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As reported in parts one and two of this column in the July and August issues, on Feb. 24, 2012, the Prince George’s County, MD, Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department (PGFD) was dispatched to an arson fire in a single-family house at which seven firefighters were injured. Given the severity of the injuries and the magnitude of the event, an investigative team was ordered by Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor, in accordance with the department’s General Order 08-18: Safety Investigation Team (SIT). This series of columns provides an overview of the fire and the process used to determine what went wrong – and how those issues can be avoided in the future.
Additionally, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Office of the Fire Marshal investigated the fire. Assisted by the Prince George’s County Police Department and special agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was incendiary in nature. At the time of this writing, this case remains as an open active criminal investigation.
This month’s concluding installment focuses on recommendations resulting from the safety and operational investigation report.
The following is a color-coded list of recommendations resulting from the SIT’s report. This list is an excellent “check list” for any fire department to review and compare to its operations. The compilation of the SIT recommendations is grouped by priority type where red is immediate (life safety and firefighter survival), yellow is for short-term recommendations (relatively easy to implement) and green is for long-term recommendations (may require significant planning including fiscal impacts). In addition to being separated by priority type, these recommendations are listed in order of appearance in this report and the numbering should not be misconstrued as an indicator of further importance.
1 The department must develop a new training program to better qualify personnel to function in areas of responsibilities particularly in the areas of command, control and accountability on the fireground.
2 Basement fire tactics must be revised to reflect current best practices. This should include the importance of getting water on the fire as quickly as possible and not placing personnel unnecessarily above the fire, or in its flow path.
4 Incorporate a 360-degree survey and the evaluation of environmental conditions as part of the strategic and tactical plan development into future revisions of the General Orders:
• The first-arriving officer must make every practical and reasonable effort to complete a 360-degree survey prior to making entry.
• Emphasize the importance of continuous situational reporting from critical units, divisions, and groups.
15 Modify General Order 06-01 to include a procedure for emergency evacuations during fireground operations:
• Develop policies that require the incident commander to ensure a personnel accountability report (PAR) is completed when incident conditions change.
• Develop a standardized Mayday quick reference guide to be used by all command officers. The quick-reference guide must detail steps to be taken when a Mayday occurs. These quick reference guides should be carried on every command vehicle.
19 All personnel shall review triage procedures for handling multiple-casualty incidents (MCIs) and the various roles required to mitigate an MCI.
20 The department should consider placing additional EMS supervisors in service in the northern and southern areas of the county to allow for shorter response times and greater geographical coverage. Multiple EMS duty officers would allow supervision of the various divisions within the EMS group, such as treatment area and transportation area.
26 Establish a work group to review and define pertinent and vital airable information and when it must be delivered to responding units. This may be accomplished via mobile data computers when available.