REORGANIZING TO MEET CONTINUAL THREATS

BY ARMANDO BEVELACQUA, ROBERT J. INGRAM, AND TONY MUSSORFITI

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Traditional haz-mat response, as it existed prior to September 11, 2001, no longer meets the mission objectives of today’s world and must be rebuilt. The original mission centered around the industrial chemical world in manufacturing, storage, use, or transportation. We have had spectacular accidents that released large quantities of product and caused injuries and deaths, but these are not the norm. The majority of these incidents involve small quantities of products, low numbers of actual rescue work, injuries, and contamination. Our new mission includes chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) materials, intentional releases of a criminal nature, and the potential for large numbers of victims and contamination.

Traditional haz-mat response focuses on assembling a haz-mat group at the incident scene to accomplish the following objectives: assessment of life hazard and rescue, product identification and container damage, product mitigation, and scene recovery. This group consisted of a minimum number of personnel (approximately six to eight) to perform entry, backup, decontamination, resource, and command functions. Many departments used company personnel trained in dual assignment roles to assemble this group, i.e., an engine company trained to the technician role, a second engine company to perform decontamination, and so on. Only a few response organizations have the benefit of personnel and budgetary resources to staff a dedicated team.


(1) Captain Meehan and Firefighter Rewkowski, Rescue Co. 4, carefully work to seal leaking valve on propane tank truck. Averting a possible catastrophic explosion, fire department members finally sealed the valve with a rubber plug. Box 22-1732 was transmitted for this unusual incident, which took place on August 8, 1980, on the Manhattan off-ramp side of the George Washington Bridge. (Photo used with permission of WNYF magazine.)
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Through the 1970s, 1980s, and into the early 1990s, haz-mat response experienced little change. Since the 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing and the 1995 Tokyo and Oklahoma City events, haz-mat response has matured into a tiered, stratified system of deployment. These changes initially received little fanfare and no federal funding in larger, busier departments. Since the events of 2001, these types of changes have spread to medium and smaller departments and drove the formation of regional teams. Federal funding for research and development, new equipment, new technology, and training also supported these changes.

Change has not been easy. It has required training to recognize the new threats we face and realistic assessments of our existing capabilities. We have had to purchase new equipment sometimes without scientific data and testing to support manufacturers’ claims, and too often without critical intelligence data on threats that could be used to prioritize our purchasing. We have had to deal with federal timeframes on spending that often are too short to conduct adequate research and testing on new technology, as well as a lack of written standards new and existing equipment could be tested against for efficiency.

Haz-mat training for response, as required by OSHA 1910.120[q], has followed NFPA 472, Standard for Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents. First published in 1987, NFPA 472 has been revised three times and has been expanded into other tactical haz-mat areas. NFPA 472 is now going through a major revision to better meet the needs of all response disciplines, including fire, law enforcement, medical, and so on. These proposed changes will be released for public comment in late 2005. Additionally, several other standards-developing organizations believe that NFPA 472 is a fire-service-only standard and have initiated efforts to develop training and competency guidance for all response disciplines. If not coordinated, this may lead to a tremendous amount of confusion in the first responder community and should be addressed by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology directorate.

This article presents two fire department case studies covering how each reconstructed itself from a single response unit to a multitiered response system.

FDNY DEPARTMENT PROFILE

The FDNY protects the five boroughs of New York City and responds to an average of 1,200 fire and emergency calls and 3,200 EMS calls every day. The department’s personnel include approximately 11,000 firefighters and fire officers and 3,500 EMTs, medics, and medical command officers. Since the start of the haz-mat group in 1984, Haz-Mat Company 1 (Haz Mat 1) has averaged 800 responses per year. These incidents do not include minor fuel spills from motor vehicle accidents or natural gas leaks in private residences, which number in the thousands and are handled by fire companies. All members of the FDNY have been trained to the NPFA 472 Operations level of haz-mat response since 1992.

