Can You Hear Me Now? Staying Alive: Prince George’s County Fire, EMS Department Unveils Mobile Mayday Simulator

New Technical Services Battalion uses department box truck to create a complex mayday classroom.


Recommendations, as well as actions themselves, led to the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department creating a rather complex mayday training lesson that involves a mobile simulator. In April of 2009, a house fire in the Largo area injured three firefighters, one critically. Almost two years later, a department investigation revealed significant errors, specifically a lack of learned survival skills.



Herrington Drive Report

Click on image to download and read report.

The following primary recommendations are listed:

  • The fire department should provide meaningful practical skills training, on a continual basis, to ensure fire fighters are prepared to apply fire fighter safety and survival skills.
  • The fire department should implement effective company officer training in subjects such as size-up, accountability, communications, hazard recognition, and emergency scene supervision.
  • The fire department should require officers to complete continuing education and refresher training for emergency scene supervisory skills.
  • The fire department should ensure that every fire fighter is radio equipped, trained in its use and able to effectively call a MAYDAY.
  • The department should ensure that company level crew integrity and accountability are maintained, along with company level supervision, during operations within IDLH atmospheres.

  • The mobile mayday simulator was constructed inside of a fire department utility box truck. (M.E. Brady)

    The fire behavior itself was rather uneventful, however it was a number of related communication errors (more on those in an upcoming post) that center on the calling and broadcasting of a mayday. The PGFD has continually worked on teaching firefighter survival skills to the members of its department. Past efforts were difficult due to the department’s training facility being located in the far southern area of the county. To alleviate the logistics, the newly created Technical Service Battalion created a mobile mayday trainer. PGFEMS PIO Mark Brady explains it further,

    The Technical Services Battalion, under the command of Major Adon Snyder, has developed a mobile mayday simulator, accompanied by a classroom lecture, which can be easily brought to any Fire/EMS station or training facility. A 40-minute classroom session with power point presentation and practical evolution comprise this training program.

    The practical portion starts with participants raising their heart rate to about 140, a rate consistent with response and initial activity at an incident scene. It is also the heart rate where decision making could be adversely affected. Raising the heart rate is accomplished by participants donning full personal protective equipment (PPE) and self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) then carries a stand-pipe pack for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The firefighter then places their cloth covered face piece on and begins to breathe air.

    The firefighter, with no visibility, is then instructed to follow a 100 foot section of hoseline. The firefighter follows the hoseline and is led up a ramp and then up steps to a simulated second floor and then experience a sudden floor collapse.

    The firefighter, following General Orders and valuable lessons learned in the classroom portion of the drill, must then demonstrate the correct survival skills and mayday procedure.

    The mobile mayday simulator was constructed inside of a fire department utility box truck. The conversion of the interior box of the utility truck includes elements required for participants to ascend steps onto an upper floor landing and a collapsible floor which will allow participants to feel the unexpected jolting experience of a floor collapse. The firefighter has been previously instructed to ensure their SCBA and PPE are still in place and then transmit, by way of their portable radio, a correct MAYDAY message.

    The drill is designed not only for firefighters but also incident commanders that will receive the radio mayday message and act accordingly. Scenarios can be modified to include non-working radios, dislodged facepiece, etc. The mobile mayday simulator has been used at select stations in order to collect data and evaluate the program.


    The firefighter then places their cloth covered face piece on and begins to breathe air. The firefighter, with no visibility, is then instructed to follow a 100 foot section of hoseline. (M.E. Brady)


    The firefighter has been previously instructed to ensure their SCBA and PPE are still in place and then transmit, by way of their portable radio, a correct MAYDAY message. (M.E. Brady)

    References
    “Mayday Simulator”, PGFEMS
    General Order 3-25, 2-In, 2-Out; Rapid Intervention, PGFEMS
    General Order 3-26, Mayday Procedures, PGFEMS



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    Mike McAdams
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