Mayday training ideas
I'd like to share some ways that we have been training for the Mayday scenario. We tackled it in several phases over several months, and it is an ongoing process that is still being developed. This is what has worked for us so far, and I hope you can steal parts that you like, and leave suggestions for parts that you think can be improved on.
We developed a SOG and reviewed it at the shift level. The SOG outlined several circumstances of when to call the Mayday. Becoming lost inside a structure, building collapse or being trapped under falling debris, fall through a floor, and entanglement.
Also, any condition that puts you in danger that you can't fix without assistance, like being out of air or missing a crew member. We talked about what information needed to be given. We went with LUNAR, which stands for location, unit calling, name, actions (that you were performing) and resources (what you thought you needed to get out of your situation).
I also learned UCAN, which stands for unit calling, conditions, actions and needs. Either one works, you just need to make sure that you provide enough information to direct crews to your location. Once the Mayday is called, we activate the PASS device. If the situation allows, we talked about making an attempt to self rescue. Look for a window or an exterior wall and try to get outside.
Also, we talked about moving all fire ground communications to a different channel and leaving the channel the mayday was called on specifically for the incident commander and the firefighter calling for help. We also emphasized the need to remain as calm as possible, it takes time to get to where you are, and its vital to conserve your air. We made it very clear that the second you realize you are in a Mayday situation, you have to immediately get on the radio.
You can still try to solve whatever problem you encountered, but it is paramount that you get resources coming to you early. You can always call and cancel it. This is by far the most important part of the Mayday scenario. You won't lose any "man points" for calling for help, and if it makes you feel any better, think of it as "Hey I just opened up the gates of Hell and I'm looking directly at the Devil himself, you guys gotta come in here and see this. Also take me out with you when you get here and decide to leave".
Lastly we made it clear that there is to be no freelancing. We don't need unaccounted for crews bailing off into the structure and getting in a situation themselves. We are reviewing what exactly the RIT crew does when the Mayday is called. We used to have them drag 400 pounds of stuff in with them, but in reality most of that gear can stay in the front yard. It all has to do with what caused the problem, and what is really needed to drag them out.
And the clearer your call for help is, the better they can respond. Our Truck crew has standing orders to start throwing ladders and forcing doors open, among other things. This is also something that we are working on as our Truck crew is relativly new to our department. Our SOG has alot more information in it, but this is the meat of it. It mainly focuses on being able to recognize a Mayday situation, calling for help early, giving adequate information and working as a team to get all of the resources heading the right direction.
Again, early activation is the key. It's an arduous task making a firefighter rescue that takes more resources than you probably have to give. You don't need to complicate things by wasting precious time.
We were fortunate enough to have access to a training facility that had a Mayday simulator set up. It has four stations, all of which were completed in full gear with the lights out. The first one was a simulated closet that the firefighters crawled into. Once past a certain point, a door was shut behind them.
When they realized that they had hit all four walls and were unable to come out the way they came, they were asked to get on the radio and call the Mayday. Their radio traffic was received by one of the training coordinators outside of the room. We critiqued them on clarity, how fast they were talking, and if they gave enough information to direct the crews outside to their location.
Be very careful if you are using a channel that is monitored by the news media. If it is, make sure to periodically state "this is a drill". We had a news van show up one day, which turned out to be a good thing because they did a story on our training since they were already there. The next station was to simulate entanglement.
As they crawled out of the closet, we clipped a piece of webbing to their airpack and let them crawl until it pulled tight. Some of the rookies tried to turn around and cut it with their tools, but that isn't the point of the training. We want them to get in the habit of recognizing one of the Mayday prompts and going through the motions of getting on the radio. If they wanted to spin around and try to free themselves after the Mayday was called, that was fine.
If they do that, make sure they get back on the radio and cancel it. The third station simulates a roof collapse. As the turn a corner, two firefighters throw a chain link fence section on top of them and dive on top. The more pinned they are to the floor the better. This gives them a chance to practice getting to their radio with limited mobility and being held down in a dark environment adds a small element of panic.
