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MAYDAY SOP Do you put firefighting ops on a different channel

We are rewriting our MAYDAY SOP Do you have firefighting ops change channel and if you do what problems have you encountered. Is everyone on the channel they are supposed to be on?

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Jim, we recently went to a regional policy for six departments that operate together.  It indicates handling a mayday  several ways, depending on how the distressed fire fighter makes the call.  If they make the call on the tac frequency everyone is running on, then there would be an option to move everyone off the channel for fire control activities.  However, our regional radio system is built with the use of emergency ID activation in the design.  This requires hitting the small orange button on our Motorola XTC5000.  Meaning, if the button is pressed, the fire fighter's traffic automatically moves to a separate channel in our bank.  Using this button requires some practice though.  We are automatically assigned three channels on a box alarm (two tac channels and the emergency ID channel). 

The policy is a little loose for my liking, but was a big step for getting everyone in our area moving in a similar direction.  As with most things, its a training issue.  Our fire fighters practice calling maydays every Monday, every Monday.  I can tell you these drills have been a tremendous learning experience for everyone. 

So the short answer is, we are set up for both.  I have never managed a mayday, and it remains a personal focus of mine.  Shoot me an email if you want copies of them.  Take care. 


Nick P   


Hi Jim,

Great question and one that keeps coming up over and over again. We currently do NOT move to a different channel. Once a Mayday is declared, all radio chatter is to stop, unless the message is urgent. The rationale for keeping everyone on the same channel is it adds too much confusion to ask everyone to change channels (save and accept the mayday firefighters and the RIT). If we have 25 portable radios on the scene (every FF carries a portable radio), we know that many FF's will miss the radio transmission to switch to a different Tac channel, which we feel could cause missed messages, and may even lead to another mayday incident. Luckily we haven't had a Mayday in real life, so I can't tell you how this system will work. Perhaps a discussion with one of the Brunacini's to discuss the Tarver incident may help. I know they used to switch channels, but after that unfortunate incident, they now stay on the same Tac channel.

Steve, I agree thats waht I am pushing for also   one person on the wrong channel could be disasterous!

And to Nick very valid answer to problem but we do not have that technology

Jim, I teach MAYDAY/RIT, and have had the misfortune of being on multiple MAYDAY scenes. My opinion is due to real world experience. Command,RIT and those in trouble MUST stay on the working fireground channel. Everyone else needs to be disciplined enough to go to another channel when told to by command. The firefighters in trouble may not be able to switch to another channel for dozens of reasons, everyone else can.

The MAYDAY and fire attack must be run by two separate people. It's to much for one man to do.

It's that simple. Short and sweet.

Good luck Brother

Thanks again,  We are at a  technological disadvantage we currently have dispatch all the way to left on channel dial and our fire ground to the right. Currently the RIT channel would be 2 clicks to the right difficult without glove harder with. I know you only get good with lots of practice and this includes changing channels with wet gloves. Thanks for thoughts we will get there.

You guys stay safe!


ps IWe would never ask t he firefighter in trouble to switch channels

pss  See you all in INDY

This is the same argument that continues to surface. People who teach RIT insist on changing channels. I'm a big believer that you don't need to change channels. I think it creates more confusion during an already confusing situation. The reality is the RIT team will be initiated, and I hope by now everyone realizes you should deploy the closest interior team to start searching for the mayday firefighters as well (if possible). Study after study has shown the interior crews will find the mayday firefighters much quicker than simply relying on the RIT team. Of course once the mayday firefighters are found, and the RIT team finds them too, the RIT team is boss and they do their thing. 


I do agree however that one person can NOT run a mayday, and the incident. You have to dedicate one (senior) person to run the RIT operation, and one person to continue running command.



In my career department we are to declare the mayday on the ops channel first, then all traffic is to be moved by the IC to a different channel.  This allows for the advantage of nearby firefighters to possibly solve the mayday quickly, but has the disadvantage of moving operational (The other firefighters on the fire) radios to a different channel.  That requires multiple users to all move and then select the proper channel (Which is much better than the MAYDAY firefighter moving).  If you listen to maydays this is a difficult process because radio discipline in the fire service can be at times very poor.  Additionally, maydays rarely occur during a quiet time on the fireground. Generally there are some things going south when they happen. With all of that said, if a department maintains good radio discipline and the IC hears the mayday over the other chatter, it is very effective to have everyone else besides the downed firefighter switch.

Our second step is if the IC doesn't acknowledge the MAYDAY the user will activate the emergency button which changes him to a different predetermined talkgroup that the RIT team is supposed to monitor and alerts all of our dispatch computers.  This places the firefighter on his own channel but then he is by himself talking to a dispatcher and if the RIT team remembered them.  I prefer this way personally because of how many MAYDAY's I have researched where they were never heard or addressed by the IC.  One item is for sure, the MAYDAY firefighter should never switch unless it is through the use of the Emergency Button.

Another issue is ensuring that someone on the fire ground is monitoring the channel you go to and are the radios properly aliased.  If I don't know who called the mayday when the button is pressed I am failing my firefighters.  Technology is there to make it happen so lets use it on the million dollar radio systems we have.  I address all of these items in My "Emergency Communications" class that will be presented at FDIC this year.  I don't know that there is a 100% right answer but those are my thoughts.  Whatever you pick, Train on it until no one messes it up. 

Feel free to contact me with any other questions.

All departments in our county follow the same SOG.  The MayDay, RIT, and RIT OPS stay on the original channel that the MayDay was called on.  All other units move to what we call "Emergency OPS" (EMG OPS) on the radio to continue the fireground operation without interrupting the MayDay operation.  The best thing we did was to program ALL portables with this "EMG OPS" channel as the LAST channel on EVERY Zone on our radios.  Our 800 Mhz radios have 16 zones and no matter what zone we are operating, rotating the knob all the way to the right will put you on "EMG OPS".  Easy to do in fire gloves and without looking.

We are currently looking at Dynamic Regrouping as an option to remotely move a portable radio user to another talk-group.  While we have tested the ability to do this - and it works - the user interface at the dispatcher POD is not where it needs to be for a MAYDAY situation.  At this point, we know it works, we know we can control a remote radio and give it audible confirmation that it has been moved, as well as take user control away, other than PTT and turning it off, but we have not dug into the technical and operational issues that will come with something like this.

The advantage is that when a firefighters calls a MAYDAY, the fire officer at dispatch can move that person to a designated talk-group.  RIT companies can move to the talk-group and continuity of operations can continue in the fire suppression effort.

If any other department has done this or considered it, please share your experiences.


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