Not all of us have high-rise buildings in our first due, yet many of us have mutual-aid agreements with departments that do respond to these types of structures. Responses to incidents in these buildings include labor-intensive operations that quickly take their toll on participants. Calling for help early and often will probably be the name of the game for fires in these types of mixed occupancies. This week’s drill will hopefully give chief officers in the jurisdiction to which the building belongs a good idea of how quickly and how often he’ll need such help.
This drill will help determine command functions all the way down to firefighter functions during a high-rise response. Objectives include:
- Develop and practice procedures for attacking a fire in a high-rise.
- Establish the staffing required to carry out an attack on the top floor, using the stairs for access.
- Develop a time line to stage an attack team and backup team for fire extinguishment.
- Practice procedures for charging the standpipe system using a lower-floor discharge connection.
- Practice procedures for maintaining an air supply for the attack teams.
- Develop the logistics to protect hoseline and personnel from falling glass.
Setup for this drill requires meetings with the management of a local high-rise building and company officers to plan the drill. Materials required include preplans for the building, a local SOP for implementing the ICS, an air cascade for refilling bottles, press releases explaining the purpose of the drill, three watches and clipboards, and a tape recorder or other means of timing and recording communications. In terms of personnel, you will need five training officers, a public affairs officer, and fill-in companies (if necessary).
At your meeting with management representatives, discuss your plans for the drill. In his Volunteer Training Drills–A Year of Weekly Drills, Howard A. Chatterton recommends a drill involving firefighters conducting a simulated search in the hallways of the top floor with the lights turned off. The simulated emergency is a basement fire that extends up an elevator shaft and fills the building with smoke.
A drill of this nature is labor-intensive and requires that EMS support is present at the scene in case of a medical emergency. Assign training officers to monitor and record times for various items in the drill. If possible, place a tape recorder with the training officer at the command post. That officer should announce times at two-minute intervals so the flow of communications can be reviewed.
Running the Drill
Chatterton suggests the following scenario, but you can tailor your own drill for your specific area.
Have companies respond to the building from a staging area and establish command. Advise the IC that a fire in the basement is being controlled by an operating sprinkler system but fire has spread to the top floor via a cableway. People are reported trapped on the top floor, the elevators are out of service, and the fire department connection is unusable. The connection will have to be made inside the building. Breathing apparatus will be required from the middle floor to the top floor. Record the time.
Have a training officer stationed at the midlevel landing. He should instruct the attack team to don SCBA for the rest of the climb. Be practical about how many floors participants should climb during the drill.
The training officer at the top will advise Command when the team reaches the top. Record the time. Record air bottle pressures. The team will then enter the hallway to conduct a search for 15 minutes. The members are not to force doors or damage the building. They are to retreat when their low-pressure alarms sound.
Toward the end of the 15-minute period, the training officer on the top floor will radio a Mayday for the team trapped with low air. The time is recorded, as is the time the rescue team reaches the top floor to initiate a search.
Also, observe how participants establish a connection using a lower-floor discharge connection when faced with an unusable fire department connection for the sprinklers and standpipe.
Record the following:
- How long it takes to get the attach teams in place.
- How much air the attack teams have when they are in place.
- How you set up an air bottle relay to resupply the attack teams.
- How much air is required for the attack teams to operate for 15 minutes on the top floor.
- How you protect the hoselines from falling glass. How you move people in and out of the building.
- How well the ICS works.
- Given a Mayday call from the top floor, who would respond.
Use this data as the basis for your debriefing. Get input from the attack crews and the assist crews, as well as the training officers. Find problems, propose solutions, and rerun the drill in a different building.
If you have a similar drill idea and wish to share it, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To review training officer and safety officer considerations, visit http://fe.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=OnlineArticles&SubSection=HOME&PUBLICATION_ID=25&ARTICLE_ID=202453 to review training officer and safety officer considerations.
For more information on this drill, including a list of references, figures, and a sample SOP, visit http://store.yahoo.com/pennwell/voltraindril.html to purchase Volunteer Training Drills–A Year of Weekly Drills.