A bad day for Randy gets worse … we could both be dead!

I arrived at the station at about 06:30am this morning.  As I always do, I went to my gear locker, got my PPE and placed it by the rig. Everything has it’s place and something caught my eye … something out of place.

It was a face piece … an SCBA mask and it was laying in the floor out in the bay by the Engine.

HOLY CRAP !  What if the boys had caught an early morning run and the fireman didn’t have his mask! I picked it up with intentions of placing it on the rig by whomever’s gear it belonged to. When I looked at the name, guess what I found???  RANDY !

YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME !  He left in such a hurry yesterday that he forgot to properly stow his equipment. Not just ANY equipment mind you … HIS MASK!  Actually, now that I think about it; it’s not even his … it’s City property that was assigned to him and placed in his CARE. Does a Rookie Firefighter think so little of this piece of PPE that he would just leave it laying about?

Maybe he thought his moma was going to come in to the station later in the day and clean up behind him? Maybe he just figured A-shift would get it? As a matter of fact, I’m not so sure he was thinking at all. GOOD THING I CAME ALONG WHEN I DID.

I had taken all the chains off my truck and left them in the barn this morning so all I could come up with was some rope.

A few quick knots later and I had invented the “Rookie Randy SCBA Mask Retention Tool”  LMAO

We attached one end to the mask and the other to the Rookie Firefighter who apparently has trouble keeping up with and taking proper care of said mask.

The funniest part was waiting for him to miss it. He came in as usual at around 07:00am and got his gear from his locker. I watched through the window as he began to place it on the rig and make his morning checks. He musta made 20 laps back and forth between his locker and the rig. I stepped out and asked him if everything was ok. He had “that” look on his face.

He wasn’t sure he wanted to tell me that he had lost his mask but he also knew that he didn’t want to lie. LMAO … you shoulda seen the look on his face when he seen his mask and new “Mask Retention Tool” laying on the table.

That was just a little fun to start the day off. My regular readers know that there are a lot of things I can tolerate but “fretting” is not one of them… LOL.  After his morning check offs, cleaning duties and egg “sammich” our morning was fairly busy. It’s been pouring rain for the past two days so I had a couple “in house” drills planned for the day.

My first was to be a “territory” drill.  I’ve had the map of a small section our 1st due on the board since Friday (just the blank map..no street names).  He’s been studying but he’s memorized them in order. He’s been chomping at the bit for me to let him fill in the street names … he had a pattern in his head and didn’t want to loose it.

The Captain always throws a kink into things. I printed off all the street names and cut them out (almost like little label size pieces). They were all shuffled up, in no order and I even added 2 street names that were not on this map. He had to draw a slip of paper and correctly add the street name to the map. LMAO … you shoulda seen his face when he pulled the street not on the map. Hell, it’s not even a street from our side of the tracks. It was one he should have known. I added in the street that our main hospital is on … Belleview. He’s been there at least 10 times on the Medic unit but has never thought to read the street sign.  A little more  fretting   .. errr  “fun”, but  lessons learned and a good in house drill.

Our next drill wouldn’t end so well or with a laugh.

We’ve been working hard with Randy. We’ve covered a lot of topics in a short period of time. This should all be just a refresher for him seeing as he just completed a 14 week cadet school.

That said, what you learn in rookie school vs what you learn “in company” is two different things and I understand that he is under a lot of pressure.

We’ve worked on SCBA’s, portable radios and communications. We’ve covered situational and positional awareness, making the stretch, search / rescue and ventilation. We’ve gone over offensive and defensive attacks, exposure protection and even V.E.S (Vent Enter Search). We’ve talked about MAYDAY’s, C.A.N reports (Conditions, Actions and Needs), R.O.A.M (Rules Of Air Management), and L.U.N.A.R. (Location, Unit, Name, Air and Resources). Today, we had an overview. He thought he had a good grip on what he needed to know.

I placed us out of service, requested a tac channel for training and had Randy gear up. I told him we were going to conduct a “search” drill. Boots would act as “command” while Randy and I would have the assignment of  “Search Group” with instructions of conducting a primary.

I blackened his mask and we entered the station from the bay. We conducted a right hand search which led us into the bunk room. I kept close to him. I asked if he was “ok” and would give the occasional instruction as to which direction to move. Then, I simply quit talking, got up and exited the room with Boots.


He kept working. Focused on the task at hand. He finished his search of the bedroom and moved out and into the locker room. Still, he hadn’t missed me!

Had this have been real life, I could have been dead. Maybe I fell through the floor. Maybe I had a heart attack. Maybe something fell on me. The bottom line is that I was gone, he wasn’t even aware of it and now, he was ALONE.

If he was lucky enough to have made it out, would he have known where to tell the Chief to look for my body? Exactly where did he loose contact with me? Was he even thinking in that manner (obviously not) ? He should have been.

This drill was never REALLY about searching. It was more about situational awareness and knowing when to call the “MAYDAY”. I try to imprint this into a rookie’s head at an early stage … THEIR LIVES DEPEND ON IT !!


See Burton A. Clark’s 2002 article in Firehouse Magazine entitled MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY .

I have  conducted this drill for many years as a Captain. See a previous post about that HERE or take a step back in time to our “Melrose Misfits” days for more MAYDAY training  HERE .

Take the time to hit the link to Burton Clark’s article above. IT’S WORTH THE TIME ! In the article, he talks of the similarities between fighter pilots ejecting and firefighters calling the “MAYDAY”. He lists 10 reasons for the failure or delay in pilots ejecting…

The failure or delay to eject can be attributed to 10 reasons that must be addressed in ejection training according to Richard Leland, Director Aeromedical Training Institute Environmental Tectonics Corp.

 1. Temporal Distortion (time seems to speedup or slow down). 2. Reluctance to relinquish control of ones situation. 3. Channeled attention (i.e. continuing with a previously selected course of action because other more significant information is not perceived). 4. Loss of situational awareness (i.e. controlled flight into terrain). 5. Fear of the unknown (i.e. reluctance to leave the security of the cockpit). 6. Fear of retribution (for losing the aircraft). 7. Lack of procedural knowledge. 8. Attempting to fix the problem. 9. Pride (ego). 10. Denial(i.e. This isn’t happening to me).

I don’t know which one affected Randy. Maybe it’s me. Maybe my teaching techniques are “off”. Maybe they’re all wrong! What I do know is that I have to figure it out and embed it in his mind while I still can. The older he becomes and the more time he gets on the job, the harder it will be.

STAY TUNED …. training at “Lucky #13” on C-shift is about to get turned up another notch!

Does your crew know when and have the disipline to CALL A MAYDAY? I hope so. If they don’t, it’s time to turn it up another notch in your house too.

 Stay Safe and in House!

Captain Wines