Calling the Mayday – By: Jamie Morelock

There are many reasons to call a mayday, such as being disoriented, trapped by fire or collapse, air supply issues, or being injured just to name a few.  It is of the utmost importance to recognize any situation that could inhibit your ability to exit the structure.  This is not the time to try to “work through” your problem, nor is the time to let your pride stand in the way of calling for assistance.  Remember we are operating inside a hostile environment with a very limited supply of breathable air…time is of the essence.

Now is the time to stop and take a deep breath, get control of your emotions and breathing rate, and think about what information you are going to give over the radio that will give you the best possible chances of surviving this ordeal.  The easy to remember mnemonic L.U.N.A.R. is a simple memory tool that will quickly relay the vital information required by the Rapid Intervention Team to find and remove you.

L-location, in the fire building

U-unit, company designation and assignment

N-name(s), of person(s) requiring assistance

A-air supply, remaining

R-resources, needed

A typical mayday announcement should begin with keying the radio microphone, counting to three (to yourself) and as calmly and slowly as possible announce “MAYDAY-MAYDAY-MAYDAY”, release the button count to three again, depress the microphone button and announce  “MAYDAY-MAYDAY-MAYDAY” and give your L.U.N.A.R.  The reason for giving a second round of maydays is to make sure that everyone has a moment to absorb what is taking place and the mayday announcement is not lost in the normal “noise” of the fireground.  The mayday should also be given in plain English so that there is no misunderstanding.  An example of a mayday announcement should sound similar to:

“MAYDAY-MAYDAY-MAYDAY, (pause) MAYDAY-MAYDAY-MAYDAY, third floor-rear bedroom, Ladder 8 was division three search, Lt. Smith, firefighters Jones and Williams, we have approximately ten minutes of air remaining, we need a ladder at the rear and tools to remove the window bars, we are cut off by the fire.”

The transmission of this L.U.N.A.R. would take roughly 20 seconds to complete, and gives the Incident Commander an adequate picture of the company’s situation.  It also gives the R.I.T. an idea of what obstacles they will be facing and what equipment they will need to bring with them.  While there is a multitude of mnemonics that could be used, the one you choose for your operations should include L-location as the first letter.  The reason for this is if only one piece of MAYDAY information is transmitted before the loss of communications, the location will ensure precious time is not lost having to search the entire structure for your position.

Once a mayday transmission is heard, everyone should clear the radio of any traffic.  After the mayday information is given to Command it should acknowledged by echoing (repeating) the information back to the fire company that requested assistance.  If the Incident Commander does not acknowledge the mayday, the Dispatcher should activate some form of emergency radio tones and relay the mayday information to Command.  Additionally, the R.I.T. should be staged near the command post and monitoring radio traffic for any MAYDAY transmission as part of their standard operations.

After relaying the pertinent information, you should activate your P.A.S.S. device and begin working towards getting yourself free of the situation. Remember calling for assistance early can make the difference between going home and going to…well you get the idea.

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