Charleston Fire Department Case Study
Columbia Southern University
Advanced Fire Administration
Charleston Fire Department Case Study
On June 18, 2007 “the Charleston witnessed the largest single loss of fire fighters in the country since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” (Smith, 2011) That day the fire service had to witness the unfortunate loss of nine firemen who died in the line of duty. Some would say that the deaths of these nine men were an atrocity to the fire service. The events that took place that day made it evident that there are still places that follow tradition and are afraid of change, even if the change is for the better. The fire service has made sufficient changes in the last twenty years to ensure the safety of all fire department personnel. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) “was established in 1896, and is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.” (NFPA, 2011) The NFPA then decided to create safety regulations for the fire service and “in 1987 the first edition of NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program was published. It was established to specify minimum fire service criteria in a variety of areas including emergency operations, facility safety, apparatus safety, critical incident stress management, medical and physical requirements, member fitness and wellness, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).” (Stull, 2008) One of the primary tools that a department has is the Incident Management System. With the standards listed in NFPA 1500 there are precise directions that will provide guidelines on how to instill properly use IMS. Before the incident even began in Charleston the culture had the fire department set for failure. The mental environment that had been around for many years led to the horrible events that occurred that day. It began with the Chief of the department and followed down the chain of command. According to The Chief’s Handbook “the Incident Commander’s role is to manage the collective efforts of all the incident scene responders and resources under a single incident action plan.” (Coleman, 2003) This was the most important mistake that the Fire Chief made that day. When arriving on scene the Chief never took command of the incident or established a command post. There should have been a clear and precise announcement that the Chief was on scene and had command. He then needed to establish a command post that would allow for visibility of a majority of the scene but still allow for apparatus’ room for proper positioning. Instead the Chief removed himself from a position of observing operations to a victim rescue in progress in the rear of the structure. Two things that should have occurred at this point was the Chief needed to appoint his command staff. This would have included an Operations Chief, who would have overseen the procedures of fire attack and rescue operations. There should have also been a Safety Officer appointed to supervise all operations to ensure that proper safety precautions were being followed. After a Safety Officer was established there should have been a PAR (Personnel Accountability Report) called so that a correct accountability board could have been formed. With the accountability established the scene could have sectors created for attack, ventilation, RIT (Rapid Intervention Team), and medical-rehab. Instead there were three areas of attack with insufficient supplies and improper use of equipment. On this incident there was a Ladder Truck that was being used as a pumper instead of for ventilation like it is designed for. It is clear that tunnel vision and freelancing were obvious hindrances at this point. There was sufficient need for an offensive attack in the beginning of the operation. This would ensure that all victims...
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