SOME OPERATIONAL LESSONS LEARNED FROM ONE MERIDIAN PLAZA
- Plan on using master stream devices in high-rise situations. Over the past few years, in an effort to reduce firefighter stress from carrying heavy weights and to get master streams in service more quickly, the Philadelphia Fire Department replaced heavy master stream devices with lightweight deluge guns weighing 28 pounds. These provided heavy streams at the fire, used in both the fire building and from surrounding buildings. To obtain high volumes, it might be necessary to supply each gun with lines taken from standpipe connections on floors above and below the operations floor.
- Provide protection for hoselines supplying Siamese connections. As large chunks of granite and shards of glass as big as a dining room tabletop rained down from the upper floors, hoselines supplying the standpipe connection were cut repeatedly. First efforts to protect these lines with portable ladders covered with salvage covers proved unsuccessful, as the glass sheared through the canvas. The department’s trench collapse unit was called in to supply plywood and timbers, which formed a heavy protective cover over the lines. Chief officers should consider performing this operation early in a high-rise fire.
- Plan on having extra personnel available to move supplies upward. Since the elevators failed early in the operation, the department had to move firefighting equipment, hoselines, and extra air cylinders to an upper staging area using suppression personnel. To keep physical stress at a minimum, two firefighters were assigned to landings at every two floors. Although die vertical relay supply operation worked well, many firefighters were required to put the operation in service. If it appears that supplies will have to be moved manually because of elevator failure, call for extra support early in the operation.
- Take steps before the fire to reduce firefighter physical stress. The average age of a Philadelphia firefighter is more than 42 years old. Because of this, Commissioner Ulshafer instituted a program to evaluate turnout clothing and breathing apparatus that would simultaneously increase firefighter protection and reduce physical stress through reduction in protection package weight. At the time of the fire, the department was equipping all firefighters with stressengineered tailed turnout coats along with matching pants. The conversion to lightweight breathing apparatus was complete. Ulshafer believes that the new clothing and breathing apparatus helped minimize firefighter heat and stress.
- Use large-diameter hose to improvise standpipes. When attempts to make die building standpipes operational failed, Ulshafer ordered five-inch lines stretched up each of the three stains ells to provide makeshift standpipes. Two of the lines reached the fire floors and were in operation when the order was given to abandon the building. The third was being stretched.
While moving the hose upward was physically taxing, the two-firefighter-pertwo-floors technique used to move supplies also was used to stretch the LDH, helping to move the line upward at a steady pace in a relatively short time. Fiveinch hose was selected for the same reason that it’s used for water supplyoperations at ground level: It moves large quantities of water with minimum friction kiss. Five-outlet manifolds were used at the top ends to supply threeinch lines that in turn fed master stream devices. This operation was used about 18 months earlier at another high-rise fire, so commanders were familiar with the high-rise capabilities of five-inch hoselines.