As a fire service we do a good job of training and preparing for the unexpected firefighter emergency on the fire ground but are we truly practicing what we preach when it comes to declaring a “MAYDAY” when the actual firefighter emergency occurs. We perform these firefighter down scenarios at the company, battalion and department level to perfect the procedure to request help, conserve air and the steps to extricate ourselves from the emergency situation. Whether it is a firefighter that becomes the lost, missing or trapped we as a fire service cannot be afraid to transmit the “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY” announcement to signal the incident commander of the firefighter emergency that has just occurred. The fire service has implemented the OSHA federal law requiring the two-in/two-out and an intervention crew (RIC) to better protect our firefighters working in immediately danger to life and health (IDLH) environments. We need to not second guess ourselves to activate that very safety measure that has been put in place to protect us on the fire ground.
Last March 20, 2015, a Lansing Michigan Firefighter fell through a first floor into the basement of a residential structure fire. The company officer quickly broadcasted a “MAYDAY, Firefighter Down.” The firefighter was successfully rescued by RIC and removed to a safe environment. The valuable point we must all understand is there cannot be any delay in us as firefighters making that “MAYDAY, Firefighter Down” radio announcement if we find ourselves in the situation of being lost, missing or trapped. Even in the best rescue scenario with advanced trained firefighters and a pro-active RIC in place, there is still the reflex time from the lost, missing or trapped firefighter declaring a “MAYDAY, Firefighter Down” to the activation and deployment of rescuers. Don’t be afraid to make the immediate “MAYDAY, Firefighter Down” announcement if you fall into this emergency situation. There is no shame in requesting help especially when your safety and life could depend on it.
I commend the firefighters in Lansing, Michigan from the rapid broadcast of the “MAYDAY, Firefighter Down” to the successful rescue of one of their firefighters. This was an outstanding rescue event and successful outcome to a scenario that we spend numerous hours of training on with the hope it never happens.
Refer to the helmet cam incident video from the actual firefighters involved with the mayday and rescue operation.