Hackensack: 20 Years Later

Five Hackensack, NJ, firefighters died on July 1, 1988, while fighting a fire at an automobile dealership. The firefighters were in the bowstring-truss building when the roof suddenly collapsed. Three of the firefighters were killed in the middle of the...


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  • Purchased four-inch hose for all engines.
  • Purchased two engines and a ladder, all painted red.
  • Issued first-generation bunker gear.
  • Issued portable radios to all on-duty members.
  • Implemented an accountability system. The tag system consists of three levels -- Level I, Level II (collected at working fires) and Level III (utilized at hazardous materials incidents and team searches).
  • Printed daily riding assignments.
  • Compiled an incoming mutual aid riding list.
  • Purchased new 4.5 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) masks and cylinders.
  • Continued to update SOPs.
  • Established a full-time training officer.
  • Issued compliant work uniforms to all members.
  • Issued personal SCBA facepieces.
  • Implemented a citywide certified first responder program, with all members trained.
  • Assigned a full-time safety/training officer, weekdays only.
  • Implemented the rapid intervention team concept.
  • Received a fully equipped rescue unit (Rescue 2), which was donated by Hackensack University Medical Center.

Since 2000

Changes made since 2000 included:

  • Special operations teams were formed with select members trained in high-angle, trench and confined-space rescue. A truck was donated for special operations.
  • A new rescue boat was purchased with a grant.
  • The department purchased an ice-rescue sled and received cold-water rescue suits. Select members are trained in swift-water, cold-water and ice rescue.
  • Large-diameter hose (LDH) water delivery was upgraded by replacing four-inch hose with five-inch hose.
  • All 1¾-inch and 2½-inch hose was replaced, as were all nozzles, appliances and fittings. The department received lightweight 2½-inch high-rise hose and updated its standpipe equipment.
  • Apparatus replacement continued.
  • First-generation bunker gear was replaced. Most members were issued two full sets of bunker gear. A gear-cleaning contract and maintenance program were established.
  • The department became involved in the New Jersey Urban Area Security Initiative (USAI) Task Force. Forty-plus members received extensive training in building collapse and urban search and rescue (USAR). A USAI rescue unit was placed with sophisticated rescue company gear for collapse rescue.
  • Received a mask service unit from the Department of Homeland Security. The unit, which can be deployed anywhere in the county or state, carries 100 spare SCBA cylinders and can be utilized as a rehab sector. The department also received ice machines.
  • A FIRE Act grant was received for rapid intervention team equipment for every engine company, including four gas meters, rotary saw, thermal imaging camera, extrication tool, chain saw, cordless drills and saws, search team ropes, portable radios, stretchers, lock-out/tag out kits, elevator drop keys, airbags, rebar cutters and radiological meters.
  • International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) terrorism/weapons of mass destruction (WMD) training were conducted. Select members were trained as hazardous materials technicians. Chemical protective clothing (CPC) suits were placed on Engine 4 and Rescue 1, and members received training. Meters were placed in service for radiation, chlorine and other hazards.
  • Four members joined New Jersey USAR Task Force 1 (NJTF 1).
  • High-rise procedures were implemented. A high-rise task force was established in the Mid-Bergen Mutual Aid Association, including four engines, four ladders and the mask service unit.
  • The department received a grant for personal bail-out equipment and all members were issued life-safety harnesses.
  • All members were issued alphanumeric pagers for recall notifications and department messages made through an Internet connection in the dispatch office.
  • A safety officer position was established. One safety officer per tour responds to all incidents and performs training officer duties. This person also is utilized as a covering officer when needed.
  • The department received a 2007 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant for 12 firefighter positions (not acted upon at this time).
  • A FIRE Act grant of $331,000 was received for the dispatch center to be fully renovated. New base station equipment was purchased, and a new computer was purchased and installed into the city network.
  • New portable radios were purchased for all front-line firefighters. Three frequencies are now available for use at incident scenes or for multiple incidents. All mutual aid departments have the frequencies for interoperability. A UHF frequency was obtained and assigned to special operations and EMS. Also received were a USAI base station radio for mobilization notifications and USAI portable radios for use in deployments. Nextel phones were acquired for all on-duty officers.
  • An ongoing purchasing plan is underway to switch operations to a UHF frequency. At least two repeaters are required for total coverage within the city. The purchase of new mobile and portable radios is required.
  • Computers were purchased for various apparatus for secure communications. A purchasing plan to equip all department apparatus is ongoing.
  • Evacuation-tone and roll-call procedures were established with dispatch personnel monitoring the frequency. The department developed "man-down" capabilities on portable radios.
  • Members received training in building construction, hazardous materials, and strategy and tactics. Select members have been sent to "New Jersey Weekends" at the National Fire Academy. Also, the department developed in-house pump operator and mask confidence courses, established training in ICS and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for all members, (NIMS), and trained members in the National Fire Academy's "Calling a Mayday" course.