Discussions Center on Management At IAFC Conference in Miami Beach
The emphasis was on fire service management at sessions of the 107th conference of the International Association of Fire Chiefs at Miami Beach Sept. 28 to Oct. 1.
Based on his experience during the three days of rioting in the City of Miami last May, Chief Herman Brice passed along some tips that could help other fire chiefs in similar situations. He recommended that the fire chief and police chief stay together in a command post during a riot to attain maximum interchange of information. Brice also urged that the top city administrator also be present so he could understand what is being done and “support you in the aftermath.”
He declared that a chief has to be ever ready to change his decisions and he warned that “even if you are on the right track, you’re going to get run over” because situations change so rapidly.
Brice also saw a need to have fire department representatives at both the police command post and the police communications center. He pointed out that most reports on changing conditions go to the police in the form of complaints. During the Miami rioting, police first went to the scene of a report and if fire apparatus was needed, the cops gave a secure response route before the apparatus was dispatched.
Police problem solved
A problem arose early in the riot when police left fire fighters without protection at a fire when they heard a report of other policemen in trouble. This problem was resolved within the first 24 hours by an order for cops to report to the fire chief before leaving the scene so both fire fighters and police could leave together.
Brice praised the National Guard units sent to Miami for doing “a great job” in providing security for fire units and keeping people out of the city. However, “don’t expect them at once,” he commented, because it takes time to mobilize the National Guard units.
The rioting stemmed from an incident in which a car was stopped and one passenger was killed shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday, May 17. By 10 p.m., task forces of two pumpers, one ladder truck and a task force commander were organized. Two policemen rode each apparatus. The task forces went inside buildings only for minor Fires and fought major fires from the. outside. The department did not respond to motor vehicle and rubbish fires during the turmoil.
On Saturday night, there were seven major fires, Brice reported, and outside aid was summoned. By Sunday noon, 11 major fires resulted in the commitment of all of Miami’s task forces. Before that day ended, there were 59 major building Fires. Mutual aid was supplied by Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Dade County Fire Departments. The three days of rioting in Miami alone caused losses estimated at $31 million and the burning of 68 buildings.
New grading schedule
During a discussion of the new Insurance Services Office (ISO) grading schedule, James A. Poison, manager of the ISO engineering division, stressed the new fire protection philosophy that the schedule propounds. He recalled that the long defunct National Board of Fire Underwriters sought through its “Grading Schedule for Municipal Fire Protection” to influence community leaders to improve their fire protection facilities. The schedule which went into effect this year was not only greatly changed but also was retitled “Fire Suppression Rating Schedule.” The new title reflects a change in philosophy regarding the purpose of the rating schedule.
“We are not government leaders, nor do we want to pretend to know what is best for your communities,” Poison declared.
— Staff photos
He described the new schedule as a “macroscopic schedule” that looks only at those items that have a significant effect on fire losses. The new schedule gives the fire department a relative weight of 50 percent; water supply, 40 percent; and fire alarm, 10 percent. Items such as building and electrical codes and enforcement were removed from the new schedule, Poison said, because everyone has adopted one of the national codes and is therefore doing the same thing.
In discussing the removal of fire prevention from the schedule, Poison commented, “It was a conscious decision, fully realizing many people wouldn’t like what we did.” He added, “1 personally and ISO corporately approve of fire prevention.”
Poison further observed, “If a fire prevention program was instituted only because of the grading schedule, then it was founded for the wrong reason. If individual property owners benefited from a fire prevention program, then it was sold for the right reasons.”
He described the new schedule as a performance schedule that, for example, measures the volume of water attainable for fire protection—not the sizes of the mains. He pointed out that under the new schedule, it doesn’t matter how the water gets to the fireground.
While 3500 gpm is the maximum fire How required by the schedule for communities, a second section of the schedule that is applied to specificallyrated major risk properties can call for a fire flow of up to 12,000 gpm.
Poison described the commercial property fire rating schedule as a “quite detailed review” of construction, effects of basic occupancy, sprinkler systems, and special hazards (hazardous liquids, storage, heating, etc.).
