USFA Releases New Technical Report

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) has released a new technical report titled "Chemical Fire in Apex, North Carolina." This report examines the response of the Apex Fire Department, the value of pre-planning efforts, and the impact of a well coordinated response in the worst of conditions.

At 9:38 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006, the Apex Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a chlorine odor. AFD dispatched its standard response of two engines and a chief officer (shift commander). By the time the incident demobilized, approximately 17,000 people had been evacuated from their homes due to the threat posed by the chemical plume. There were no fatalities.

Thirty civilians sought medical treatment for respiratory distress and skin irritation. Twelve police officers and one firefighter were treated for respiratory difficulties that were consistent with exposure to "tear gas." "Once again we see the positive outcomes of preplanning, practicing the plans, and executing the plans when an emergency occurs," said U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade. "Our country's fire service is an amazing cadre of specially trained individuals whom the public not only relies on during emergencies – but also depends on to be prepare for all emergencies, and knows how to apply the principles of on scene management, including ICS and NIMS."

From every account and after-action report, including the town's report, this potentially devastating situation was handled with the highest levels of skill and expertise. The multi-agency cooperation was virtually a textbook application of Unified Command and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). According to the report, the key element contributing to the success of operations was that AFD had a very well-defined plan that was practiced routinely. They made a commitment to train to the plan, and when they had an incident they used the plan as a foundation for the response.

To view the report in its entirety, go to www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr_163.pdf.

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