The below video is radio traffic from a Fairfax County Va MAYDAY during a basement fire. During firefighting operations a firefighter becomes disoriented and issues a MAYDAY. The mayday call happens at 4:09 of the video if you just want to skip to that point.
Having never had to call a MAYDAY I am always fascinated and intrigued with how people call MAYDAY, and what they say. It is important to have a procedure to follow in this situation and train with it over an over again until you can not get it wrong. There are several acronyms out there detailing the point needed to hit during a MAYDAY. While a lot of them hit on the radio traffic portion they seldom offer recommended actions to take. Personally I like this model:
1. Activate PASS: If you hear a pass alarm on the fireground you should assume someone is in trouble, if you activate your pass then someone may come to your aide before you put the MAYDAY out on the radio.
2. Activate EMERGENCY button on portable radio (if applicable): This does a couple of things, it lets the dispatcher know there is a problem so they can notify the IC if they miss it, and in some systems once the EMERGENCY button is activated that radio will trump all others once the transmit button is hit. This means no matter who is talking they will not talk over you, so your message will get heard.
3. Give your MAYDAY: Again I like to keep it simple. Who I am, Where I was and my assignment, Whats my problem, and as good a description of my current location as I can.
Example: MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY Engine 8 Bravo, Firefighter Owens. I was operating a hose line on the second floor, and am now lost and low on air, I’m currently in a room with tile flooring.
That lets them know who is in trouble, what my problem is, and gives them clues as to where I might be. Especially in a single family dwelling, were clues like tile floors can give major clues. Think about your house your tile floors are typically in the bathroom and kitchen, carpeting is usually in bedrooms, living rooms, and dens. The same goes for apartment buildings. It’s not 100% but it can give the RIT clues on how to prioritize their search. The most important question to ask is, when you give your MAYDAY will what you say get you the help you need? If your MAYDAY sounded like the one in the video would you get what you needed? If the answer is yes then that is great, if it is no then what can you do to make it better?
In my opinion hands on training is the best way to learn this, however Chris Brennan over at www.fireservicewarrior.com has come up with a unique way to train your mind to handle a MAYDAY situation take a look at it here: http://www.fireservicewarrior.com/2011/04/video-blog-episode-13.html
It is important to dust off this skill frequently,as tomorrow may be the day you have to put it to use.
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