Keyport, NJ - On Saturday morning, October 18, 2014 several northern Monmouth County fire departments conducted a large scale training exercise at the Fragrance Resources facilities on Clark Street in Keyport. Under the direction of the Bayshore Active Fire Chiefs Association (BAFCA) Training Committee approximately 120 firefighters from 7 local area fire departments participated in a half-day session that that focused on a coordinated response to a simulated chemical spill at the Keyport manufacturing facility.
The simulated event began with a report of a delivery tank truck leaking a large amounts of fluids. A tanker truck from the Morganville Independent Fire Company was used as a stand-in to simulate a flow of a flammable liquid by releasing a stream of water onto the ground from a “broken” valve. The alarm went out from the Fragrance employee monitoring the transfer from the delivery truck causing other employees converging on the scene in a matter of seconds. The Fragrance response team immediately deployed absorbent materials to contain the leaking fluids and to direct the flow to a specially designed retention pit. At the same time the plant management quickly assessed the situation and requested assistance from the local authorities.
Within minutes the first responding fire department units were on the scene and were briefed about the developing emergency. A decision was quickly made to evacuate all personnel from the area and for the fire units to deploy a protective blanket of foam over the hazardous fluids accumulating in the retention area. As the team started the process of setting up the foam delivery equipment it was decided that the limited amount of liquid foam agent carried on the initial responding units might not be sufficient to deal with the potential situation. A call went out to the Monmouth County radio room for additional foam resources. The Hazlet Fire Department quickly responded with a specialty equipped trailer loaded with 5 gallon containers of liquid foam. The initial group of firefighters applied a continuous blanket of protective foam over all of the fluid in the retention pond area using a variety of nozzles and techniques. This process greatly reduces the possibility of a fire or explosion by trapping potentially volatile gasses under the foam blanket.
Further adding to the scope and complexity of the training exercise, after the Fragrance Resources team conducted a personnel accountability assessment in accordance with their standard operating procedures, the drill was expanded to attempt to locate two employees that were declared “missing”. Arriving fire units were briefed on the new event details and broken up into two addition teams assigned to the locations where the missing employees were last seen. One team was sent to an office area just inside the main gate where they encountered a smoke condition, courtesy of non-toxic smoke generators operated by the Holmdel and Hazlet Fire Departments. The team quickly donned their protective Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and commenced a search of the office building. The team effectively practiced search and rescue techniques that allowed them to locate the “victim”.
The second team was assigned to a large warehouse building towards the rear of the facility where they were presented with a breathing air management training course set up by the Middletown Fire Department’s Training Academy staff. The firefighters were instructed to put on all their protective gear, including their SCBA, pickup an assortment of standard hand tools, and to proceed along a search rope that was deployed in the building. Several stations were setup along the search route at which the firefighters were directed to perform calisthenics for a short period of time in order to simulate the activity level of operating in an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) environment. Approximately half way through the search area, the team was presented with an obstacle that simulated a wall with narrow openings that required the firefighters to employ special techniques to safely transit through the breaches. Throughout the scenario, the team leader was responsible for monitoring the remaining air level in each of the member’s SCBA and make regular status report to the Incident Commander (IC) via portable radio. The objective of the training exercise was to reinforce the importance of maintaining proper situational awareness of breathing air supply levels. It is critical that the firefighters don’t get too caught up in the tasks at hand and forget to ensure that they have a sufficient air supply to safely exit the IDLH environment. Once they reached the halfway point of their primary air supply the team stopped their forward progress along the search route and retraced their steps back to the entry point. If this had been a real event, the exiting team would have briefed the next team on how far along the search route they had ventured so that the new group could pick up where they left off.
As each of the three teams completed their assigned training tasks they were sent to the staging area where they were evaluated by the emergency medical team and give a chance to rest and to refresh their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the rehab area. Local first aid volunteers staffing the Monmouth County EMS Task Force Medical Ambulance Bus 6 directed firefighters entering the rear door of the unit to one of the many stations where their vital signs were taken and general condition assessed by the medical staff. They were then instructed to re-hydrate and to rest for a period of time. Once they were ready to go again, each team was sent to one of the other training areas so that at the end of the session all the firefighters participated in all three scenarios.