We remind them to control their breathing and give a full report. Again, each time they call for the Mayday, the quality and composition of their message is reviewed. Another one of the rookies threw the guys off and bear crawled out from under the fence. A noble achievement, but not part of the training.
The last station was the one I hated the most. We have them crawl up a set of stairs and onto a plank. It is set to collapse when you cross a certain point and drop you into a pit below full of foam rubber and pillows. Even knowing exactly what the prop is designed to do, it always scared the crap out of me because I never knew when it was going to dump me into the pit. This station was very effective.
You never fall the same way twice and every tumble you take presents new problems. Helmets fall off, radios get dropped, and being surrounded by tiny bits of pool noodles makes it hard to get your arms out from under you. Once they called the Mayday, the drill was over and they went off air and got out of their gear. You don't necessarily have to have a special training tower to set this up. All of these stations can easily be recreated with items that you have in your stations.
And you don't have to use all four of them, or any of them for that matter. Come up with your own, just be sure to share them if they work for you. The purpose is to develop "muscle memory" by going through the motions of recognizing a Mayday scenario and getting on the radio. After 3 or 4 trips through the simulator, we noticed that guys were able to rattle off the Mayday without having to think of "Ok, L stands for Location....I'm on the second floor, U stands for....um, units".
There isn't time during an actual Mayday to be fumbling through an acronym, so it has to be second nature. And the best way to make it second nature is repetitive training.
Surprise Mayday training. We have had several training sessions that require us to get in our gear and crawl around. Some were live fire, some were just crawling through the bedrooms with the lights off. We would randomly grab a crew member and pull him aside and see how long it took for the rest of the crew to notice him missing.
Or we would latch onto a boot as it scooted by and prevent forward movement. To our delight, each time we did this, the crews recognized the issue, and went through the motions of calling for help. They started catching on to our antics and would anticipate something was coming, but they still got to develop that muscle memory of calling it in.
Repetitive training, over and over until it becomes second nature. And you can do every bit of the training listed above without it costing your city a dime. You have the props, look around the station and get creative!
And finally, every chance you get to review an actual Mayday call, sit down and listen to it. Talk about what you think went wrong and table top some solutions to the problems they faced.
You can learn a lot from the mistakes that were made, and many times you can pick up on things that they did right. Fortunately, this isn't a situation that happens every day. But you have to get out of the mindset that it can't happen to you.
This is a high risk, low frequency situation, and you gotta take these seriously. I would love to hear some feedback on what you are doing, we are getting good at this type of training but you can never have enough of it. Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!
Originally Posted by jwright367
Sounds good. I hope you don't mind me "fixing the so it can be read".
Thanks for fixing the spaces, I edited my post. I wrote it in Word and didn't notice how compressed it looked in here.
This is excellent, and am printing this out now. I work outside the department with about 3 or 4 of my guys, including my captain. we meet every morning at the donut shop, This is coming with me today. I'll report back on what is done with it!
Thanks Picc! I have some additional details that might come in handy. We had a structure fore a few months ago and I had to call a Mayday. I built a web site that has all of the pictures, video clips, dispatch audio, run reports and a link to a radio show where I detail the entire incident. www.texasmayday.com is the site.
Could we see pics of the foam pit, that would be great to see.
Originally Posted by jwright367
One thing that we do in our Department (Volunteer) is we use playgrounds at the school. We have blacked out masks for training. I love the ideas, and plan to use them. Stay safe and keep training!
Really good article. I think the idea of a foam pit is terrific. In our Department, once a Mayday is called the IC or Operations Officer calls dispatch for a new Tactical Channel for all units other than the trapped Firefighter and RIT crew are to switch to that channel. Next a role call is to be made once on that channel to account for everyone.
IMHO at that point it will take tremendous discipline by everyone involved to switch to that channel and not clutter the original channel for the Firefigher that has initiated the Mayday. But, if done correctly it will allow for a quicker and more coordinated rescue. To help this transition I feel the IC needs to assign another Officer to conduct the role call so he and/or the Rescue Officer can formulate and initiate their plan.