CHICAGO (AP) — A federal agency has found that poor communications and too few radios contributed to the deaths of two Chicago firefighters killed last year when an abandoned building collapsed.
NIOSH Report: Two Career Fire Fighters Die and 19 Injured in Roof Collapse during Rubbish Fire at an Abandoned Commercial Structure
The Chicago Tribune reported Friday (http://trib.in/obqya9 ) that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded in a report that only five of the 13 firefighters in the building when the roof collapsed had radios and none of those inside described to supervisors outside what they were seeing — meaning that the supervisors had no clue the firefighters inside could see flames climbing wooden beams to the ceiling.
Further, the report concluded that there was no system to alert the fire department to hazardous buildings as one of the "contributing factors" that pose a danger to firefighters. It found, for example, that city inspectors had in 2007 ordered the owners to repair the building. But because the report found there is no procedure at the city's building department to notify the fire department, firefighters did not know that. Nor did they know that the building's owner had not made any repairs, choosing instead to try to board the building up.
The report also concluded that firefighters did the proper thing by searching the building for homeless people but that supervisors should have ordered some of them to leave the building after it was determined nobody was trapped inside. According to the report, there were more firefighters in the building than were needed to "suppress the amount of fire present and to search the vacant structure."
The collapse killed 47-year-old Edward Stringer and 34-year-old Corey Ankum, and injured 19 other firefighters when the roof collapsed at the abandoned building on the city's South Side on Dec. 22.
Since the report was provided to the fire department in July, some of the agency's recommendations have been implemented, according to department spokesman Larry Langford. For example, Langford said firefighters are now required to provide supervisors outside with more details about what they are seeing.
But a major recommendation — providing each firefighter with a radio — has not been implemented. Unlike cities including New York and Los Angeles that provide hand-held radios to all firefighters, in Chicago radios are provided to one member of each team of two or three firefighters, Langford said. Each firefighter will be provided a radio next year, when, according to the Office of Emergency Management and Communication, a new digital radio system will be put in place.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com
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