What have you done today to prepare for YOUR mayday? I have a theory that every firefighter sometime in their career will be involved in at least one life or death mayday situation. I'm not talking about your air alarm going off, or misplacing a firefighter for a few minutes and having to say the word mayday over the radio. I'm talking about a hell yeah, life or death, whatever it takes extreme situation that may kill you or worse one of your crew. The question is every time you enter the firehouse are YOU thinking about this? You should be. We should be treating each and every day as if it will be the last day we will be on this earth. I'm not saying we should be acting recklessly with wonton abandon and disregard all common sense because tomorrow will never come. The mind set I'm trying to instill in everyone is to prepare for the moment, the moment that is inevitable if you spend long enough riding fire trucks and ambulances. So there are a few things I believe you should have in the forefront of your mind each and every day. If you have anything to add to this please leave a comment and let me know so we can all be better prepared for our mayday.
1) Physical Fitness: Make sure you are physically fit to survive whatever mayday situation is in store for you in the future, because one is waiting. You should work out on a regular basis as if your life depends on it, because it does. Extreme situations require extreme training. Be safe and don't hurt yourself but make sure your body is ready for the demands you will be placing upon it.
2) Mental Fitness: Probably more important than physical fitness is mental fitness. Make sure you are mentally prepared to survive the situation. I believe the first step in this process is developing a no retreat, no surrender attitude toward survival. Practice how you will need to perform.
3) Equipment Checks: Never take for granted your equipment is ready...check it out yourself, especially anything that will save your life.
4) What's in Your Pockets: Only carry things with you that will save your life. There is a tool box on the fire truck. You do not need to weigh yourself down with screwdrivers and pliers so you can be Johnny on the spot fireman who is ready for every routine situation. It is not an emergent situation to reset an alarm or change a smoke detector battery, but none the less, I see firemen carrying around entire tool boxes in the pockets of their gear.
5) Train When Tired: Practice self rescue techniques under extreme exhaustion. When you are fighting for your life you will be physically and mentally maxed beyond anything you have ever encountered in the gym. This will help your mental fitness as well. The body can do way more than the mind thinks it can.
6) No Air: Practice running out of air. We all train breathing air at times, but we make sure we have enough air for every scenario. Do you know how many minutes you personally have left while physically exerting yourself once your low air alarm starts to go off? Do you know how many breaths you have left once your vibra alert stops vibrating due to low pressure? You should, and you should train to extend those times. There are many techniques for air conservation. Pick your favorite one and try it while breathing air when you are nearly exausted. It's a little different when your body is screaming for oxygen.
7) Promote Readiness: A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Make sure the firemen around you in the cab are just as diligent toward the MAYDAY as you.
Keep in mind situational awareness and avoiding the mayday all together is your best option. Avoiding the mayday is a separate issue. This discussion is about being ready when all your preventative measures have failed, because one day they will. No matter how careful you are, no matter how aware you are of your surroundings, one day you will find yourself looking the grim reaper in the face and you need to be prepared to send him packing!