Category Archives: Major Incidents

Happy Hour on Firefighter Netcast

Tuesday night at 6pm Pacific time I’ll be taking over the Firefighter Netcast show LIVE on blogtalk radio.  You can call in at  (347) 327-9920  and join the chat room at the link below.


Listen to internet radio with FirefighterNetCast on Blog Talk Radio

As is usual with the Happy Hour Show I’ve got a few things I want to talk about so I’m taking over.

Some topics discussed may include:

PPV fans

Crew size

Officer experience

Rural vs Urban and many many more.  But since it’s a live call in show, YOU can ask me about what you want to talk about.

See you on the radio!

You Make the Call…Man Hole Fire…My Call

You Make the CallWell, 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.

Questions in Haiti

We’re all following the updates from the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti just 48 hours ago.  Our brothers and sisters have been mobilized to assist and there is a pouring out of support in the form of food drives and monetary donations all over the internets.  Before I get into my points to think about, please remember to donate to established organizations.  The American Red Cross is just such an organization that can use the money well, as opposed to your local corner Girl Scout Troop who may have to pay to have things sent over, and even then it may not arrive in time.

In time for what Happy?  Oh I think you know.

Our brothers and sisters mobilized for the search and rescue effort are facing a task they may not be ready for.  They are trained professionals in search, rescue, recovery, everything first response, but there is, by all accounts so far, no framework to support their efforts.  I don’t just mean a place to land, restock and camp, I’m talking about basic disaster concerns.  These folks can get in and get setup, do their thing like no other.

Let’s think this through for a moment.  Estimates show 9 million people in Haiti and at least 1/3 of the country may be injured.  3 million injuries.  From scratches and scrapes to fractures to crush syndrome and major systems trauma.  Many may not survive the night because of their injuries, but let’s look past that.

When the USAR teams use their tech, tools and smarts to rescue the injured, where will they go?  Who will come to transport them to the hospital?  Where are the hospitals?  In rubble.  Each and every resource that can assist in this event will need to be brought in from without.  How long will it take to set up triage and treatment centers to help the ambulatory?  Then the injured but invalid? And finally to the traumatic injuries.  The hospital does not just need electricity, or staff, or supplies, they need everything, including walls.

On all 4 networks I have seen different footage, all of one ambulance traveling the rubble strewn roads.

The honest answer is that definitive care for most of those injured will not arrive within 72 hours of their injury.

Do we remember what happens to internal injuries that go untreated?
I had an image of three survivors still trapped in the rubble set for this post, but have deleted it.  You can see it here, it’s photo number 2.  When these folks are rescued…then what?

What is the plan for when the almost 100,000 estimated dead are still in the streets in 96 hours?  Will they have an adverse effect on what little sanitation remains, what little clean water there may be?  What will happen to those sleeping in the open near the bodies?

I do not  envy the person who must choose how to deploy resources, but it makes me think about my own City when, not if, but when our big one hits.  We will have plans, resources from afar.  We have volunteers trained to help, we have disaster supplies ready to go.  We have folks with phones that can make calls without cell towers, buildings that can generate electricity when the sun shines.

Those things are not common in Haiti.  Cell phones, the ones that still have a signal, will have dead batteries soon.  Gasoline for generators will be running low.  People will become desperate for help.

What do we do then?

I don’t have an answer, nor am I posing these questions in a political framework, just trying to get us all thinking ahead.

If it looks bad now, just be ready for when decomp begins and things get worse.  And each person rescued is another that will need advanced care, food, water, medicine.  Each reporter that arrives needs water, food and shelter that could be used at a temporary hospital.

I challenge each and every news network to pull your crew out of the disaster area and donate what you would have used on your people to the relief effort.

If anyone has a link to updates directly from teams at the site, let me know.

HM