Massive Storm Poses Unique Risks - Part 1

Dealing with nasty, weather-related storms is nothing new to firefighters. When any of us heard about the massive storms that hit the mid-Atlantic coast within the past year, we naturally thought about “before and during the storm” issues. From...


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Dealing with nasty, weather-related storms is nothing new to firefighters. When any of us heard about the massive storms that hit the mid-Atlantic coast within the past year, we naturally thought about “before and during the storm” issues. From departments and communities preparing and taking care of our families to apparatus staffing and deployment, power lines down, structural collapses, rescues, communications and so much more, it’s enough to challenge any fire department anywhere.

One area that firefighters must give thought to fire department response and operations to structures after the storm. We have all seen destroyed and heavily damaged structures, but what about those that fall between being OK and being destroyed; i.e., those that can be or are in the process of being rebuilt or raised?

Department makeup

The Margate City, NJ, Fire Department (MCFD) consists of 34 career firefighter/emergency medical technicians (EMTs). They respond to all fire, rescue and EMS responses within an area that measures about 1½ square miles and are actively involved with automatic and mutual aid. They also provide community services such as ongoing education and fire prevention activities. The department staffs two stations approximately 1½ miles apart and has an administrative staff of two, Chief of Department Anthony Tabasso and Deputy Chief Daniel Adams. It operates under a four-platoon system, with each platoon having eight personnel assigned to it with a captain as the shift commander and a lieutenant assigned to Station 2. The MCFD operates one quint, two engines (one in reserve), three command/utility vehicles, three ambulances (one in reserve), two water/ice rescue vessels, one hazardous materials response trailer, one hazmat decontamination trailer and one air cascade trailer to be used county wide. The MCFD responded to 1,831 emergency calls in 2011 and 2,291 emergency calls in 2012.

My sincere thanks to Chief Tabasso, Deputy Chief Adams and all the officers and members of the MCFD for sharing this unique story. Their experiences, along with the numerous photos and documents, let us add another dimension in our ability to size-up on arrival – and, even more critically, sizing-up before the fire.

This account is provided by MCFD Deputy Chief Daniel Adams:

Margate City is located on a densely populated barrier island with a population that varies from approximately 8,500 residents in the winter, to a summer population of 40,000 or more. The Atlantic Ocean borders our east side and the bay is on our west side. We are bordered by Ventnor City to our north and the Borough of Longport to our south.

Margate City is predominantly comprised of single-family and multi-family residences. There are also four high-rise buildings, including a dedicated senior citizen complex. Also there are two schools, four pre-schools, six houses of worship, 10 “target-response” buildings (high-hazard response buildings for which we have an automatic mutual aid plan with our neighboring fire departments) and approximately two miles of residential and commercial docks and marinas.

Our proximity to Atlantic City casino gambling makes Margate City an ideal location for casino workers to reside, yet Margate City receives no Casino Reinvestment Development Authority money to supplement the impact on our aging infrastructure and schools. The City of Margate is currently renovating Fire Station 1 at a cost of $2 million. Since August 2011, the MCFD has been responding from our Station 2 and from our neighboring fire department, the Longport Volunteer Fire Department’s Station 3.

Storm season

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