Well, shoot. When I first got hired our training Captain put up a shot of the Tokyo gas attacks and asked us the two best ways to handle such an incident. People were running everywhere, others lying in the street.
He let us think about it for a few minutes, then let us in on the secrets to dealing with large incidents.
Option #1 is to reach over the center console while pulling out of the station, grab the steering wheel and pull. The rig hits the door and you’re out of service in quarters, send someone else.
Option #2, if you forgot #1 and found yourself on the scene, was to calmly remove your coat and helmet and blend in with the crowd.
All kidding aside, this is a situation many firefighters will not encounter. In my area we have large underground electrical vaults that serve as relay points for the City’s electrical systems. More than once these have failed, caught fire, exploded etc. hey, it’s electricity, a thousand different things could happen.
The important question, and the reason I shared this photo of an actual vault fire, was to get us all thinking about that first radio report and request for resources that can establish the tone and response over the next 30 minutes. they say the first 3 minutes of a large incident can dictate the next 3 hours and I believe it.
My Department also has resources specifically designed and staffed to handle these incidents so I simply have to relay to the Battalion Chief that I have a vault fire and the system does what it has to do.
But, here would be my initial actions if that was not the case:
“Control, this is Engine 99, we are on the scene of what appears to be an underground fire, smoke showing. We are staging upwind at 5th and Main, establishing 5th Street Command. Strike a full first alarm and have them respond from the south to 5th and Main.”
You get the idea. The point is to convey what you can without getting too wordy, but get resources rolling, including higher ranks to co-ordinate further response.
I would use the PA to get bystanders away and set up a perimeter, stretching a line part way there to protect persons who wander in if something happens.
That’s my call.