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What terminology does your department use for a MAYDAY?

In California the FIRESCOPE Field Operations Guidebook, or "FOG", is a major tool used for creating policy when it dealing with ICS and NIMS terminology. I feel that the FOG is a great resource and may be under utilized. However, where it deals with Firefighter emergencies, I feel that it is not necessarily up to the perceived industry standard. In the FOG it states that "MAYDAY" is a term that is only to be used for air or marine emergencies. For Firefighter emergencies, the FOG states that the term "Emergency Traffic" shall be used. The problem I see is that we use Emergency Traffic for more than just Firefighter emergencies. We use Emergency Traffic to alert members of fireground hazards, to order members out of a building, or anything else that the IC deems necessary. Does this not water down the importance of a Firefighter emergency?

My questions for you are...

What state are you from? Does your Department follow the NIMS/ICS system? And finally, what terminology does your department use for a Firefighter emergency?

For more information on the FIRESCOPE "FOG" book, just type FIRESCOPE into your search engine. There will be plenty of sites that you can look at the FOG.

Thanks for your time on this topic.

Stay Safe everyone,


"Everyone Goes Home"

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I am from Illinois, we do use the NIMS/ICS System.

Our department utilizes Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, for a firefighter emergency. We are working with our MABAS Division on putting a policy together so all fire departments in our county utilize the same traffic. We also utilize Emergency Traffic when Command either see's dangerous situations or is advised of dangerous situations, e.g. potential building collapse, deteroiting conditions, etc.

Hope this helps.

Stay Safe!!
What state are you from?
Does your Department follow the NIMS/ICS system?
Not really
And finally, what terminology does your department use for a Firefighter emergency?
Our department is in Illinois and we are in the process of changing our terminology and procedures to be NIMS compliant. When developing our lost/trapped firefighter policy we researched this topic and decided to use MAYDAY for firefighter emergencies and EMERGENCY TRAFFIC for other critical events (i.e. loss of water supply, possible collapse, flashover, etc.). A good article to read is by Dr. Burton Clark of the NFA titled "It's okay to use MAYDAY". I believe you can find the article on

After looking at both sides of the debate we decided we wanted a term that would stand out and be specific to a firefighter in trouble. Attached is our curent policy which will be updated after some upcoming training we have planned.

Irregardless of the NIMS statement, our department will continue to use MAYDAY.

Stay Safe.

I work in Portland, ME - we've been using NIMS/ICS for a number of years now. Our Mayday procedure is just that Mayday is used for Firefighter Emergencies while Urgent traffic or Emergency traffic is used for things that need to be addressed ASAP but are not a RIT activation. Hope that helps. I think I met you a few years ago at a New England FOOLS training event up in Brunswick at an illustrious hotel maybe?

Yes I was there. God what a great training in a wonderful building. You don't get places like that very often...

Thanks for your reply Brother. Be Safe

I work in MA and we follow ICS/NIMS on paper only. As far as terminology we use MAYDAY for emergency and URGENT for pressing matters that the IC must know but doesn't rewuire emergency traffic or RIT
From New York State. We utilize MAYDAY. We also state URGENT for requesting the air for an emergency radio transmission. We are trained in NIMS/ICS....and supposed to be folowing it...

I work at North Little Rock Fire Department, AR and we use the NIMS system

Our deparment uses "Code Red" for our firefighter emergencies


Lt. Wesley Stephens
We use MAYDAY and EMERGENCY TRAFFIC as many others have described. When thinking of this topic, why would you call a mayday anything else? While emerency traffic, priority traffic and urgent all relay the same intent, when someone's life is in danger mayday, even when garbled, is easy to understand and remember. Not to sound too sarcastic but to me asking what do you use for mayday is like asking who's buried in Grant's tomb.

I don't disagree with you in the slightest. I probably should have used firefighter emergencies instead.

I appreciate your, and everyones replies on this topic. It agree 100% that MAYDAY should be the only term used when one of our lives is in danger. I am simply doing a little research before we present the topic to the Fire Chief. I am sure we can solve this issue quickly. Always better to be prepared right?

Thanks again to those that have replied and to those that will continue.

Everyone Goes Home

We actually use a slight variation of how maydays are sent from an aircraft:

1. Mayday mayday mayday
2. This is [firefighter's ID]
3. I am located at [location]
4. [Nature of the emergency]

Be safe,

Eric, thanks for asking the question. I work for LACoFD and we follow FIRESCOPE to the letter and do not currently use the term MAYDAY. However, this all may change. Recently FIRESCOPE wrote to the IAFC on the topic of MAYDAY. The letter stated that FIRESCOPE is willing to recognize MAYDAY as long as it is preceded with the hailer "EMERGENCY TRAFFIC." I prefer MAYDAY X 3 without the hailer for the simple reason of syllables and ease of recognition. MAY-DAY is a 2 syllable word easily pronounced regardless of language accent. You put EMERGENCY TRAFFIC in front of it and you add another 6 syllables before the most important word a FF will ever transmit over the radio. It doesn't make sense. MAYDAY is also easily recognizable by most everyone to announce when someone is in need of immediate assistance. My 10 year old confirmed this by coming up with the definition with no prompting. As a member of the IAFF/IAFC Fire Ground Survival Group, and as an officer dedicated to researching what term is best to use, I know MAYDAY is the only term that must be used.

Hope this helps...

Derek A.

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