On August 8, 1980, the members of Rescue Co. 4, stationed in Queens, with the assistance of engine companies from Battalion 13, sealed a leaking valve on a propane transport truck that was crossing the George Washington Bridge. The uncommon nature of this incident was the impetus to formalize the FDNY response capability to emergencies involving the accidental release of hazardous materials. With the increased use of chemicals in society, it became necessary to have a unit to respond to accidental releases of hazardous materials. Haz Mat 1 was formed on September 22, 1984 with one captain, three lieutenants, and 35 firefighters. A second staffing pool of 25 firefighters and officers was also trained to cover vacations and other leaves.

FDNY’s haz-mat response capability stayed at this level until the mid 1990s when the department conducted a new mission assessment. Key factors driving this assessment included three significant events: the 1993 WTC bombing, the 1995 release of sarin in the Tokyo subway system, and the Oklahoma City bombing. In addition, with 800 responses per year, numerous incidents occurred simultaneously. With only one technician-level response company, incidents had to be prioritized and some incident commanders (ICs) were required to wait for technical advice and resources. The department required the capacity to respond to multiple incidents daily, most accidental in nature, but others that may involve intentional releases of CBRNE materials with the potential for large numbers of patients requiring rescue, medical treatment, decontamination, and mitigation.

A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH

Department planners from the commissioner’s office, the chief of department’s office, and special operations decided on a systematic approach that would be phased in over several years. This would allow for budgeting requirements, personnel selection, equipment purchase and delivery, training instructors, and space. Authorities decided to increase productivity by training existing companies in new assignments that would complement their existing missions. In 1996, three companies were selected based on geographic locations and assigned haz-mat personnel: Rescue 5 in Staten Island, Squad 1 in Brooklyn, and Squad 41 in the Bronx. With Haz-Mat 1 in Queens, this provided improved response times for technician-level resources to incidents throughout the five boroughs in support of ICs’ objectives. The department provided company personnel with 80 hours of initial training and assigned a second apparatus equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), detection, and mitigation equipment found on most technician teams. The first phase addressed the need to respond to simultaneous accidental events daily. It was not sufficient for responding to the threat of intentional attacks.

When funding became available in 1997, the department undertook three initiatives to meet new mission objectives. To support the mitigation, recovery, and decontamination mission, the department identified seven engine companies strategically located around the city and designated them as squads. The personnel to be assigned to these companies were selected and trained as haz-mat technicians using existing technician courses from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Each company was assigned a second apparatus equipped with selected haz-mat equipment for PPE, detection, and mitigation. Additionally, each unit had a portable decontamination tent and water heater for quick technical decontamination of patients, both ambulatory and non-ambulatory, prior to transport. The fire department already had a mobile decontamination unit in lower Manhattan, which improved the department’s decontamination capability.

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The new mission requirement for rescuing large numbers of patients in hazardous environments would require a non-traditional approach in the world of haz-mat training. The practicality and expense of training hundreds more firefighters to the technician level for the purpose of rescue in a contaminated zone could not be rationalized or funded. The Chemical Protective Company (CPC) was born to meet this need. The FDNY CPC training program was developed by FDNY haz-mat specialist instructors and funded with federal grants provided by the Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP). Firefighters from the FDNY Special Operations Command’s four additional heavy rescue companies and those assigned to eight ladder companies strategically located in Manhattan and Staten Island were selected and trained to this new level. Rescue and ladder company missions have always included search, entry, and rescue of individuals in dangerous locations. To continue these missions in chemically contaminated environments, they would need training in chemical protective clothing. These companies are assigned several different ensembles of chemical protective clothing and carry them on their apparatus daily. This provides a resource to ICs in support of all haz-mat incidents.

FDNY CPC companies operate with two caveats: first, they must operate under the supervision of a technician company that can detect and identify the material that is released to determine the correct level and type of PPE, and second, if they are on the first-alarm assignment (first- or second-due ladder company) for an incident involving the release of a chemical, they will not stop to don chemical protective clothing. They will save more lives wearing structural firefighting protective clothing (SFPC) and SCBA and working to control the immediate scene and ambulatory patients in the area than working to don chemical protective clothing to enter the contaminated zone to remove maybe two to three non-ambulatory patients. This is a critical point for first-due companies.

