Remain Calm & Composed
First and foremost it’s imperative to remain calm. This is easier said than done especially since the firefighter is one of your own. Remember, if you start screaming and losing your bearing on the radio it will invite everyone else to do the same. Keep a cool, calm, and collective command presence, this will show confidence in your actions. Acknowledge the MAYDAY and follow the departments SOG’s in regards to activating the Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC).
Once the Mayday has been acknowledged and the RIC activated there are many other functions that must be managed. Initiate a Personal Accountability Report (PAR) from all units operating on scene to ensure everyone is accounted for and strike another alarm. Get more resources to you as quick as you can. Since the RIC was activated make sure to call for another team to back them up if one isn’t already on the way. The key is to maintain operational discipline. Fire suppression functions must continue to be completed. Those very actions are just what might be keeping the troubled firefighter alive.
How many times do we see pictures of command posts with three or four white helmets collaborating and determining strategy? As the IC, put these officers to work for you on the fireground. Remember the ICS and NIMS training that was drilled into our heads. Break up the scene into manageable divisions and groups. Increase safety and accountability with more sets of eyes looking out for the firefighters from all angles. Size-up will always remain a continuous action but the incident action plan can also change from minute to minute. Review, evaluate and revise accordingly.
I have reviewed many MAYDAY after action reports and noted within those investigations were incident commanders who failed to delegate the RIC operations to another officer. This created confusion and sensory overload to just on incident commander. I have said this before and will continue to say it until proven otherwise; I don’t care how good you think you may be, you can’t manage both the fire and RIC operations effectively.
These three topics are vital to the success of any emergency situation. They become even more crucial when the emergency involves one of our own. Do not develop the mentality that this can’t or won’t happen here in my department, or my crew. Remain vigilant and unwavering in your resolve to continue to train and be combat ready. Other people’s lives depend on it.
A man has to learn that he cannot command things, but that he can command himself; that he cannot coerce the wills of others, but that he can mold and master his own will: and things serve him who serves Truth; people seek guidance of him who is master of himself.
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