1. #1
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    HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
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    Jan 2003
    New Jersey

    Default Special considerations for fire in prisons

    What special considerations need to be made for fires in prisons? are their tools that you can't bring with you once you get inside the main gates? do prisons even have fire alarms? who is in charge, the prison warden or the fire chief?

    I don't really have any in my district, I'm just curious if there is anything special that you need to deal with.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!


  2. #2
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    martinm's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
    Northumberland, United Kingdom


    We have a medium security prison on one of our station grunds, where the crews that cover it are called to once or twice a week for alarm activations. Every once in a while there is a fire, which is normally started by a prisoner in his cell, where contraband way have been smuggled in, as smoking materials are not permitted. As it's a brick and metal construction, the fire normally does'nt get above "one room", and on most occasions, the prison staff are able to deal with it. The fire service are called, whether via AFA, or call from the prison and very often are not required, and the "stop" usually comes back as "inspection" only".

    The SOP for the establishment (which is a 2 pump attendance initially), is for the first arriving crew to place the appliance in the sterile area between the out and inner vehicle gates, and the 2nd due waits outside without lights etc going, so as not to attract further attention to the situation going on. Once inside, the OIC of the crew will make contact with the Senior Prison Officer on duty who will give a full brief as to the situation and whether firefighting will be required. If so, the OIC must be satisifed that the area is safe to enter and the prisoner have been moved and secured in another location. (The risk of hostages being taken is a very real one). If safe, the crew and equipment will be escorted to the scene and commence operations. At all times, the appilance, and crew will be protected and monitored by the prison staff until the conclusion of the incident. (Our appliances have locking shutters which are operated remotely from the cab, to prevent losses in situations like this).

    At all times, the Duty Govenor, or Senior Officer is in command of all emergency service personnel on scene,(even the Police can only enter on the authority of the Govenor). If in the opinion of the prison staff the situation is beoming too dangerous for fire service crews to remain within the prison, say for instance that there is an outbreak of violence elsewhere, or prisoners will need to be moved again, then their advice will be adhered to and a withdrawl made. (Better a wing or row of cells goes, than have crews exposed to risk of attack or worse).
    United Kingdom branch, IACOJ.

  3. #3
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    SpartanGuy's Avatar
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    Aug 2004


    Dr. P,

    We don't personally cover a prison, but I have friends whose department covers a prison in Pennsylvania that holds a number of death row inmates. I'll be sure to relay what they tell me to you.
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

    Safety is no accident.

  4. #4
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    AFD368's Avatar
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    Feb 2002
    Albion NY

    Default Prison Fires

    We have two State Prisons within our jurisdiction, One male, one female. We tour both prisons annually. Each of these prisons have a fire brigade made up of corrections officers for the small fires which may be started by inmates. I personally have not responded to any major fires at either of these two facilities, but we have been told that if there was a working fire, the inmates would be removed from the area and housed in a different location on the grounds, and we would have control of fire suppression.
    "The uniform is supposed to say something about you. You get it for nothing, but it comes with a history, so do the right thing when you're in it."
    Battalion Chief Ed Schoales
    from 'Report from Ground Zero' pg 149
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  5. #5
    Disillusioned Subscriber
    Steamer's Avatar
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    Aug 1999


    SpartanGuy, be careful about posting anything too specific on an open forum. These issues are considered to be matters of facility security, and most in the prison community at the management level see these issues in a different light than others may.

    I worked at a prison for 5 years in various capacities, and at the facilities I was familiar with, it didn't matter if aliens were landing, the facility security comes first. First of all, the yard is cleared and locked down. The affected dorms are generally evacuated to pre-identified secure areas and locked down as well. Evacuation times aren't what you might find at public facilities, but when the order to evacuate is given, they leave, unlike some of the apartment complexes we respond to. Inmate acountability is left to the prison officials to manage. All in all, they do a yeoman's job of getting people out.

    The last time we responded to one of the prisons, I was asked by the guard at the gate if we carried any contraband such as edged weapons. I told him that we had a whole truck load of 'em, but if we didn't take them with us, there wasn't much point of us coming in. We have to establish our ID's prior to entry, and then we are escorted by guards to where they want us. Usually, the whole unified command concept works quite well here.

    The biggest problem is getting out. You have to re-establish your identification, or you're going nowhere. Guards look in every compartment, in the hosebed (including under the layers of hose), under the engine shrouds, and in the wheel wells. When I worked there and had to transport an inmate in cardiac arrest, we had to undergo the same security searches prior to exit, and the inmate had to be shackled and cuffed to the cot. Oh, and you better have the same number of tools you went in with too. Something about the prosepects of a pickhead axe floating around the prison yard makes them nervous.

    In 1937, I think, Ohio experienced a fire at the old Ohio Penitentiary that saw 320+ inmates die. I believe that remains as the greatest loss of life in a US prison to date. I remember all new employees were told of this, to impress the importance of following the facility's fire safety plan.

    The most frustrating problem you'll probably have at some of these facilities is getting around some of the security features in order to stretch hose lines inside of the buildings. Many are designed where you can't open one door until a second is closed creating a "security air lock" of sorts. These doors can be of the traditional grill gate (bars) construction or sometimes in the more modern or higher security areas, they can be solid steel.

    Without discussing details here, preplanning with the facilities systems gurus is paramount. If you don't one of two things will most likely happen. You'll either be locked out of someplace you want to go, or you'll get locked in someplace where you want to leave. Either situation can be bad news under the right circumstances.
    Last edited by Steamer; 03-14-2005 at 05:09 PM.
    Steve Gallagher
    "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

  6. #6
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    Jul 2003
    Plymouth Meeting, PA


    Someone correct me if I am wrong, but a couple of months ago in Firehouse magazine regarding responses to Correctional Facilities. I want to say it was in January's edition.

    Hope this helps.

  7. #7
    55 Years & Still Rolling
    hwoods's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....

    Talking And.......................

    Many years ago, I was on an Engine enroute to a Fire at the County Jail, and almost fell out of the cab laughing at the return from the first in unit: "I need some help in here, quick. There are lots of people that can't get out". No kidding? THEY AREN'T SUPPOSED TO GET OUT YET. That's why there are a lot of bars on the windows and doors. One Tactical point. Airbags will pop bars off of the windows quicker than cutting them. A bit of research on the old jail building after it became vacant provided some interesting training scenarios, including blowing bars off the wall with bags.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.


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