In recognition of the opposition to the new schedule by some people, Poison urged, “Give us a chance and let it work.”
U.S. Fire Administration
Reporting on the progress of the United States Fire Administration, Administrator Gordon Vickery cited Operation Dixieland, a massive fire prevention effort throughout Arkansas, and consideration of the role of women in the fire service as two projects that offer hope of major progress. Describing Operation Dixieland as “a most exciting program,” Vickery said that a commitment by the governor of Arkansas to spend $100,000 on fire prevention is the key to the three-year program that will be conducted by the state with the assistance of all pertinent resources of the USFA. If the program works, “and I’m sure it will,” Vickery declared, the same all-out effort will be tried in another southeastern state.
As for integrating more women into the fire service, the USFA administrator asserted, “We think we have come up with some interesting ways of handling the problem.” He added that he hoped to produce a “blueprint of where we should be going for you and for women in the fire service.”
Hazmat course rewritten
Acknowledging criticism of the National Fire Academy, Vickery commented, “You don’t start an academy and build the system from scratch without making some mistakes.”
He conceded that the first hazardous materials course was “a bummer,” but he declared that the rewritten course is “most sophisticated.” Although the academy’s outreach program has not been able to help the fire service as much as it should, he said, in the coming year it will be presented in all 50 states. It has problems, he admitted, “but it’s going to work.”
Vickery reported that 2500 students were graduated from the academy in the first nine months of its operation and contracts are being awarded for $3 million in renovation work at the campus. One of the projects is the construction of “one of the finest fire simulators” in the nation.
Vickery also reported progress by the national fire incidence reporting system (NFIRS), which now includes 41 states with the 42nd expected to participate in the system soon. He said that NFIRS now has “a pretty solid handle” on fire deaths, and fire injuries are now being reported along with fires and EMS activities. He conceded that “we really don’t know how many” fire fighters are injured each year and indicated that the reporting of injuries to NFIRS will correct this.
Miami EMS system
As the Miami Fire Department’s rescue division faced an increasing demand for services while budgets got tighter, the answer was to involve engine companies in the lesser medical problems, said Chief of Rescue Larry Kilburn. For example, dispatchers screen EMS calls and may send an engine company for labor pains and auto accidents, but will dispatch one of the six rescue units to childbirth cases and motorcycle accidents. Kilburn defined EMS in Miami as consisting of these components: engine companies, fire rescue division, hospitals, communications department, and private ambulance services for noncritical cases.
Kilburn said that the next move is to get aerial companies involved in rescue work. Plans call for three of the five men in ladder companies to respond to rescue calls in a small van while the officer and driver of the aerial remain in quarters. Kilburn pointed out that for the last three years, all Miami Fire Department recruits have been trained adequately to obtain state certification as EMTs.
Another project in the wings, Kilburn disclosed, is TV transmission so that the physician in the hospital can see a wound—and possibly details not noted at the scene—and the general appearance of the patient.
“The big thing we are going to do in the future,” Kilburn declared, “is to keep EMS in the fire service . . . Who’s going to give patients the best care? Patient care is the bottom line.”
The work of nine Miami Fire Department paramedics as members of police special weapons attack teams (SWAT) was described by Fire Rescue Battalion Captain Mike Essey, the SWAT medic commander. The nine members of the SWAT medic group, who also are special police officers, are trained with every weapon and in every tactic the SWAT cops use, and the paramedics must requalify with every weapon every six months, as do the police. Essey explained that the SWAT paramedics work regular fire rescue division shifts and work with the police on request.
A SWAT paramedic, Pat Roach, explained that while they carry a .38 revolver, “we, as SWAT medics, are strictly defensive” and participate in SWAT actions to take care of any policemen who may be injured.
“If the bad guy gets hurt, that’s too bad until the mission’s over,” he added.
In addition to weapons training, SWAT medics also must learn to rappel from helicopters and swim underwater while carrying equipment. For water work, they wear buoyancy compensators for their equipment.
Fire rescue physicians
An unusual feature of the Miami Beach Fire Department emergency medical system, said Chief of Rescue Alvin P. Ridgway, is the employment of nine physicians who work regular fire fighter shift hours. They are contractural employees of the city at $38,150 a year.
