DC Crews Dispatched To The Pentagon

Michael L. Smith reviews the operations of Washington, DC, crews who responded to the scene of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on 9/11.


The morning of Sept. 11 began as a typical mid-September morning for the members of Platoon 3 of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (DCFEMS). As the members went through their platoon-change inspections of apparatus, gear, radios and personnel, they had no idea...


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The morning of Sept. 11 began as a typical mid-September morning for the members of Platoon 3 of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (DCFEMS). As the members went through their platoon-change inspections of apparatus, gear, radios and personnel, they had no idea that they would soon play a role in history.

A department with a four-platoon system of manning protects the District of Columbia. A deputy fire chief who has overall responsibilities for the city during the assigned 24-hour period of duty commands each platoon. Six geographic battalions are led by a battalion fire chief and aide. There are 33 engine companies staffed with an officer and three firefighters, except six of the engines are paramedic/engines, which carry an additional paramedic. Sixteen truck/ladder companies are staffed with an officer and four firefighters. The three heavy rescue companies have an officer and four firefighters. The three fireboats each are manned with an officer, pilot, engineer and four firefighters. The EMS system is staffed at different levels during various times of the day with a full complement of 35 units compromised of advanced life support (ALS) and basic life support (BLS). A crew of two staffs each of these. The chief of the department is supported by a staff of three assistant chiefs who head the bureaus of Operations, Services and EMS. There are deputy fire chiefs for Training, Facilities, Risk Management, Standards and Fleet Maintenance.

On Sept. 11, the Fire Communications Center dispatched units for a reported plane into the White House at 9:46 A.M. Normally, four engines, two trucks, one heavy rescue and a battalion chief respond on structures. Because of the occupant at the White House, the response is increased by an additional battalion chief and the deputy chief. On this tour that person was Deputy Chief Rogers Massey. This alarm, however, came in as a plane crash with collapse, so the cave-in task force consisting of Rescue 3, Battalion Chief 3, Engine 15 and the Haz-Mat Task Force was also dispatched.

While the units were enroute, the true nature of the call became clear and an additional alarm of four engines, two trucks, one heavy rescue, a battalion chief and the Foam Unit Task Force, which comes with two crash trucks and support vehicles, responded to the Pentagon at 9:48. The White House incident was investigated. After receiving intelligence reports from the FBI, Special Operations Battalion Chief Michael Sellito made the decision to continue holding units for commitment should additional attacks occur to the White House or the Capitol. He staged the cave-in task force and Haz Mat Task Force at a company close to the buildings, but far enough away as not to be targets themselves.

At 10:01, a second alarm was struck at the Pentagon for additional DCFEMS units to respond. This brought an additional four engines, two trucks, Reserve Rescue 3, two fireboats, Battalion Chief John Thuman and Deputy Chief James Martin/Facilities, who assumed command of the DCFEMS units and personnel.

The District of Columbia and its surrounding jurisdictions all participate in a joint mutual aid plan under the auspices of the Council of Governments (COG), and the FIRESCOPE method of incident command as taught at the National Fire Academy is employed. Because the area is so rich in federal resources, the time it takes for any incident to become a unified command scenario is probably less than the time it took for you to get to work this morning. The Pentagon is located in Arlington, VA, and therefore they were incident command for this entire operation. DCFEMS set up a command post next to the vehicle being used by Arlington.

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