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Fire Ground Survival

IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program


Click here to begin the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Awareness Course


Program Name

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Fire Ground Survival (FGS) Training Program.

Program Purpose

The purpose of the Fire Ground Survival program is to ensure that training for Mayday prevention and Mayday operations are consistent between all fire fighters, company officers and chief officers. Fire fighters must be trained to perform potentially life-saving actions if they become lost, disoriented, injured, low on air or trapped. These training exercises must be consistent throughout the fire service. Funded by the IAFF and assisted by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant program, our comprehensive Fire Ground Survival training program applies the lessons learned from fire fighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and has been developed by a committee of subject matter experts from the IAFF, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and NIOSH.


There is no other call more challenging to fire ground operations than a MAYDAY call — the unthinkable moment when a fire fighter’s personal safety is in imminent danger. Fire fighter fatality data compiled by the United States Fire Administration have shown that fire fighters “becoming trapped and disoriented represent the largest portion of structural fire ground fatalities.” The incidents in which fire fighters have lost their lives, or lived to tell about it, have a consistent theme — inadequate situational awareness put them at risk.

Fire fighters don’t plan to be lost, disoriented, injured or trapped during a structure fire or emergency incident. But fires are unpredictable, volatile and ruthless – and they will not go according to your plans. What a fire fighter knows about a fire before entering a blazing building may radically change within minutes once inside the structure. Smoke, low visibility, lack of oxygen, structural instability and an unpredictable fire ground can cause even the most seasoned fire fighter to be overwhelmed in an instant. It’s not a matter of IF the MAYDAY happens, it’s WHEN!

Real Incidents … Proven Survival Techniques … IAFF Certified Instructors

The guiding fire service philosophy for decades has been training for success — we teach how to put the fire out or mitigate other hazards and hope everyone goes home. What we have failed to consistently do is drill for when failure does occur; without such training fire fighters do not have the practiced skills to rely on IF and WHEN they get into trouble.

The IAFF Fire Ground Survival (FGS) program is the most comprehensive survival skills and MAYDAY prevention program currently available within 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, the FGS program aims to educate all fire fighters to be prepared if the unfortunate happens. IAFF Fire Ground Survival instructors will provide participating fire departments with the skills they need to improve situational awareness and prevent a MAYDAY. Topics covered 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.

How to Survive the MAYDAY and How to Lead the Rescue.

From the first-in recruit to the experienced commanding officer, the FGS program provides all levels of staff the step-by-step tools to use whether they are caught in the MAYDAY or leading the rescue. Through the use of mnemonics, case studies, personal experiences and real-time communications, personnel throughout the ranks will learn the life-saving techniques they need to know to facilitate a successful MAYDAY rescue.

MAYDAY training is fire fighter safety training. But without an ongoing training program, MAYDAY skills will deteriorate. A safe fire ground is maintained only when fire fighters can perform instinctively during a MAYDAY situation. From arrival at an incident to extinguishment of a fire, frequent drills are the only way fire personnel can be ready when a member needs immediate assistance. The FGS program provides the crucial review and practice fire service personnel need to improve survivability and decrease injury potential.

Fires will always be unpredictable and dangerous. Lack of situational awareness can mean disaster on the fire ground. FGS training can be the difference between life and death.

FGS Certification Process

IAFF Fire Ground Survival Awareness


This program is suitable for all ranks and experience levels. The Fire Ground Survival course is a comprehensive curriculum developed using near misses, close calls and fire fighter fatalities to address the critical elements of fire ground survival.


Information from the IAFF, IAFC, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), NIOSH,  Underwriters Laboratories (UL), United States Fire Administration (USFA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the military was used to develop the five-part curriculum consisting of:


1. Mayday Prevention.

2. Being Ready for the Mayday.

3. Self-Survival Procedures.

4. Self-Survival Skills.

5. Fire Fighter Expectations of Command During a Mayday.


Successful completion of this course requires the study of actual near misses and fatalities to reinforce the learning of each of the five parts. Students will listen to presentations, view videos of simulated Mayday incidents and read documentation supporting how best to prevent a Mayday, as well as how best to prepare for, and handle an actual Mayday. Students will learn the specific actions a fire fighter must perform to assure the highest degree of survivability when things on the fire ground go wrong.


Students will also learn the specific actions the incident commander, dispatchers and others on the fire ground must take to assist in the fire fighter’s rescue. Mastery of the concepts will be evaluated using a post-test for each section.


This FGS awareness course is a pre-requisite for participation in the FGS Instructor Training (Train-the-Trainer/TtT) Course. Information regarding the FGS TtT course will be available in the near future.


Click here to begin the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Awareness Course