The physicians were hired as a result of a 7-1 decision by the city’s voters in 1971. Miami Beach engine companies provide basic life support and rescue units provide advance life support under the supervision of the physicians.
“We find the physicians very helpful and very useful in the EMS system,” Ridgway commented.
He urged EMS managers to obtain community involvement in developing operations protocol. Ridgway conceded that physicians, hospital officials and others involved in an EMS system won’t agree 100 percent, but efforts should be made to seek a consensus that can be molded into a quality protocol document everyone can live with.
Coming down the road are larger pumpers with more horsepower, according to a panel of representatives of apparatus manufacturers that fielded questions during a conference session. The consensus was that most of these pumpers will have two-stage pumps and they will be more likely to be painted red than lime-yellow.
In addition to more horsepower, David Miller of Mack Trucks saw a trend to larger booster tanks making the 1000-gallon tank popular. Ronald L. Ewers, president of Emergency One looked to an increase in custom apparatus as well as more horsepower.
Seagrave’s sales manager, Harvey R. Roth, said that the trend toward single-stage pumps a few years ago has slowed to the point where 75 percent of his firm’s apparatus now have two-stage pumps. He added that 1500-gpm and larger pumps “are mostly two-stage.” Ewers reported a 2-1 preference for two-stage pumps and commented that either preference appeared to be regional.
Front suction friction
In response to a question about the waterways for front suction connections, the panel members agreed that friction loss is increased by the bends necessary to fit the pipe into the available space and by the need to use a smaller pipe because of space limitations.
All panel members reported a drop in the number of lime-yellow apparatus produced, and D. D. Bilyeu of Grumman Emergency Products (Howe/Oren Fire Trucks) reported a “strong tendency back toward basic red.” He commented that the problem with other colors is keeping them looking clean. Miller said that in addition to a move back to red, there is a trend toward red bodies with white cab tops. Roth stated that Seagrave was experiencing the same color trend. James Johnson of Pierce Manufacturing reported lime-yellow was used on only 20 percent of his firm’s production.
The perennial plea for a standard pumper also surfaced at this session, and while Roth said he didn’t see a “standard truck” in the future, Miller commented that “all manufacturers have a standard truck,” referring to the basic concept from which custom apparatus is developed. On the other hand, Bilyeu stated that his company has an aggressive stock truck program and he has found that with the use of options, 55 percent of the commercial trucks his firm builds fit the stock truck mold.
A disaster management workshop designed to familiarize chief officers with developing plans for widespread emergencies was conducted by Chief Paul H. Boecker of the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District, Lisle, Ill.; Commissioner James W. Kerr of Fairfax County, Va.; and Michael Hildebrand, safety and fire protection associate, American Petroleum Institute, Washington, D.C.
Commenting on a survey made on disaster preparedness, Hildebrand said that communications appeared to be a problem. In many cases, he explained, the fire chief does not get along with the civil defense director and 51 percent of the chiefs responding see the CD director as a coordinator. He also noted that 25 percent of the fire chiefs also are CD directors in their municipalities.
Hildebrand urged fire chiefs to gain participation in disaster and evacuation plans developed for their communities by other agencies so that they can cooperate effectively. He reported that 83 percent of the fire departments surveyed have an evacuation plan for neighborhoods, but 60 percent of the departments lack a mass evacuation plan. In those municipalities that experienced a disaster, 78 percent revised their disaster plans.
A film on disaster scene management shown at the workshop stressed the importance of providing for six necessities: adequate response and equipment, establishment of a command post, establishment of good communications, employment of the medical triage concept, coordination of transportation and coordination of hospital care.
At the annual election, Chief Jack Lee of Charlotte, N.C., became president of the IAFC, succeeding Chief R. S. Rockenbach of Grayslake, Ill. Chief E. Stanley Hawkins of Tulsa moved up to first vice president, and Chief Charles Kamprad of St. Louis was elected second vice president. Chief William T. Stewart of Fargo, N.D., was reelected treasurer.