The third initiative addressed FDNY’s need to triage and treat potentially contaminated patients. Emergency Medical Service command members (EMTs, paramedics) were trained to the haz-mat technician level with an emphasis on the medical management of contaminated victims within the hot zone and medical support of haz-mat personnel. This allows FDNY personnel to complete immediate life-stabilizing intervention prior to decontamination when warranted. This initiative was started in 1997 and by the spring of 1998, 20 ambulance units were deployed 24/7 under the supervision of the medical command’s special operations division.

Each additional response capability has impacted the fire department fiscally and managerially. The FDNY established the Hazardous Material Operations (Haz-Mat Ops) Office to manage these resources and develop inventive ways to enhance capabilities. At large-scale incidents, the chief in charge of haz-mat operations would respond to manage the haz-mat branch resources and act as a technical advisor to the IC. Since Haz-Mat Operations was not a 24-hour operation, the department decided to augment the responding chief for simultaneous incidents or incidents that occurred off hours. The chiefs in both Special Operations Command and the Safety Battalion would be trained in hazardous materials. These chief officers were all trained to the haz-mat technician level, so they would have a better understanding of haz-mat/weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents and the tasks of fire department members operating within the hot zone.

A TIERED APPROACH

On September 10, 2001, FDNY believed it had a robust haz-mat response capability. The magnitude of the September 11, 2001 attacks called for an immediate reassessment. FDNY needed to rebuild, but it also needed to increase the response capabilities and capacities within the city. While rescue operations at the WTC continued, the fire department maintained daily response to all fires, emergencies, and medical calls. It faced the anthrax attacks in October and powder calls (averaging 250 per day at the height), the American Airlines plane crash in November, and a series of significant special events (United Nations General Session, World Series, NYC Marathon, Thanksgiving Parade, Tree Lighting in Rockefeller Center, and New Years’ Eve) that would require dedicated fire department resources.

The expanding haz-mat group required additional supervision to stay within a reasonable span of control. Haz-Mat Operations became the administrative control function, managing staffing, budgets, R&D, purchasing, distribution, and training. The need for additional chief officers to supervise the expanded Haz-Mat Group’s field operations led to establishing the Hazardous Material Battalion (Haz-Mat Battalion). The Haz-Mat Battalion is a 24-hour operation. The chiefs assigned to it are trained to the haz-mat technician II level. In addition to their command responsibilities, haz-mat battalion chiefs coordinate special events operations and interagency exercises.

The large number of potential patients in contaminated zones and the need to identify those zones indicated the need for more resources. In 2003, the department created special operations support ladder companies (SSLs). Twenty-five ladder companies are trained to perform technical rescue tasks to support the heavy rescue and squad companies in high-angle, collapse, and trench-type incidents. Their haz-mat mission includes rescue, monitoring, identification, mitigation support, and decontamination. Their training covers chemical protective clothing, use of basic detection instruments (multigas, radiological survey, photoionization detector (PID), and chemical warfare), initial mitigation techniques, and decontamination. Each company is assigned a second apparatus, identified as a rapid response vehicle (RRV). These units carry special operations equipment for technical rescue and hazardous materials response. They are also also equipped with SCBA and communications equipment and can be activated (as they were during the 2004 blackout) as independent two-person emergency response teams.


(2) CPC teams practice removing non-ambulatory patients prior to the Republican National Convention held in New York City in 2004. They are transported to a mass gross decontamination task force for quick decontamination from a “chemical agent.” Once through this area, they will be monitored by SSL personnel with instruments for additional technical decon needs as well as triaged by Haz-Tac medical technicians for life-threatening intervention needs. (Photo courtesy of FDNY Haz Mat Operations.)
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During August 2004, the Republican National Convention (RNC) was held at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Such a high-profile event brought with it special emergency response requirements. The RNC was not only a potential target for an international terrorist group but also brought many domestic political activist groups from throughout the city. The fire department needed mobile teams that could decontaminate multiple victims anywhere in the city at any given time. So it created Decontamination Task Force Teams (Decon Task Force). These teams perform mass gross decon with one battalion chief for supervision plus two engine companies and one tower ladder for large water showers. Haz-Tac ambulance teams were added for medical triage, treatment, and transport support.

