYDAY is declared. In Syracuse, the procedure includes actions for the dispatcher to follow. List exactly what is needed and expected from each member referenced in the guidelines.
The order in which help is summoned is critical. Prioritize the resources that will be most beneficial at a MAYDAY incident. It may look like a notification list or a resource list. It should be written so that there is no doubt who should be called, and the order in which they are notified. What is needed at this MAYDAY incident? More personnel in self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)? An advanced life support (ALS) ambulance or medevac helicopter? More personnel in your work force pool from which to draw?
Pre-plan and identify the re-sources universally needed, no matter what type of MAYDAY situation is encountered. NFPA 1500 requires a rapid intervention team to be available throughout all stages of emergencies. The minimum requirement is for a two-member properly equipped team. If a MAYDAY occurs early in an incident, then this firefighter assist team is the logical choice to initiate any rescue effort. The 1500 standard requires a more definite assigned role of the rapid intervention crew as an incident unfolds.