The Salvation Army had a mobile kitchen on site throughout the entire training exercise. In addition to providing hot and cold food to the first responders, they ensured that there was plenty of refreshing beverages and healthy snack foods on hand in the rehab area. The firefighters greatly appreciated the provisions needed to re-charge between training evolutions.
In additional to honing the firefighter’s practical skills, the drill provided realistic training on radio communication procedures and personnel accountability systems. The Middletown Township Mobile Communications Unit was on hand to help coordinate the radio channel assignments that enabled units from over 20 different organization to communicate. Each department normally operate on their own dedicated radio channels during local emergency events. However, at the scene of a large multi-jurisdiction event such as the one presented during the drill, it is imperative that everyone have access to common radio channels. In this case, the teams used 3 Monmouth County fire ground radio channels to coordinate their efforts and communicate with the incident command group.
The Monmouth County Fire Marshal’s Office used this training exercise as an opportunity to test the first large scale use of their new Personnel Accounting Safety System (PASS). Using a number of mobile handheld devices, Deputy Fire Marshals at the scene were able to scan the identity tag of each fire response vehicle as well as the personal tags of all the onboard firefighters. The scanned information was immediately wirelessly transmitted to the central PASS computer system located in the onsite Monmouth County Fire Marshal’s Mobile Investigation Unit. This system provides the incident command group with real time status of exactly who is on the scene at any time. Because the system is preloaded with the vehicle equipment inventory as well as the individual responder’s training and qualifications it can supply a comprehensive list of all the assets on hand. The incident command group can use this information to make the most efficient use of the on scene manpower and equipment as well as to make decisions on the need for additional resources.
Throughout the entire training session, area fire police units controlled access to the sprawling facility. Traffic management devices were set in place to efficiently route passing vehicles around the hazard area and to provide responding emergency units safe access.
At the conclusion of the drill, BAFCA Vice President and Training Committee Chairman Les Parleman thanked all the responders for their participation. He noted that there were a couple of minor “glitches” that were observed during the event which were quickly identified and “worked out” just like would have occurred during a real event. Chief Parleman also thanked the Management and Employees of Fragrance Resources for the use of their facility and their continued contributions to the Volunteer Fire Service. Also recognized were the members of the BAFCA Training Committee, the Salvation Army, and the Monmouth County Fire Marshal’s office.
Participating units included: Keyport, Union Beach, Aberdeen, Hazlet, Holmdel, Middletown, and Old Bridge fire departments; Keyport, Union Beach, and Atlantic Highlands First Aid Squads; Monmouth County Fire Marshall’s office; and the Salvation Army.
Organized in 1969, membership in the Bayshore Active Fire Chiefs Association (BAFCA) is comprised of the present and former fire chiefs of 11 neighboring Bayshore fire departments. Representatives of the Monmouth County Fire Marshalls Office, NJ State Forest Fire Service, NJ State Firemen’s Association, NJ State Firemen’s Home, and Bayshore Community Hospital are also members. With over 130 active members, the BAFCA is dedicated to providing meaningful information exchange between the participating departments on topics such as equipment, training, education, personnel, fire incidents, building construction, new laws and regulations. Multiple times a year the BAFCA organizes large scale drills and training sessions. These events focus on inter-operability issues, communications, multi-department operations, skill proficiency, and new tools & techniques.
The Association meets on a monthly basis at a member department’s firehouse. During these meetings guest speakers often address the membership to give current information on subject such as new products & services, utility company emergency response protocols, NJ Transit procedures, and legislative matters. Each year the Association honors a Person of the Year who has demonstrated exemplary service to the Association or local department.
More information about the BAFCA can be found on their website at www.bayshorefirechiefs.org<http://www.bayshorefirechiefs.org/index.html>.