The department’s assessment highlighted the new task of technical decontamination for large numbers of potential patients as a priority. In 2004, 25 engine companies (most stationed in the same quarters with the SSL companies) were trained to perform this duty. Their training stressed performing emergency and technical decontamination on ambulatory and non-ambulatory contaminated victims while wearing all levels of chemical protective clothing, and respiratory protection. The company’s haz-mat equipment is carried in the SSL-RRV and includes PPE and decontamination resources. Each company is assigned a portable decontamination tent for quick deployment to provide technical cleaning while providing for modesty concerns. FDNY established 25 additional task forces to perform technical decontamination. These consist of one battalion chief for supervision, one decontamination engine company (decon engine) to perform decon tasks, and one SSL to use monitoring devices to prioritize the patients initially and screen them after the emergency decon to determine effectiveness.

The department’s training plan calls for 13 new Haz-Tac ambulance units to be trained by the end of the 2005 calendar year. This will bring the total commitment in this assignment to 35 teams. They are supervised by two conditions officers with the same training and experience in mass casualty incidents (MCIs) and are staffed 24/7. Administratively, they operate under the Haz-Tac battalion in the Haz-Mat Group. Additionally, 19 ladder companies have been trained for the CPC mission with eight equipped and ready to go in service. The balance is expected to be online by the end of 2005, bringing the total number of CPC companies in service to 29.

FDNY HAMMER Teams were also created. These 12 teams operated jointly with NYPD officers initially (until December 31, 2001) and three daily since January 1, 2002. The HAMMER Team mission is to provide a rapid response to “powder” and haz-mat incidents to assess the credibility and potential of the incident. HAMMER teams have the ability to perform field sampling and analysis to identify or eliminate the type of hazards identified (chemical, biological or radiological) if it is determined to be within their training, equipment, and knowledge. They operate under the supervision of Haz-Mat Operations or Haz Mat 1, and each two-person team is staffed with an officer and firefighter, both haz-mat technicians.

FUTURE INITIATIVES

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The FDNY plan calls for purchasing three additional mobile decon shower units (DSU) to complement the three in service. The addition of these units and their carefully selected locations will provide FDNY and the City of New York with haz-mat technician II, technician I, medical technician, decontamination, rescue-CPC, and mobile shower resources in every borough. This will allow each borough commander to operate independently with appropriate resources and equipment should the boroughs become isolated from one another because of transportation hub issues.

ORLANDO FIRE DEPARTMENT PROFILE

The growth of the Orlando area in central Florida as a vacation and year-round destination, the manufacturing and commercial industry required to support that growth, and the theme parks have created many challenges for the City of Orlando (FL) Fire Department (OFD), including haz-mat incidents. In 1982, the OFD responded to this mission with the designation of Engine 101 and HazMat 1 as a tandem unit response to chemical emergencies. It was quickly apparent that the human resource demands at such incidents required support personnel. Tower 1 and Rescue 1 were added to the response for haz-mat alarms.

The OFD has 450 members deployed in three platoons responding to more than 50,000 calls annually. They respond out of 14 stations covering more than 100 square miles; the department is rated as an ISO Class 2 Fire Department. All members have been trained to the haz-mat operations level since 1997, with a department-wide re-currency-training event in 2001 to meet NFPA 472 operations level and the CBRNE competencies supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). The department comprises 15 engine companies, five tower trucks, eight medical rescues, two special operations units, a haz-mat unit, and a technical rescue unit. The OFD is unusual in that it also manages an explosive ordnance unit, which works very closely with the haz-mat team. The department considered the haz-mat, technical rescue, and explosive ordnance teams in the analysis of its capabilities when responding to accidental and intentional releases of hazardous materials.

