REMEDY: IMS regulations under N.J.A.C. 5:75 require that a communication system allow for inter-agency communication during mutual aid responses by providing a direct communication link between companies. Fire departments should work with other departments that are used routinely for mutual aid to ensure radio interoperability.
11. FACTOR: An emergency evacuation signal was sounded upon reports of a firefighter missing inside the structure before the impending collapse, however, the signal was never sounded at any other time prior to the collapse, nor was it sounded immediately after the collapse.
REMEDY: In the event an emergency evacuation becomes necessary and an emergency signal is required, N.J.A.C. 5:75 requires that fire departments utilize an emergency evacuation signal that is easily recognizable and distinguishable from all other fireground noises. The signal must be utilized when conditions on the fireground indicate an imminent and extreme risk to firefighters. At this time NJ DFS is finalizing a proposal that would establish a statewide emergency evacuation signal.
12. FACTOR: During this incident, fireground conditions were not properly analyzed, which led to the failure to recognize an impending building collapse.
REMEDY: Firefighters and officers need to learn the warning signs and causes of building collapses. Often following a collapse, as was the case with this incident, personnel on the scene report that the structure collapsed “without warning”. However, this is usually not the case; the reality is that the IC and firefighters simply failed to identify the indicators that were present prior to the collapse.
13. FACTOR: After removal of all victims, the remaining structure was demolished and the incident scene was cleared of all debris within 48 hours of law enforcement concluding their origin and cause investigation. This prevented a thorough assessment of the remaining structure in order to identify the cause and contributing factors of the collapse.
REMEDY: A protocol should be adopted to ensure that fire scenes are secured in a manner that not only allows for public safety, but also prevents immediate demolition. This will provide agencies with an opportunity to conduct any investigations that may be necessary.
14. FACTOR It was difficult to gauge the amount of training for all GCFD personnel due to insufficient record keeping. Although it was determined that the GCFD firefighters and officers met the minimum regulatory training requirements, many members did not possess a great deal of supplemental training with regard to structural firefighting. Additionally, the volunteer firefighters and officers often did not attend the scheduled departmental drills and rarely trained with the career personnel despite having frequent opportunities to participate.
REMEDY: Standards such as NFPA 1500 recommend that fire departments establish a regular training and education program that is commensurate with the duties and functions that firefighters are expected to perform. Additionally, proper record keeping is essential to certify that all personnel have received both required and supplemental training or education.
15. FACTOR: Qualifications of volunteer officers were difficult to judge and there were serious concerns voiced by the career members of the department regarding the suitability of some of the volunteer officers. This resulted in a lack of confidence by several career personnel in the volunteer officers and reluctance to take direction from them.
REMEDY: In addition to the NJ DFS requirement that all fire service supervisors obtain incident management certification; municipal officials need to establish uniform minimum qualifications for fire officers in order to ensure the effective provision of fire suppression services to the public. The NJ DFS recently adopted voluntary fire officer standards and will be developing a training curriculum to meet those standards.
16. FACTOR: It was not possible to determine if a smoke detector inspection was conducted in the building after a change in occupancy in October of 2001 as required by the NJ Uniform Fire Code. The city’s housing department, who has the responsibility for these inspections, was unable to provide documentation of such an inspection to either the Division of Fire Safety or to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. It was not clear whether smoke detectors were activated during this fire incident.