Mayday and Rapid Intervention Realities: The Phoenix Perspective

On March 14, 2001 the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department lost firefighter Brett Tarver at the Southwest Supermarket fire.

Remembering Brett Tarver and the Lessons Learned

In that event, it was 5:00 in the afternoon, the grocery store was full of people and fire was extending through the building. Phoenix E14 was assigned to the interior of the structure to complete the search, get any people out, and attempt to confine the rapidly spreading fire to the rear of the structure.

Shortly after completing their primary search of the building the Captain decided it was time to get out. Tarver and the other members of Engine 14 were exiting the building when Tarver and his partner got lost.

Here’s a link to a previous post on that provides insights and report links that are as pertainent today, as they were in 2001.

Take the time to read the Phoenix Report as well as the NIOSH Report.

Firefighter Fatality Report – Southwest Supermarket, Phoenix, AZ
PFD full report on the LODD of Firefighter Brett Tarver. Report contains extensive analysis of fire ground operations, may-day and lessons learned.

Firefighter Brett Tarver, PFD

References and Supplemental Resources; 

The IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program (FGS) is the most comprehensive survival-skills and mayday-prevention program currently available and is open to all members of the fire service. Incorporating federal regulations, proven incident-management best practices and survival techniques from leaders in the field, and real case studies from experienced fire fighters, FGS aims to educate all fire fighters to be prepared if the unfortunate happens. 

For links to the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program, HERE and HERE

The program provides participating fire departments with the skills they need to improve situational awareness and prevent a mayday. Topics include:

  • Preventing the Mayday: situational awareness, planning, size up, air management, fitness for survival, defensive operations.
  • Being Ready for the Mayday: personal safety equipment, communications, accountability systems.
  • Self-Survival Procedures: avoiding panic, mnemonic learning aid “GRAB LIVES”— actions a fire fighter must take to improve survivability, emergency breathing.
  • Self-Survival Skills: SCBA familiarization, emergency procedures, disentanglement, upper floor escape techniques.
  • Fire Fighter Expectations of Command: command-level mayday training, pre-mayday, mayday and rescue, post-rescue, expanding the incident-command system, communications.
SOPs/SOGsRules of Engagement for Structural Firefighting (pdf)

Risk Management

General Order: Two-In, Two-Out Compliance, Rapid Intervention Team, and Firefighter Survival

Emergency Evacuation
This policy identifies a standard system for the emergency evacuation of personnel at an emergency incident or training exercise.

Fire and Rescue Departments of Northern Virginia – Rapid Intervention Team Command and Operational Procedures
A collaborative RIT manual developed by fire and rescue departments in Northern Virginia. Promotes interoperability between multiple fire agencies.

Lost or Trapped Firefighters
This policy identifies the required actions for the search and rescue of lost or trapped firefighter(s).

Model Procedures for Responding to a Package with Suspicion of a Biological Threat
Local and world events have placed the nation’s emergency service at the forefront of homeland defense. The service must be aware that terrorists, both foreign and domestic, are continually testing the homeland defense system.

Safety – Initial Rapid Intervention Crew (IRIC)
This policy establishes procedures for ensuring the highest level of safety when conducting interior operations in an atmosphere that is Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH).

Safety – Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)
This policy establishes the department’s criteria and procedures for Rapid Intervention Teams.

Accident Reports

Firefighter Fatality Report – Southwest Supermarket, Phoenix, AZ
PFD full report on the LODD of Firefighter Brett Tarver. Report contains extensive analysis of fire ground operations, may-day and lessons learned.

NFPA Fire Investigation Report of 1995 Pittsburgh Fire
This report describes the investigation of a fire which killed three firefighters in 1995.

This report recounts a residential basement fire that claimed the life of a career lieutenant in Pennsylvania.

Training & Drill Topics

Technical Rescue resources

Analysis of Structural Firefighter Fatality Database (pdf)

Hazelton Firefighter caught in Flashover
PowerPoint presentation

Firefighter Survival Training

Rapid Intervention Crew Standard Operating Guidelines
Provided by the Town of Menasha Fire Department

Standardized Actions of a Lost/Disoriented Firefighter

Understanding Fireground LODDS
A fresh perspective on an old problem.

General Resources

Observing Firefighter Performance (pdf)

Emergency Radio Protocol

50 Ways to Save Your Brother (or Sister)
Provided by the South Milwaukee Fire Department.

Fire Chief Magazine article – “No more maydays”
Disorientation Prevention Article

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
This web page provides access to NIOSH investigation reports and other firefighter safety resources.

The Incident Commander’s Response to a “May-Day” Lost Firefighter Incident
A check list of items to consider when handling a may-day incident, provided by Chief Gary Morris, Scottsdale, AZ.

U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study (1979-2001)
This study was conducted in an effort to stop firefighter fatalities caused by smoke inhalation, burns, and traumatic injuries attributable to disorientation. It focused on 17 incidents occurring between 1979 and 2001 in which disorientation played a major part in 23 firefighter fatalities.

USFA – Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study (1990-2000)
This report identifies trends in mortality and examines relationships among data elements on firefighter fatalites between 1990-2000.

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