The Marine Firefighting Institute

Newsletter # 11

Please do not reprint in any form without the permission of the author.

Let the Coast Guard handle it!

By Tom Guldner

It's amazing how many Fire Departments are saying this when it comes to marine fires. If you think that you can "just leave it to them", then read this taken from a USCG publication:

"Generally. Coast Guard personnel shall not directly engage in fire fighting activities on other than Coast Guard units except when necessary to save a life or when possible to avert a significant threat with minimal risk to Coast Guard personnel... During marine fire fighting situations involving vessels or waterfront facilities, Commanding Officers of Coast Guard units shall adopt a conservative response posture, and shall focus their actions on those traditional Coast Guard activities listed above not requiring unit personnel to enter into a hazardous environment or be unduly tasked....Coast Guard personnel shall not engage in independent fire fighting operations, except to save a life or in the early stages of a fire to avert a significant threat without undue risk."

In other words,

"You've Got It!"

Photo courtesy of the Colonial Beach, VA Fire Department

I am in no way criticizing our Coast Guard. I have worked with them in marine rescue work for many years. They have not taken this stance on marine Firefighting arbitrarily. This action was not taken by the Coast Guard because they do not want to actively partake in Firefighting operations.

Due to budgetary cuts and the tremendous workload undertaken by them in terrorist interdiction and port security since September 11th they are stretched as thin as possible. Their forces and budget have been cut drastically over the past decade. Only now are they getting new funding and personnel.

However, these new funds will not help you, the local Fire Department. The new money is to be used to beef up our nations port security.

I feel that port security should involve marine Firefighting but I think that I'm the only one with this view.(See my newsletter #10 "Port Security - Are We Missing the Boat")

The Coast Guard may assist you indirectly by supplying foam or valuable technical information, but when it comes to putting the fire out it will be up to you. Your Firefighters had better be trained in all aspects of marine Firefighting from a fast moving marina fire to a container ship that is on fire just off of your shores.

If you don't want to believe me, then call your local Coast Guard and ask them if they will put out your marina fire, or that container ship that just exploded.

What is your liability if you choose to disregard marine Firefighting training for your Department?

Chapter 15-1.2 of NFPA standard # 1405 dealing with volunteer, career, as well as mutual aid fire departments who have been defendants in law suits involving losses at ship fires, states,

"An understanding of the dangers inherent in marine fire fighting should include an understanding of the consequences of the failure to provide a standard of training, planning, response, and action equivalent to that which a department provides on the land-based portions of its response area."

Another quote from US Fire Administration report entitled Fireboats Then and Now

"A central principle in the fire and rescue service has been that firefighters and rescue personnel do as they practice when called to the scene of an emergency. Like land-based firefighting, shipboard and marine fire emergencies require unique skills to be mitigated effectively.

These skills must be taught, evaluated, and refreshed regularly to ensure quality performance and firefighter safety.

Dependence on traditional land-based firefighting skills which have often been mastered by individuals selected or promoted to serve in marine units may be inefficient or dangerous in the non land-based environment."

Stay safe,

Tom Guldner

Please leave you comments about this article (Good or Bad) in my Guest Book Or give me your comments about any future topics you would like to see.

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Why not have MFI deliver one of our Marine Firefighting presentations at your next seminar, convention, or training session?

Don't forget that we can also consult with your Fire Department or Shipping Company on setting up your own ongoing Marine Firefighting Training program or Port emergency scenario. E-mail us now!

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Previous Newsletters:

Newsletter # 1 "Marine Firefighting Training, Who needs it!"

Newsletter # 2 "Shipboard Basics"

Newsletter # 3 "Straight Stream Vs Fog Stream"

Newsletter #4 "Immigrants in Shipping Containers"

Newsletter #5 "Hazards of Refrigeration in the Shipping Industry"

Newsletter #6 "Stability at Shipboard Fires"

Newsletter #7 "2 in 2 out at Shipboard Fires"

Newsletter #8 "What Happened To the Air"

Newsletter #9 "What Else Can Fireboats Do - WTC Response"

Newsletter #10 "Port Security - Are We Missing the Boat"