Your Crew Has a Mayday: Are you Ready?

As I listen to the audio recording from the fire in Baltimore County, Md.,  that claimed the life of Firefighter Gene Kirschner, I reflect on a lesson learned from my recent rapid intervention train-the-trainer class. If a Mayday were to occur the firefighters most likely to facilitate a rescue are the ones already operating inside the structure.

If you have an emergency and need assistance, the firefighters nearest you will be in the best spot to help -- if they are not experiencing the same emergency. Are you prepared to help a fellow firefighter in their time of need? Let’s take a look at some self-rescue and crew rescue situations where you can help save a brother or sister firefighter. Are you ready to manage a crew members Mayday?

The first and foremost thing that needs to be addressed in the event of an emergency is the need for help. The list of situations needing attention vary in each department but should always include things such as an SCBA emergency, entanglements, collapse, and disorientation. Each of these should remain constant on everyone’s list. If you think that you are in a tight spot, call the Mayday. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if the problem can be easily resolved.

Once you have identified the potential problem you need to make the announcement. The first “call out” should be to your crew members. This can prove to be difficult with an SCBA facepice on. Sometimes even the loudest screams sound like muffled dogs barking when inside. Using your radio to communicate the need for help will allow you a better means of communicating with your crew and allow the outside firefighters to hear the call.

Once the Mayday has been transmitted, the next step is locating the firefighter in need. If it is a firefighter on your crew, the distance to access them should not be to far away, unless a significant structural event has happened: (such as a collapse). Listening for their PASS alarm, radio noise, or yelling will allow you to locate the downed firefighter faster.

>If you must leave your point of reference, the hoseline or a point of contact, you will need to choose a method to stay oriented. Using a personal rope, section of webbing, or taking the hoseline with you are all good choices of ways to stay oriented inside a structure. Make sure to choose the option that offers the fastest way to access the downed firefighter.

Once you have located the victim you need to fix their problem. From entanglement issues to SCBA malfunctions you will have a limit in the number of tools available to help. You may need to be creative in mitigating the emergency. Grabbing another firefighter's cutters or using a fallen board for leverage may be all you need to free the trapped firefighter. Having the right tools will depend on what tools you choose to carry, a choice that has many options.

Some tools that should be carried by every firefighter are cutters, universal air connections, and a short piece of tubular webbing. These choices offer numerous opportunities to help a firefighter in distress. The balance between weight and need is a tough decision made by every jumpseat riding firefighter. Make sure your choices include these simple, yet effective, tools.

As we say goodbye to Firefighter Kirchner, we all should review maganging a crew member's Mayday. In the event a firefighter does have a proble,  most likely a member of their crew while be involved with the rescue. Take the time to make sure you are prepared to help and know how to respond when needed. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Firefighter Kirchner and the entire Baltimore County Fire Department.

  • See Ryan Live! Blogger Ryan Pennington will be presenting "Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters" at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, July 23 - 27.