Understanding Charleston

The Post Incident Assessment and Review Team assigned to the tragic Charleston, S.C., Sofa Super Store fire released its first report on Oct. 16.
As expected, the report is a comprehensive list of recommendations the Charleston Fire Department (CFD) must make to incorporate fire service best practices, meet the public safety needs of the city and ensure the health and safety of its firefighters. Highlights include:

  • Develop a multi-year training plan after assessing department-wide training needs.
  • Upgrade the current recruit-training program to a 14-week curriculum based on NFPA 1001: Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications.
  • Operate all engine and ladder companies with a minimum of four crewmembers on duty at all times.
  • Develop a multi-phase, validated firefighter recruitment and selection process for entry-level firefighters;
  • Begin discussions with neighboring departments on how to enhance mutual aid.
  • Establish a Health and Safety Committee to begin development of a comprehensive Occupational Safety and Health Program based on NFPA 1500: Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program.
  • Develop recommendations for changes and improvements in SCBA.
  • Purchase LDH for all front-line and reserve engines.
  • Provide thermal imaging cameras for all engine and ladder companies.

As the report noted, many of the recommendations were in the task force’s initial recommendations made on Aug. 17, and many of these have been implemented or are underway. Still, there’s no doubt the challenge facing the CFD is a daunting one: revamping and improving nearly all areas of the department, from personal protective equipment to culture and leadership to staffing. Following the release of the report, Chief Rusty Thomas acknowledged the challenge ahead but said the department was committed to making the changes.

The task force will produce two additional reports: a detailed incident analysis and a 5–10-year strategic plan. Watch future issues of FireRescue for more on the task force recommendations and what they mean for the fire service as a whole.

To read the complete Phase 1 report, go to www.charlestoncity.info and click on the link for the Charleston Fire Department at the bottom of the page.

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