The special operations section is divided into two branches: tactical operations (haz mat and technical rescue) and homeland security as the administrative section that influences the tactical response to technical rescue, hazardous materials, and explosive ordnance.


(3) Two towers were identified as haz-mat response towers. These individuals receive a minimum of 160 hours of haz-mat technician training. Their mission is to mitigate and analyze the scene under the direction of the haz-mat officer. Each tower provides an entry and backup team with support from engine companies. Four complete rotations can be provided. Here are two members attending the spill leak control class. (Photo by Bob Coschignano.)
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The haz-mat team is responsible for training and equipping the haz-mat team and first-response apparatus. The haz-mat team trains fire suppression units for the first response approach to hazardous materials and homeland security issues. The technical rescue team is responsible for effecting rescues in hazardous situations such as communication towers, high-rise buildings, structural collapses, and water and sub-ground level operations.

Working closely with Emergency Management on issues such as regional response plans and federal partnerships, Homeland Security is the planning component of this section, coordinating the external activities as they influence the tactical operations of the fire department.

A SYSTEMATIC ANALYSIS

The year 2001 created issues for every fire department in the United States. The American fire service found itself struggling with the increased call load and additional challenges. In the wake of September 11, 2001 and the anthrax calls that followed, the fire service changed. Existing deployment strategies had to be analyzed.

Several issues surfaced that created an environment for non-traditional deployment. Starting on September 12, 2001, and continuing into 2002, the OFD found that an analysis of internal resources had to be matched to the external resources available. Internally, a special operational response was a first-alarm assignment out of the downtown station. At the time of the increased call load, the OFD incorporated two components into field operations. The first was deploying six “light” haz-mat response teams, which could handle the increased biological alarms, while at the same time managing the accidental haz-mat release, EMS, fire alarms, and technical rescues. Simultaneously, the department was in the later stages of operational training and field deployment of a type 2 USAR team.

OFD staff was concerned that these new activities would impact daily response capabilities and capacities as well as the department’s ability to stay within financial constraints. It employed a systematic approach to analyzing deployment practices and its internal resources. The first set of questions dealt with the level of deployment:

1What is realistic with current staffing considerations?

2How can we use existing training modes for training field personnel?

3Can this be done in a cost-effective way while using existing equipment?

The challenge was to look at historical alarms within the city and surrounding areas, analyze potential threats within the community, and compare this analysis with pre- and post-9/11 activity. A risk assessment of vital infrastructure was considered. At the same time, these locations were compared relative to current alarm loads; potential exposure risks; and the degree of risk based on occupancy, location, relation to infrastructure, and the hazard suspected.

The operational idea was that given a quantity of material (hazardous substance) or the degree of activity witnessed in September through December 2001, the department’s capabilities and capacities could be maintained. But depending on the time of day and how significant the event was, what degree of service could be maintained, to what level, and for how long? Considering the potential populations that could be affected and the probability of occurrence within the central Florida region because of the theme parks and the Space Coast, the department devised a new deployment strategy.

A TIERED APPROACH

Three objectives were incorporated into the operational plan. Each unit had to have the ability to work together as a specific attack group while maintaining a degree of autonomy within their respective disciplines. These areas of involvement are categorized according to the discipline used. Haz mat integrates chemical, biological, and radiological emergencies, inclusive of hazard identification, scene mitigation, and command of the haz-mat group. When explosive ordnance is a possibility, the bomb squad is called in and may assist the haz-mat team or command and control is transferred to the squad commander of bomb squad and haz mat becomes a supportive component. In a confined-space operation or any operation that requires air monitoring and specialized decontamination, haz mat supports the technical rescue team (TRT). TRT is responsible for rope rescue, confined-space operations, trench/structural collapse, and dive rescue. Because of human and physical resource limitations, the following identifies the overall operational plan.

