Safety and Survival Sidebar: Chicago Fire Department Conducts High-Rise Drill

The Chicago Fire Department (CFD) completely revamped its response and procedures to be followed for high-rise fires as a result of a tragic downtown fire in which six lives were lost in 2003. Notably, a top-to-bottom revision of CFD tactics, including...


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As the additional companies reported to the command post in the lobby, they were given assignments per protocol. Engine 42, the second engine, was assigned to assist Engine 13 in stretching the first line. The third engine (Engine 98) was assigned to “lobby control” to assist the incident commander and the fourth engine, Engine 1, reported to Forward Fire Command (two floors below the fire floor). Battalion 2, Chief Joe Gloudie, was assigned to direct fire attack on the fire floor as the “fire attack chief.” Battalion 4, Chief Mike Altman, was assigned as “forward fire commander.” The three truck companies were assigned to support Truck 6 on the fire floor or assume the duty of the Rapid Ascent Team (RAT) in both the attack and evacuation stairways. The third-due truck is assigned as RAT for the fire attack stairwell and the fourth-due truck is assigned as RAT for the evacuation stairwell. The RAT concept is used for searching all stairwells for potential victims.

Engine 13 confirmed a working fire to Gubricki. This required increasing the alarm to a “still and box alarm,” adding four engines, three trucks, four battalion chiefs and a deputy district chief plus auxiliary units to the assignment. The SOP requires a “Still and Box” assignment whenever a hoseline is stretched on a high-rise fire.

Each engine responding must carry 200 feet of 2½-inch line, a smooth-bore 1¼-inch nozzle and ancillary fittings plus extra self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottles. The first two engines, Engine 42 and Engine 13, were charged with leading out and operating the first line. Engine 13 advised Engine 42 that the line was short of the fire room and an additional 100 feet needed to be added. Having two engines dedicated to getting the first line on the fire greatly assisted in efficient stretching and placement of the first line.

Truck 6, Truck 3 and Squad 1 began the primary search of the fire floor and discovered the first victims. This introduced the issue of removing them to the support area three floors below the fire floor for triage by EMS. It should be noted that the SOP calls for an EMS Plan 1 (five ambulances) upon the request for a “still and box” in a high-rise building. Because elevators were not available, victims were taken down the stairs for triage.

 

Communications

One of the major changes from the previous high-rise SOP has the fourth engine company report to the forward fire commander to assist with communications. Previously, the fourth engine was assigned to assist with the first line or begin a second line. All portable radios were be taken off “scan” mode and placed in “manual” mode. The fourth-due engine crew would monitor Channel 4 (fireground) and Channel 9 (search and rescue). Additionally, Channel 10 was assigned to companies arriving in the staging area. Channel 5 was designated as the “command channel” and all chiefs were directed to operate on this channel after the communications van arrived on scene.

EMS, the deputy district chief assigned on the “still and box,” Kevin Krasneck, and Special Operations Battalion Chief Pat Maloney brought portable “radio in a box” (“RIB”) radios into the scene. These units are powered by 110-volt AC and are basically transportable base stations. The unit, in this case, takes a portable radio and increases the power output from five watts to 25 watts. RIB radio sets were assigned to EMS in the lobby, the incident commander in the lobby and forward fire command.

 

Command and control

Four additional battalion chiefs (for a total of seven) respond on the high-rise “still and box.” The plans chief is assigned to the communications van; the search and rescue chief reports to forward fire command to coordinate search and rescue of the fire floor and floors above; the support area chief is assigned to the support area three floors below the fire floor and the rapid intervention team (RIT) chief oversees the operation of that team.

Due to the size of the building and the number of floors above the fire floor that would require a search, Krasneck requested a 2-11 alarm. This brought four engines, three trucks and two battalion chiefs and the on-duty district chief. These units were assigned to relieve companies on the fire floor or assist in the support area.

The total assignment to a 2-11 in a high-rise in Chicago consists of 12 engine companies, 10 truck companies, one squad, 10 battalion chiefs, five ALS ambulances and various supervisors and support units, including the CFD helicopter. High rise fires require a tremendous amount of resources in order to perform all of the required tasks and provide relief in a timely fashion for operating units.

 

After-action review

One week after the, Santiago, McNicholas and Vogt conducted an after-action review of the operation to address lessons learned and reinforced and discuss actions that may require re-evaluation. Present were many of the chiefs who operated at the scene as well as the evaluators and other command staff. Below is a summary of the most important points: