National Wildfire Coordinating Group

NWCG Aviation Mishap Response Guide and Checklist, PMS 503


It is critical to respond quickly and effectively to aviation mishaps. A posted and accessible written mishap response action plan is an important first step. A checklist of actions will ensure that nothing is missed in a stressful, time-critical period. All crew members must know where to find the plan and must understand how to use it in an emergency.

  • Immediate, positive action is necessary. Any delay may affect someone’s chances of survival.
  • Conduct rescue operations with the following priorities in mind:
    • Preserve life. Ensure the safety of all rescuers as you respond to assist any victims.
    • Do whatever is necessary to extricate injured occupants and to extinguish fires, keeping in mind the necessity of protecting and preserving evidence.
    • Document and/or photograph the location of any debris that must be disturbed in order to carry out rescues and/or fire suppression activities.
    • Secure the area. Treat the crash site as a crime scene. Arrange for security at the accident scene if necessary. Determine if hazardous materials were on the aircraft. Deny access except to credentialed officials and escorted media.
  • Be aware that crash sites can be dangerous due to hazardous cargo, flammable and toxic fluids, sharp objects, disease, adverse terrain, hot/cold weather conditions, and fire.
  • Exercise good judgment, utilize available protective devices and clothing, and use extreme caution when working near the wreckage site.
  • Do not exceed your physical limitations.


Review your unit’s mishap response plan with the crew. Consider practicing with a crash rescue drill or scenario.


Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
May 2021

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