INTERNAL RESOURCES

Hazardous Materials, Decontamination Engines: The OFD identified decontamination as a first-response skill that enables the responder to have control at the scene of a WMD or haz-mat event. Although the idea of mass decontamination has been discussed and trained for since the early 1990s, after a detailed analysis of potential issues, it became apparent that if all engines had the capability to decontaminate at the scene of a hazardous materials event, they would have all the tools to move decontamination solutions at a WMD event. This enables the fire department to dispatch the closest company for any decontamination issue.


(4) Many experiments occurred using engines and tower companies during 1996 and 1997 to look for a large enough decontamination area while at the same time using limited personnel and apparatus. After looking at several configurations, OFD decided on decontamination engines. The department found that in a minimal to moderate wind, a stand-off distance between the engines of 28 to 32 feet using two 2½-inch fog discharges on the off side created the optimum decontamination “shower” for mass decon. Here you can see the middle area of this setup lacks coverage. The distance between the engines was 45 feet. Towers were taken out of this response profile because of limited number, safety issues, and the assignment of the towers to entry procedures. (Photo by Armando Bevelacqua.)
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The only challenge was to incorporate the idea and education for decontamination into the training schedule. During the spring and summer of 2002, all engine companies were trained as support for the decontamination corridor. One individual from haz mat organizes the decon group using the closest engine company. When the first engine arrives on scene, the decontamination process can start, and personnel can start addressing the life safety issue immediately.

Haz-mat Technician Towers: After improving the department’s decontamination resources, the next issues to address were hazard identification and scene analysis, which involve rescue team deployment. The OFD runs a strict fire operational plan regarding the use of certain apparatus according to their design. In other words, engine companies in a fire scenario handle fire attack, water supply, and now decontamination. Tower companies are the rescue teams, so it was logical to place these units in the rescue mode at the scene of a WMD/haz-mat event. However, the needs of the department, strategic locations of these towers, and the potential risks identified in the community made tower companies the logical units to enhance entry team capabilities instead of rescue.

Two tower companies have received basic training and have completed a majority of technician training. In the very near future, as a haz-mat scene progresses, tower companies will be rotated through the incident for entry operations. If a large incident occurs, a larger pool of trained personnel is at the disposal of the IC, enabling the command staff to engage in lengthy operations before requiring outside resources.

The OFD identified all special operations training as a daily educational process. To that end, all weekends are special operational training days. This allows the training division to work its fire education around the special operations training events. Two weekends a month are dedicated to the haz-mat discipline, with the other two weekends dedicated to TRT. Approximately three times a year, the “fifth” weekend becomes a specialty weekend for those areas that require enhancement or for areas of deficiency.

OFD haz-mat technican towers will operate as part of the haz-mat response, in that they must operate under the supervision of a technician from the haz-mat unit that can detect and identify the material released to determine the correct level and type of PPE. The towers have detection systems, but they are limited. They operate with the understanding that entry, under the direction of the haz-mat unit, may require just SFPC and SCBA, similar to the FDNY’s system.

Analytical Response: With the additional haz-mat technicians incorporated into the response profile and strategically located within the city, the core haz-mat unit can concentrate on the detecting and monitoring unknown substances. With increased technology, additional hi-tech instrumentation, procedures, and integration with bomb squad, the haz-mat engine and unit to become more familiar with these devices and instrumentation. Additionally, stricter command and control can take place during an event with additional personnel who can be assigned to the safety responsibility.

Concentrating on systems procedures has enabled the core unit to concentrate on tactical objectives, moving the incident, as necessary, based on the immediate information acquired. Command then concentrates on strategic goals with integration into the emergency operations center when appropriate.

Haz Mat Medical Rescue: The OFD identified a need in the late 1980s in the medical response component of a haz-mat event. Paramedics assigned to the medical rescue as part of the haz-mat response have the medical authority to use antidotal medication. This has been a training issue and continues to be a challenge to maintaining proficiency.

These paramedics carry an assortment of antidotal treatments and have the authority of the medical director to use a variety of antidotes under very strict guidelines. Although the response profile of this resource has changed from its inception in 1989, it still maintains the basic needs of scene medical surveillance at a haz-mat event.

