Incident Command System
London & New York Fire Officer and high-rise fire-fighting specialist Paul Grimwood was in Kuala Lumpur in November
2008 leading KL City Firefighters during an upgrade of their High-rise Incident Command
and Standard Operating Procedures. A month long series of live exercises and
familiarization visits in some of KL's tallest buildings paved the way for the
introduction of a new system of 'Pro-active' ICS as well as RAT teams (Rapid Ascent Teams) in Malaysia's capital,
who's prime objectives are to complete rapid but thorough secondary searches of
the most dangerous locations above a fire, ensuring all occupants have evacuated to safety.
He went on to say ...
'The fire service in Kuala Lumpur is known for it's
innovative approach to modernization where the objectives are to provide an
effective system of fire cover, inline with effective risk assessment. The
modern high-rise buildings that scatter the skyline in downtown KL feature many
of the latest systems in high-rise protection. However, the system of
intervention in KL high-rise fires, as in so
many other parts of the world, has been based on out-dated 1980s 'reactive'
incident command structures. We introduced them to a new way of thinking about
how they can get ahead of the fire as opposed to reacting some minutes later due
to the inevitable time lag delays common to high-rise fire-fighting. Where
building systems fail, we must respond speedily and appropriately if we are to
avoid catastrophic outcomes in our urban environments'. For more information E.mail Paul Grimwood HERE
Paul Grimwood's report on reducing fire service intervention times HERE
- 2009 research in Kuala Lumpur
Rescue from 66th floor of Petronas Twin Towers in KLCC
Whilst Paul Grimwood was training the KL Firefighters a real
emergency call came in reporting a couple of window washers who had become
trapped (for over six hours) high up on the facade of one of the Petronas twin
towers. This set the scene for an amazing high-angle rescue as a firefighter
rappelled down from the 66th level, before lowering the marooned window washers
from their gondola some thirty storeys above ground. This has to be one of the
highest ever rapels to rescue trapped workers on the face of a high-rise
building (see pictures right).
Grimwood was invited to address the Seoul Korea Conference on High-rise Firefighting in
November 2007 - He sent this short message ...
we are faced with a serious fire at ground level, our firefighters often
encounter great difficulties and exposure to some element of risk. When
they are faced with that same fire, thirty storeys above ground, the
physiological demands are much greater and the difficulties and risks are
greatly magnified. There may be long time delays between a fire
commander's chosen strategy becoming a tactical operation on the fire floors.
There may be changing circumstances during this delay that require the
strategy to be altered. There will be a great demand for manpower to
accomplish even the most basic operation and then, where firefighters are
working hard, the need to support them in a continued attack on the fire will
treble the resources operating on the fire floors. To be effective you must
have a pre-plan that is based on the experience of those who have fought these
types of fires and learned many lessons. The pre-plan must be well
understood by everybody and to achieve this requires frequent practice in
such buildings. The communication process at a high-rise fire will
inevitably break down and the pre-plan must ensure that critical tasks, such
as searching stair-shafts, elevators and roof, are documented as written
assignments into the pre-plan. The objective is to enable firefighting teams
to adapt and function in small teams with pre-assigned tasks and on occasions,
without fire command supervision. Above all, avoid complacency! This is
inevitably the firefighter's worst enemy! Approach every situation with
care and professionalism and always try to be at least one step ahead of
the fire's next move."
In 1991 Paul Grimwood published a 28-page report in his book Fog
Attack and articles in the IFE Journal (UK) that stated quite simply that the
vast majority of fire departments were unprepared to face a difficult fire
situation on the upper floors of a high-rise residential or office building. The
lack of training, pre-planning, documented procedure (SOPs) and inadequate
staffing or equipment was subjecting both firefighters and building occupants to
Ten years on ....
'Since the fatal 2001 Four Leaf Towers residential tower
block fire in Houston, Texas, the fire department has placed a stronger
emphasis on training and staffing their fire force. The fire resulted in the
deaths of a firefighter and a building occupant' ....
'Since the fatal 2002 Dolphin Cove residential condominium
high-rise fire in Clearwater, Florida, the fire department has placed a
stronger emphasis on training. The fire resulted in several deaths and
'Since the fatal 2003 CCAB high-rise office fire in downtown
Chicago, the fire department has placed a stronger emphasis on training.
Greater efforts to improve communications; transfer of information; incident
command and firefighting tactics are now being seen. The fire resulted in the
deaths of six occupants and the fire department are facing multi-million dollar
litigation from the families of those who lost their lives' ....
'Since the fatal 2005 Harrow Court residential tower block
fire in Stevenage, UK, the fire department has placed a stronger emphasis on
training in incident command; transfer of information; and high-rise
firefighting tactics. The fire resulted in several deaths including an occupant
and two firefighters' ....
High-rise Firefighting Instructor (HRFI) Courses
Renowned expert on high-rise firefighting, UK Fire Officer Paul Grimwood, has researched firefighting experience in
high-rise buildings since 1975, working on detachment with ten big city fire departments in the USA during
the 1990s and attending fires in five of the world's tallest buildings including
the World Trade Center, New York City and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He is
adviser to a UK national (Communities & Local Government) committee
reviewing high-rise procedures (2007).
He also visited the scenes of past conflagrations at the
Interstate Bank in Los Angeles; the Petrona Towers in Kuala Lumpar; the Ponte
building in Johannesburg and the Churchill Plaza in the UK where he discussed
firefighting operations with firefighters and chiefs who attended these
incidents. Using several case histories he explains how incident command
systems, a detailed pre-plan (SOP), manpower and equipment logistics are key
factors in any successful operation.
Download 'Operational Aspects of High-rise Firefighting'
A 5,000m2 fire located high up within the confines of a downtown office
high-rise structure is a lot different to the same fire located on the second
floor! The logistical demands placed on firefighters have demonstrated that
Incident Command needs to function well in advance of actual needs for as a plan
is initiated there is a lengthy time delay prior to actioning! At two fires in
1988 (Interstate Bank) and 1991(Churchill Plaza), US and UK firefighters were
faced with office fires on upper levels that demanded a fresh 30 minute SCBA
cylinder every 33 seconds for the entire duration of the Interstate fire and
similar requirements for a fresh 45 minute cylinder every 80 seconds in the
Plaza fire! Similarly in both fires, hundreds of firefighters were required to
undertake a wide range of duties, estimated at both incidents as one firefighter
for every 25m2 of fire involvement.
It was in FOG ATTACK that he researched and initiated debate on reaction times -
the time taken by firefighters to respond to an incident and get water flowing
onto the fire on the upper levels of a high-rise. His research demonstrated
'reaction times' ranging from 9 to 40 minutes for fires located between the 10th
and 33rd levels!
Grimwood for details on our HRFI Courses