Emergency Response To Terrorism For Chiefs

This article was written a couple years ago before the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America, but it is still relevant today.

Introduction

Within the contents of this article I have two different themes: The Chief Officer and Terrorism Training. The information may be disjointed to some degree, but I feel it will be very valuable to the reader.

Over the last couple of decades I have noticed a trend taking place within the fire service. The chief officer has become more of an administrator, staff officer, and less of a line officer. As the progression of the fire department continues, we have become more and more technically advanced. In addition, the same has occurred within the administrative function of the fire department. The fire service has become very complicated and complex.

The Chief Officer

Over the last several years, maybe 15 or 20 years, the fire service has progressed into several different specialties. These special areas of training include hazardous materials, paramedic/medical training, bloodborne pathogens, swiftwater rescue, pre-fire planning, high angle rescue, heavy rescue, high rise firefighting operations, urban search and rescue, confined space entry, urban/rural wildland interface, and many more. Now a new one is being introduced all over the country by several different agencies, Emergency Response to Terrorism.

The administrative function of the chief officer continues to be demanding. The regulations and requirements from agencies such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has become a critical focus to the administration of the fire department today. The NFPA Standards have also shared the spot light in their importance to the administration of the fire department. Let us take a brief look at just one: NFPA 1500 Standard "Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Programs" with its' 66 pages and the 15 page checklist for compliance is an immense undertaking for any fire department to comply with. After working as a Battalion Chief myself, I can testify that the job of a Chief Officer, is a never ending job. The administration of a fire department today is a very demanding and a complex job to do it right.

The aspect I want to address in this particular article, is one in which everyone tries to ignore. Chief officers are so busy in their administrative function they start to become deficient in their technical abilities. They are not keeping up with training for their line duties. Now this only applies with those chiefs that have the dual function of both staff and line duties. Many of these chiefs don't usually train or drill daily with their fire companies. They just can't work the drills or training into their busy schedules. Now, I'm only commenting about this from my own experiences and observations. My own department, region and the various departments I come into contact throughout the United States. Maybe some fire departments have the chief officer actually drilling/training with their companies daily. I just know when we conduct major specialized drills such as hazardous materials, confined space, etc. the chiefs are often missing from the class. There has been numerous comments over the years by personnel at these training activities, "Where are the chiefs?"

I recently became an instructor, Emergency Response to Terrorism, by the National Fire Academy in cooperation with the Department of Justice. I saw a problem with this particular training program. The sixteen hour, 2 day, program is just too long for the chief officer to attend. As of a matter of fact there are fire departments already indicating they will condense the program into a 8 hour (1 day) program for the their line personnel.

Safety Consideration

The main problem most people see with this particular situation is a training deficiency exist and the chief is normally in charge at the incident. If the chief officer hasn't had the same training or at least some sort of a condensed overview version. Then how smooth, safe, and efficient is the operation going to be?

Duties and Responsibilities

Taking a look at NFPA 1021, the Standard for "Fire Officer Professional Qualifications," we see the progressive need for additional training in certain areas from Fire Officer I to Fire Officer II, III, and IV. If we look at the section entitled, Emergency Service Delivery the job descriptions changes from: supervising emergency operations (Fire Officer I) to supervising multi-unit emergency operations (Fire Officer II) to managing multi-agency planning, deployment, and operations (Fire Officer II) and finally involves developing plans for major disasters (Fire Officer IV).

In order for the chief officer to accomplish the above vital duties and responsibilities, he or she must attend training program and develop their knowledge and skills. Today there is a great big push today to do just that in training firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical personnel about emergency response to terrorism.

The Solution

The problem is that most chiefs will not take the 2 day program. They won't take 2 days off from their administrative duties to attend the training. Therefore, my solution was to develop a condense accelerated version of the program just for chief officers. This is an overview of what the troops are being taught. This will up grade the skills and knowledge of the chief officer and will help him or her to be in touch with the same training as their personnel. In this particular training, I feel it is a necessity of the chief officer to be exposed to the material for personnel safety.

Terrorism is not just an idle/empty threat that just may occur. It is an absolute certainly, a threat to all of us in the emergency services today. Statistically, we are the target of approximately 32 percent of all terrorist attack world wide. These attacks have increased in frequency and in their danger (weapons of mass destruction). The terrorist are growing more sophisticated and are actually gaining technical support of sponsors throughout the world. We also are having a proliferation of secondary bombing devices that are planted to injury emergency service personnel.

Conclusion

The fire service is gaining more and more exposure and experience into these types of activities; with the bombings of the World Trade Center, Oklahoma, and Atlanta. Therefore, it is essential that the chief officer is part of this intense effort. The Chief Officer must train for this type of event. We all must become better prepared!

References:

  • NFPA 1500 - Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Programs
  • NFPA 1021 - Fire Officer Professional Qualifications
  • Emergency Response to Terrorism: Basic Concepts, Security Awareness Bulletin, Number 3-96, December, 1996.

Al Mozingo has developed a condensed, accelerated, overview of this valuable 16 hour program for chief officers. It can be presented to your organization as a 4 hour session at your location. The program is entitled: Emergency Response to Terrorism for Chief Officers and Incident Commanders. To contact Al Mozingo call (619) 447-2828.

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