Technical Rescue, Technical Heavy Rescue Type 3 Responses: In the state of Florida, special operations functions along with fire suppression; medical response is based on the capabilities of units specified. A type 3 USAR team or heavy rescue team is identified as a team that represents the minimum capabilities to conduct safe and effective technical rescue operations at the technician level, breach concrete, use steel cutters, and perform all mechanical rescue operations. These incidents may involve heavy, industrial, or vehicle extrication, life safety rope rescue, confined spaces, or trench/excavation. Dive rescue involves additional responsibilities. At an explosive ordnance incident, these teams might be called to assess the potential for collapse and to judge how a building will react if a device explodes.

Technician Towers: The department identified towers as best suited for this type of operation. Again, the functions of the tower company naturally lend it to this incident profile. These individuals are trained to the technician level for urban search and rescue type operations.

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Since the early 1980s, specific tower companies have delivered this type of service. However, it was not placed against strategic locations within the city. When the detailed analysis of operations occurred it was found that the existing TRT Towers needed to be realigned toward population densities and incident profiles. Additionally, another tower company had been placed in service. For the TRT mission, three towers were identified for this response with the TRT heavy rescue unit.

Explosive Ordnance, Haz-Mat Team Support: Although OFD has operated a bomb squad since the early 1970s, the integration of the haz-mat team, training, and equipment streamlining had been a side note. With the advances of operational designations within the fire department that gave the bomb squad section the opportunity to fully integrate with the haz-mat team and the TRT units, the bomb squad can concentrate on the device mitigation, haz mat as a rapid intervention team (RIT), and if needed, TRT as an additional specialized resource when buildings are involved.

EXTERNAL RESOURCES

As with any comprehensive plan, the OFD’s plan includes external resources. The regional area has four established haz-mat teams designated by the state as regional resources. All have common equipment, specific response plans, and similar personnel deployment. As a part of a larger state system, federal monies are distributed to the regional teams, enhancing regional capacity and capability.


(5) To provide the magnitude of water needed at a mass decon event, units must secure a water source. (Photo by Armando Bevelacqua.)
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Since 2001, two more agencies are equipping themselves and training their personnel to establish two light haz-mat teams. This allows for extensive haz-mat capability across the region. The real challenge is to train together as equal partners within the response region. Recently, the four state teams have held regional training events, but they were limited because of staffing, differing training goals, and financial issues. However, several large training events are in the planning stages for these teams collectively.

FUTURE INITIATIVES

Safety Management Team: As issues have changed in haz-mat response and special operations in general, it is prudent to establish safety teams. Trained specifically for a variety of specialized incidents, these teams will require several levels of management authority but also will be able to identify safety issues and guide the IC through myriad command considerations.

Incident management requires considerable amounts of coordination and planning, responsibilities that fall to the incident management team (IMT). Some have suggested that implementing a safety management team should be done within an incident management structure for consistency of oversight, which would have authority over such issues as safety, working conditions, strategic plans, communications, medical care, and information projection. Some envision a pool of fire officers from several levels of fire department management trained to serve in command and general staff positions during the first hours of a major or complex incident. Currently, several district chiefs are sent to different positions designed to address needs at the scene of the incident, act as safety officers, and look at city-wide distribution of fire resources.

Analytical Analysis: Current plans call for the department to be able to analyze chemicals and biological materials, allowing the fire department to triage events using sophisticated detection equipment. The concept is to identify the most hazardous event based on the material present, especially during simultaneous events. This will allow the department to supply outside agencies and federal resources with a hazard profile during the response.

Partnership with Forensic Sciences Education: To accomplish the analytical analysis deployment, a partnership between the local university and the fire department has been established for educating fire department members. It is a community reachout project to incorporate technical specialists into the response. Responses such as these require many individuals within the community, which must be a part of the response profile. In the days before 9/11, we called these resources and placed these individuals on resource lists. The post 9/11 environment requires that science educators and scientists from many disciplines be integral parts of the response deployment. This enables two things to occur:

1. The academics can see the needs of the first response community, encouraging new ideas and growth in technology.

2. Incorporating new technologies requires an educational and scientific support system before the event, but more importantly during the event if required. This gives the responder a level of additional comfort knowing that he has technically educated individuals to answer questions and to discuss mitigation strategies.

