Charleston Listens to Preliminary Panel Recommendations

The panel is looking at the department's operations and guidelines.

The Charleston Fire Department is poised to appoint a safety officer and an assistant to the chief following recommendations by a panel of fire service experts reviewing the policies and procedures.

The group released its first report to Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas and Mayor Joe Riley on Friday, the day before the second month anniversary of the deadly Sofa Super Store blaze.

After nine firefighters perished in the June 18 blaze, the Charleston Fire Department's SOPs have been scrutinized and criticized.

A group of national fire service officials -- appointed by Riley -- issued preliminary recommendations after four days of meetings.

Two suggestions that are expected to be met immediately include the appointment of a safety officer and an assistant to the chief, said Gordon Routley, the chairman.

"The chief has been very receptive. I would expect these people to be in position immediately since it's a matter of re-assignment."

Routley said he's been impressed with the attitude of the Charleston fire department officials. "It's been very positive."

The panel is looking at the department's operations and guidelines that were in place prior to the deadly blaze.

Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas said he's impressed by what he's heard so far. "They've really been busy. They've given us a good place to start."

Thomas, who personally knew each of the fallen firefighters, said Friday afternoon he is looking forward to working with the panel.

"Change is good. I am committed to the community and my firefighters to do what I can to make us better."

Thomas said the department will benefit by having fire service experts in town. "Some things we can do right away, others will take a while. These are just the first."

Pete Piringer, the spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, said he's been impressed with the work thus far. "It's been unbelievable. We've had total access and cooperation."

The panel will be taking next week off as many are involved in seminars at the annual IAFC conference in Atlanta.

In addition to Routley and Piringer, other members of the group include Kevin Roche, Tim Sendelbach, Brian Crawford and Mike Chiramonte.

Panel Reccommendations:

PERSONNEL

  • Establish Deputy Chief/Assistant to the Chief position -- Fill with qualified officer on 6 month temporary assignment
  • Establish Fire Department Safety Officer position -- Fill with qualified officer on 6 month temporary assignment
  • Public Information Officer
  • Minimum of two dispatchers on-duty at all times
  • Maintain minimum staffing of three on-duty firefighters at all times
  • Incremental movement over two years to achieve four on-duty firefighters on all fire companies (staffing and overtime impacts)

COMMAMD

  • Apply incident command procedures on all incidents (ICS -- NIMS procedures)
  • First arriving officer assumes command, performs size-up and provides direction for all others
  • First arriving chief establishes exterior Command Post and remains at Command Post
  • Subsequent arriving higher ranking officer may assume command after command transfer process
  • Safety Officer assigned for working fires and hazardous incidents
  • Rapidly implement personnel accountability system with passports and PAR

SAFETY

  • Reinforce appropriate use of personal protective clothing and SCBA
  • Reinforce the use of seat belts and standard emergency response vehicular operations
  • OSHA 2-in/2-out to be followed at all times
  • Reinforce management procedure for off-duty firefighter response to emergencies

TRAINING

  • Initiate and complete Incident Command and tactical operations training for all officers
  • Provide training for all Fire Department members in firefighter safety and survival, risk management, air management, standardized actions for lost/disoriented firefighters, rapid intervention operations, objective-based tactical operations, and other critical firefighter safety procedures
  • Provide incident safety officer training for all command officers and health and safety officer training to selected personnel
  • Assure that all new firefighters are trained and certified in accordance with South Carolina State standards/NFPA Firefighter II before assignment to emergency duty

RESPONSE AND COMMUNICATIONS

  • Increase initial structure fire response to three engines and one ladder
  • Utilize the third engine as the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)
  • Working fire - dispatch Assistant Chief, Second Battalion Chief, 4th engine company and an EMS unit
  • Utilize the second-arriving Battalion Chief as the incident safety officer unless staff Safety Officer is on scene
  • Communications changes including the elimination of 10 codes and the use of the tactical radio channel for responses

WATER SUPPLY

  • Changes in water supply standard operating procedures with near-term transition to large diameter supply hose
  • Use of 1-1/2 inch hose, or larger, for interior attack as well as vehicle fires
  • Changes to standard nozzle configuration and flow for all handlines

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