Fire chiefs share lessons learned from recent high profile emergencies including hurricanes, hi-rise fires and hostile shooting incidents at the Urban Fire Forum

September 27, 2017 – Fire chiefs from France, the United Kingdom, and the United States gathered in Quincy, Massachusetts at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Urban Fire Forum (UFF) to listen to first-hand accounts of some of the biggest emergency response incidents over the past 15 months, including hurricane response in Texas and Florida, the Grenfell Tower fire in London, and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.

The UFF brings together fire chiefs from some of the world’s largest urban centers to learn from peers and expert speakers, and to endorse important documents for today’s first responders. The program also allows NFPA to stay abreast of current trends so that relevant resources for the fire service can be developed. This year’s UFF meetings were particularly engaging as members heard from leaders who were responsible for emergency response in the wake of recent high profile incidents. Here are some highlights:

  • Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey and Orange County Fire and Rescue Chief Otto Drozd discussed preparation as weather forecasters predicted a direct hit from Hurricane Irma on Miami. Downey and his team planned for response in Miami-Dade, as well as deployment of resources to the Florida Keys and southwest Florida when the eye of the storm switched directions. He spoke about the importance of preparedness, training and collaboration in anticipation of hurricane season. First responders in the Orlando area had a much shorter time to devote to hurricane response. The storm shifted directions and headed inland, where many of the residents of Southern Florida had flocked for refuge.
  • Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña’s detailed efforts as Category 4 Hurricane Harvey slammed his state, delivering more than 50 inches of rain, affecting about 6.8 million people in 18 counties, and killing 82. Firefighters initially were told not to respond, but once the full force of Harvey had passed, Peña and others had to manage local and visiting fire resources and respond to more than 5,500 emergency calls. Houston staffing was plentiful but the department soon learned that despite their best planning, they did not have enough equipment to penetrate high waters and reach neighborhoods that normally were not affected by flooding.
  • CFO Roy Wilsher, Chair of the United Kingdom’s National Fire Chiefs Council and CFO Peter Holland, the UK’s Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor provided perspective from the Grenfell Tower fire. The duo were no strangers to chaotic, catastrophic incidents given three terror attacks in the months leading up to the West London blaze that killed 80. The fire took place in a hi-rise building with exterior cladding that was plagued with fire and life safety issues. Additionally, the smoke alarm system and the “stay put” advice recommended by the tenant organization were also called into question. NFPA’s Robert Solomon, division manager for Building Fire Protection, provided technical insight on exterior cladding to the group.
  • Chief Otto Drozd shared lessons learned from the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. The Orange County Fire Rescue head emphasized the importance of having emergency agencies train and develop plans on working together; practicing set up, roles and responsibilities of organizations in response to different situations, prioritizing good communication, and investing in an appropriate amount of ballistic vests, helmets and medical care packs.

“The preparation and response takeaways that these fire leaders shared with us were invaluable,” said NFPA Metro Chiefs Executive Secretary Russ Sanders and coordinator of the event.  “To be the first audience to hear how the fire service handled two devastating hurricanes, and to learn more about the exterior cladding fires and hostile shooter incidents that persistently surface on today’s news feeds was not only educational for Urban Fire Forum members, but also for NFPA’s staff. The exchange of real-world, relevant insight is exactly what the Urban Fire Forum is about.”

In addition to these timely presentations, updates were given by:

  • Jim Pauley – NFPA President and CEO
  • Chief Keith Bryant – USFA Administrator
  • Chief Mark Light – IAFC CEO and Executive Director
  • Contrôleur Général Christophe Mignot – Head of International Relations for France
  • Daniel Madrzykowski – UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (fire dynamics)
  • Chief Otto Drozd – Orange County Fire and Rescue (cancer legislation)
  • Gary Keith, Vice President of Engineering Standards (FM Global Training Program)
  • Casey Grant – NFPA  
  • Joe Finn – Boston Fire Commissioner
  • Fire Chief Daryl Osby – Los Angeles County
  • Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell – IAFF (cancer and field contamination)
    Moore-Merrell also spoke about a new exposure app, and how the fire service  is handling the opioid crisis
  • Dr. Larry Head – Director of the Transportation Research Institute, Discovery and Innovation, University of Arizona College of Engineering (Connected Vehicle Technologies)

Forum members also endorsed papers and supporting documentation on violent incident response; cancer awareness, field decontamination; and the opioid crises so that departments across the world can address modern day emergencies that the fire service is contending with. To view these position papers and supporting documentation, visit the Urban Fire Forum page.

Other Urban Fire Forum members in attendance included:

  • Chief Mike Duyck – Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue
  • Chief Mary Cameli – Mesa Fire Department
  • Chief (Ret.) Teresa Deloach Reed – Oakland Fire Department
  • Chief (Ret.) Luther L. Fincher – Charlotte Fire Department
  • Chief Gregory Dean – DC Fire and Emergency Management Services
  • Director Gina Sweat – Memphis Fire Department
  • Chief Kara Kalkbrenner – Phoenix Fire Department
  • Commissioner Adam K. Thiel – Philadelphia Fire Department
  • Commissioner Jose Santiago – Chicago Fire Department-Public Safety Building
  • NFPA’s Russ Sanders – Central Regional Director/Metro Chiefs Executive Secretary

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global, nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1-617-984-7275