Multi-Company Training: Health Care Occupancies - Part II

The first phase in conducting a Multi-Company drill at such a facility is to contact the facilities risk management director or the person responsible for the over-all safety at the facility.


As reviewed in my previous article concerning Health Care Occupancies, these facilities pose a considerable risk and challenges to both the occupants as well as the firefighters charged with providing fire protection. In preparing for an incident involving such occupancies, the fire department must establish a "pre-incident plan."

These plans may appear to be in good order on paper. However, if left untested in the form of a Multi-Company drill, the true test will occur when an actual alarm sounds. Upon this occasion, the plan either works, as it is intended or it fails...with possible catastrophic results.

The first phase in conducting a Multi-Company drill at such a facility is to contact the facilities risk management director or the person responsible for the over-all safety at the facility. Schedule a meeting in which you and your line officer's have an opportunity to fully explain your goals and stress the importance of establishing a positive working relationship. It is also ideal to have one individual (generally a training officer) to serve as a contact person for the fire department. Should the risk management director be agreeable to conducting a Multi-Company drill, then it's time to start planning.

To illustrate my points of this training drill, I will share how our first large-scale drill was formalized and initiated at a large medical facility in our jurisdiction.

For several years my fire department has had an excellent working relationship with the medical facility personnel and our EMS providers. However, while there was a working relationship between the risk management and maintenance department, there had been challenges concerning code enforcement issues. Therefore, it was with considerable difficulty that we convinced the risk management people that we would be entering the facility for the purpose of familiarization and pre-incident planning, not code enforcement.

Nevertheless, with some reservations, the director did allow firefighter's to enter the facility for the purpose of pre-incident planning. Along with an agreement that the firefighter's were not there to conduct code enforcement. Unfortunately, this can be a touchy subject here; do not ignore obvious code violations, but if you're the contact making the agreement, you are the one who should discuss the violation(s) with the director in private and assist them in correction. Keep in mind that when asking to enter a property for familiarization and pre-incident planning, you are an invitee. When conducting code enforcement, you are a licensee. When an issue involving codes becomes to complex, get your code enforcement people involved, let them handle the code issues!

Following the familiarization tours, modifications were made to the pre-incident plan, but without an opportunity to test the plan during an actual drill it remained unproven.

Following a couple of years and several risk management director changes, a gentleman called my office one morning and identified himself as the new director of risk management. He asked me to come over to his office for a meeting to discuss training issues and his facility. It seems that this director had been given considerable latitude to make some changes and identify the critical factors, which would occur should an actual fire or other emergency occur at the facility.

Here's what we discussed:

  • Coordination and communication of the medical facilities staff and firefighter's

  • We already aware of certain sections of the building where our radio's did not transmit and we had informal methods to overcome these issues Such was learned over time when responding to actual alarms in different locations inside the facility.

  • The risk management director wanted to know how the medical staff would react during an incident, and their how their actions integrated into the efforts of emergency responders.

  • So, not one, but three drills were planned so as to challenge each shift at the medical facility (3), as well as each shift for the fire department (3 - 24/48).

    • Furthermore, the drills would be conducted in an unannounced method so as to gather as much actual tasks of personnel as possible.

      Following several planning meetings involving all emergency responders,(including representatives from local police and mutual aid fire companies) the dates were established

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