CONCLUSION

The OFD and FDNY are different in many respects: geographical distances, population densities, existing resources, and financial constraints. Each department conducted its own independent assessment of resources necessary to meet the new challenge of the CBRNE world while maintaining past missions of fire, medical, and technical rescue emergencies. Leaders of both departments were familiar with the traditional responder roles and levels of training, but these levels did not provide adequate flexibility and did not fit existing budgets. Both departments ended up with a tiered response system expanded by creating new levels designed and developed using mission-specific competencies from the technician level of haz-mat response. This has increased the resources available to ICs for both day-to-day industrial haz-mat incidents and the potential criminal/terrorist CBRNE event while minimizing the cost by providing better defined and focused training.

These newly created response levels are not unique to Orlando or New York. Tightened budgets and expanding mission requirements have forced many departments from all response disciplines to arrive at the same conclusion. NFPA 472, the gold standard for haz-mat response and training since the mid 1980s, is currently under review by its committee. The members are looking at these issues and making recommendations aimed at developing the training and tactical response incorporating new mission requirements that exist among the awareness, operations, and technician levels. Risk-based response has become the catalyst of haz-mat/CBRNE scene analysis. With these new levels of response and training, instruments carried previously by haz-mat response teams are now assigned to trained fire suppression companies (not typical haz-mat response units). This allows the fire department and other agencies to conduct more effective risk-based scene assessments and provide timely data to ICs.

Incident management issues for large events are difficult to train for, and it is difficult to validate their success. The increased resources at the fire company level and the infusion of highly technical instrumentation at the technician level will provide more data to the IC but may also make the management of all these resources more complex. Computer-based scenario training in real time is currently being developed and tested to assist in this area. In the very near future, the authors anticipate that not only will senior management become exposed to high-end command and control computer-based training but also to multidimensional facets of response and recovery that would have been placed into the training scheme. Only after more advanced training occurs will we be able to evaluate the success of our new resources.

ARMANDO BEVELACQUA is the special operations chief for the City of Orlando (FL) Fire Department. He is a member of the interagency board, state, and local terrorism task forces among a variety of federal working groups looking at chem/bio response. He has been involved with the fire service for more than 26 years, having served as company officer, training officer, and his present position of district chief. He is the co-author of Emergency Medical Response to Hazardous Materials Incidents, Terrorism Handbook for Operational Responders, Hazardous Materials Field Guide, and Citizens Guide to Terrorism, and author of Hazardous Materials Chemistry from Delmar. Chief Bevelacqua is a master instructor in hazardous materials for the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fire Academy, and several federal agencies.

ROBERT J. INGRAM is a 31-year veteran of the fire service and a 24 year veteran of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). He is currently the chief in charge of haz-mat operations, a response group of more than 2,300 members and responsible for the training, equipping, and response protocols for the FDNY. He has served as a specialist, lieutenant and captain within the hazardous materials response group as well as in fire suppression and administration. Chief Ingram represents the FDNY on the NFPA 472 Standard Committee for Hazardous Materials Response and is currently serving a two-year term as the chairperson of the Inter-Agency Board (IAB) for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability. He is a master instructor in hazardous materials for the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and instructs for public agencies and the private sector.

TONY MUSSORFITI is a 17-year veteran of the FDNY, where he serves as a lieutenant/haz-mat specialist. He is currently assigned to haz-mat operations, where he assists in the development of response protocols and training programs. He is a member of the FEMA New York Task Force-1/USAR Team, haz-mat technician/team leader. He has served as a WMD/haz-mat instructor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s WMD/haz-mat training program and is a master instructor for the IAFF. Currently, he is involved in an international initiative involving WMD Counterproliferation in the former Soviet Union through the Department of Defense. He is consulting with Carnegie Mellon University on the development of a computer based-training program for response to WMD/haz-mat incidents.

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