BY RON KANTERMAN
In late 2002, New Jersey’s new state fire marshal called on industry to get into the homeland security boat. From his past experiences working in and around New Jersey in various capacities, he knew that he had an untapped resource in the industrial fire protection community.
(1) A high-volume pumping system supplies the 12-inch hose that feeds a five-inch manifold. (Photos courtesy of the Office of the New Jersey State Fire Marshal.)
He called a meeting of every industrial fire chief he knew, asking us to “bring anyone else not on the list.” (We’ve all done that before!) The call was something like “Hi, Ron, it’s Larry. I’m getting the industrial chiefs together from throughout the state. We need to partner up government and industry, and you need to be there.” I thought it was about time. We knew we were out there; years ago, there was an industrial chief’s association attached to the New Jersey State Safety Council, which the current fire marshal had run for a few years, but no one tackled the task of doing CPR on the old organization. That was until we got a new, ambitious, and progressive state fire marshal who “knows the drill.” Of course I said yes, and we were off to the races.
THE FIRST MEETING
The first meeting brought representatives from 19 companies throughout the state, representing petrochemical, pharmaceutical, specialty chemical, refinery, and nuclear power generation industries, and members of the state fire marshal’s office. This was the beginning of MAC-SICS (Mutual-Aid Cooperative-State Industrial ChiefS). As most of you who are active in fire service organizations know, startup can be grueling work. We quickly concluded the following:
• Now is the time to join forces and partner with our municipal counterparts in a grand single effort to protect New Jersey;
• The state’s role would be to gather and incorporate resources to prevent and respond to natural and man-made emergencies, and MAC-SICS would be one of those resources; and
• The MAC-SICS companies have one common goal: “to protect the company, the community, and the environment.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
It’s common throughout New Jersey for each of the 21 county mutual-aid coordinators to be the MAC in their county. They usually have a staff of coordinators and very often number them MAC-1 to MAC-whatever. Looking at our group and doodling on a napkin or three, I offered MAC-SICS (Mutual Aid Cooperative-State Industrial ChiefS), which was voted on and approved.
The mission of MAC-SICS is as follows:
• To represent the fire and emergency services of the industrial community within the state of New Jersey;
• To develop a statewide formal mutual-aid agreement and protocol for response to industrial accidents and emergencies;
• To develop a network of core members who will act as a steering committee for the state’s industrial emergency services and as a liaison to the state government and local municipalities;
• To develop an integrated plan of interoperability with our municipal emergency services partners including resources, communications, strategy, tactics, and so forth; and
• To assist the Office of the State Fire Marshal/Director of the Division of Fire Safety in developing a statewide industrial mutual-aid plan (NJIMAP).
THE INCIPIENT AND GROWTH STAGES
(2) One of six quick-attack pickup trucks with two foam nozzles mounted on top. On the trailer in front of the truck is the high-volume foam delivery system.
And so it started. We reached out to other state industrial and municipal mutual-aid groups so as not to reinvent the wheel in creating our mutual-aid agreement. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office got involved with the agreement, since it would state that, if the governor declared a state of emergency and requested our services, there would be financial and insurance considerations. These documents also needed to go to each corporation’s legal department for review.
Since our first meeting, we have participated at each other’s plant training drills, recruited more industries, and set up a regular meeting schedule. We were also asked to consult on a state initiative. Under a post-9/11 program designed to enhance homeland security, UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative), the federal government has identified certain urban areas in the country for which it has offered financial assistance for this purpose.
(3) The high-volume foam delivery system is throwing 8,000 gpm of foam 500 feet.
New Jersey’s state fire marshal secured a grant under UASI to purchase a first-of-its-kind foam and pumping system. An aerial survey of the northern New Jersey shoreline opposite New York City shows numerous industrial facilities. With the municipal fire services woefully underprepared to fight these types of fires, the state obtained a large cache of high-caliber, high-volume foam firefighting equipment, which was specified, purchased, and put in service within 18 months. The foam firefighting arsenal has grown exponentially (photos 1-3).
MAC-SICS has a variety of specialized equipment for the industrial setting. Through our newly organized relationship with the state, everyone now knows what we have and what’s available. Our equipment, staffing, and related resources are also now included in the new statewide County Fire Coordinator’s Resource database. Each of New Jersey’s 21 counties has a fire coordinator who is linked to the state fire marshal’s office. These coordinators share information electronically and can update inventories daily.
The MAC-SICS group offers the following:
• 20 foam pumpers,
• 30,000 gallons of foam concentrate,
• 18 haz-mat teams,
• 10 technical rescue teams, and
• numerous subject-matter experts.
Another national private group worth noting is BENS (Business Executives for National Security), a conglomeration of CEOs who have partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to offer assistance in emergencies. The DHS organizational chart includes a position for a private industry liaison who works directly with BENS. A local chapter, the New Jersey Business Force (NJBF), consists of local representatives of the companies we work for, such as plant managers. They got in the boat along with us even though we were in first, as usual!
We continue to meet, drill, and partner with the municipal services. At this year’s Fire Service Homeland Security Symposium, sponsored by the fire marshal’s office, and at last year’s inaugural symposium, we offered our municipal counterparts this information and urged them to make the call if needed. We also reminded everyone of a quote from a CEO of a refining company that suffered a massive explosion and large loss of life: “It’s too late to start planning when the explosion takes place. You’ve got to have a practiced plan ready to go.”
In September of this year, the MAC-SICS companies, the New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s staff, and members of the New Jersey Business Force met to sign the mutual-aid agreement, which had been finalized and reviewed by the state attorney general’s office, and the legal departments of the involved industries. The ceremony occurred on the aft deck of the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, permanently moored at the Camden waterfront. It was a moment for which we had waited for almost three years, the culmination of a lot of hard work and diligence on the part of all parties.
Following the ceremony, those assembled received a tour of the battleship, which had served the country in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars. Chief Pat Robinson of the Valero Refining Company, who spoke at the signing, compared the ship on which we were standing with the battle the fire service does every day. The U.S.S. New Jersey, Robinson said, “stood in defiance during wartime to support our great nation. We stand here today in support of an alliance to help better prepare our state during times of crisis. Bullets and shells are replaced with foam caches, specialized high-flow monitors, and other unique equipment that make up our arsenal. Our enemy is fire and havoc no matter what the root cause. ”
• • •
We are practicing. We are planning. We hope and pray we never need to mobilize. But if we do, we believe we can make a difference. We urge all industries to work together and strongly suggest that industry and government get together as well, way before the alarm is transmitted. ■