The Orange Button “Emergency Button”

When declaring an Emergency, you call the word May Day THREE TIMES!! Why Three Times? Because the first two may not be heard for many reasons. Other noise, scanning feature, bad transmission and so on… Calling the May Day is just the START of confirming Command and other Firefighters operating on the Fire Ground truly understand that there is a Firefighter in trouble and needs immediate assistance. Historically, Firefighters that have been in trouble were heard and understood by Firefighters not operating on the fire ground who were listening to radio transmissions. This is another REASON why firefighters not assigned to the incident should monitor radio traffic. Be Pro-Active and Listen, even when your company is not assigned to the BOX! What If you hear something that no one else hears?  What if? when you call the May Day, your portable microphone is not transmitting and the words May Day are not being heard, or there are numerous May Days all at once. Then who is tracking all the May Days? There were 9 Firefighters trapped in June of 2007 in Charleston and only one May Day came across/was recorded over the air. There was one Orange button that was activated by Ladder 5. Ladder 5 Driver activated his orange button. The Dispatcher came across and advised Ladder 5 drivers orange button is off. What if? 8 other Firefighters would have activated their orange button early enough? We must STUDY and learn from others before us and try to improve for the FUTURE. Everybody knows how and when to call a May Day, but still so many times the words are not being heard. We continue to train on calling the May Day, but need to also FOCUS on the Orange Button and how much it has to offer. When the ORANGE button is activated an EMERGENCY has been declared until otherwise canceled. With the activation of ORANGE button, it also signals what radio it is. This is only as good as you are at confirming that you’re wearing/using the radio for your assigned seat. Remember Captain 8A in Houston on North Loop, they knew he was in need of assistance and who he was, based on radio identifier. The ORANGE button will work, when the mic will not. The orange button will tell Command, the dispatcher, and other firefighters who is in trouble without ever hearing your voice. So remember how important the ORANGE button truly is and wearing the assigned radio. Do you or your Chiefs have a list of assigned radio numbers and what radio is assigned to what seat? Do the Officers know their crews radio numbers when displayed on the screen? It shouldn’t be Morse Code.


Last thought, can you and your firefighters activate the ORANGE button with GLOVES on? Have you trained on it? Who and how do you reset it? What Channel will the ORANGE button work on? Is Your ORANGE button covered by Radio Strap? Remember the Devil is in the Details? Confirm your Orange button is not blocked by strap and practice using the antenna as a guide for gloved hand and locating ORANGE button.




Radio Emergency button covered

Improper Placement of Strap.

Radio Emergency Button
Proper Placement!!

The VOICE is in the BUTTON!! Do Not Cover the Voice!!

The Orange Button is On Top of Calling the May Day and giving your LUNAR..

3 thoughts on “The Orange Button “Emergency Button”

  1. That radio in the picture, Motorola, has a feature that many are not aware of.
    That radios Orange Button can be preset to any channel you desire. So when there is an Orange Button Activation (OBA) the radio automatically switches to a channel predetermined for MayDay incidences only.
    This alert will ping on every console at dispatch, and the appropriate dispatcher/supervisor/ fire operations officer (predetermined by “the powers that be”) will then confirm the Mayday with the caller while alerting the Ops dispatcher who will notify the IC, who will then punt it to his “aid”, or take it himself and letting the aid run Op’s (predetermined by “the powers that be”). Now we have 2 separate incidents, managed properly by 2 separate IC’s.

    By having the “powers that be” come to an agreement on which channel to dedicate for Mayday traffic from an OBA it eliminates a couple of stumbling blocks:

    – who switches during a Mayday (Operations or the Mayday)
    – which channel do we use
    – the possibility of being “stepped on” or “clipped” by other communications while calling a Mayday and delaying the response time
    – The possibility your radio channel is on the wrong channel

    Streamlining this process makes for a quicker more effective alert, and we all know during Maydays time is of the essence.

    In short, this is only a plan for the OBA, it is only one plan (what if you can not find the button, then you transmit on the channel your on), there are many plans out there that work … but none of them work if you do not follow the sage advise of the main article … TRAIN ON IT. We are just well dressed civilians if we do not train, this is not a YouTube learnable skill set, there are no “do overs” when this is for real, this is something that must be trained in progressive steps increasing the degree of difficulty. Why? Because I am not going to call a Mayday if I cannot find my lunch, or someone took my bunk, or ate my food in the fridge I am going to call it when I am fucked and need help, panic and anxiety will be elevated … train realistically. Why?

    Great article, as usual, by CF Tactics. Wishing safe passage for all my brothers and sisters on shift. Stay low and stay strong.


  2. There are a myriad of features that the orange button can do. As Ric Jorge says the EAB can switch to a predetermined channel, but the bigger question is who does it alert and how does the ID show up on the console. The EAB matters not if it isn’t in a readible format for the dispatcher and IC. You can have it activate a “hot Mic”, you can have it pre empt everyone else, hell you can have it do nothing, but the moral of all of that is find out what it does. If you don’;t know press it and train on what it does. Who knows you might even learn something…
    People aren’t worried about what that button does until a mayday, figure it out before and then as a RIT team you will know where to go to monitor mayday transmissions.

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