Much has been written about the term "Mayday" and how we in the fire service use it. Just recently I read an interesting article that discussed the causes for transmitting a Mayday, the hesitancy that many firefighters have for transmitting a Mayday and what we all should be doing when we hear a Mayday transmitted. What I am going to talk about here is just a small part of the mayday process but I believe it is also quite important to the effectiveness of a single mayday event.
The first question I often ask when talking about the mayday procedure is what exactly do you, the firefighter in trouble, say when transmitting a real life Mayday? Now I know there are at least several acronyms out there that different organizations and personnel promote and use for the mayday transmission, and that will be the focus of this discussion. The most popular might be "LUNAR". L - Location, U - Unit, N - Name, A - Assignment, R - Resources.
These are all important pieces of information that can have a bearing on the response to your call for help but a little lengthy. Yes, lengthy! I can't overemphasis the fact that the moment you transmit a mayday will probably be the most fearful, anxiety filled, stressful moment of your life! I know LUNAR sounds fairly simple but when asked, many firefighters come up one or two points short when reciting lunar, and that is usually in a classroom or training environment. I heard another acronym "GRAB LIVES" and I will not even get into what that memory test stands for. Again, the points are all valid, but the number of words and meanings can be quite difficult for the distressed/trapped/lost firefighter to remember and recite.
What I propose is, after only transmitting "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" and waiting for a response or acknowledgment, the distressed firefighter should transmit who, what and where. These three basic and easily remembered facts are all that the firefighter calling for help needs to get out onto the airwaves. Example;
Lost firefighter - "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday"
Command - "Unit with the Mayday, go ahead with your message"
Lost firefighter - " This is Ladder 5 officer, I'm on the second floor and I am lost"
Do you think command might want to know if this firefighter is running low or out of air? Do you think they want to know if this firefighter is alone or with other firefighters? Is this firefighter hurt or injured? The answer is yes, and they can ask those and any other questions they want.
We shouldn't put the heavy responsibility of remembering all of these vital pieces of information on the firefighter transmitting the Mayday, but instead on the people running the command post who are not lost, trapped or out of air. Heck, they can have a mayday check off sheet at the command post and rattle off those questions as needed. While that is happening, the RIT and others can be responding to the first three pieces of information, who, what and where.
What do you think?