AN ANALYSIS OF FIRE RESCUE DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
FOR AN INSTANT DISASTER
EXECUTIVE ANALYSIS OF FIRE SERVICE OPERATIONS IN EMERGENCY
By: Patrick Kendrick
Tamarac Fire Rescue
An applied research project submitted to the National Fire Academy
as part of the Executive Fire Officer Program
The problem was that Tamarac Fire Rescue did not have a disaster plan to deal with an
immediate, or instant, disaster in the community. Broad base contingency plans had been
developed to mitigate natural disasters, such as hurricanes, but these plans allowed that there
would be meteorological warnings and would give personnel and the community several days to
prepare for such disasters.
The purpose of this research project was to analyze Tamarac Fire Rescue’s existing
readiness for a disaster of an immediate nature, with particular reference to aircraft crashes,
conduct a community Risk Assessment Analysis, and identify recommendations for an Instant
Disaster Emergency Activation (IDEA) Plan.
Evaluative and historical research methods were used to answer the following questions:
1. What Emergency Management Procedures were currently in place to mitigate
large scale community disasters?
2. What was the city of Tamarac’s current Risk Assessment Analysis particularly in
those communities that would be at the highest exposure to an instant disaster?
3. What experiences have other fire rescue and off site responders encountered that
might assist in the development of an IDEA Plan?
Procedures used in this project were an extensive review of literature pertaining to the
subject of aircraft accidents, particularly off site, high impact crashes, personal interviews with
fire rescue personnel as well as other responders to aircraft crashes, extensive review of data
from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration web sites,
and air crash rescue response plans in the South Florida, tri-county area (Palm Beach, Broward,
and Dade Counties), and a community Risk Assessment Analysis was conducted for Tamarac
communities most likely to be affected by an instant disaster.
A summary of the results of this research revealed that Tamarac’s Emergency
Management Plan was inadequate to handle an instant disaster. Specific areas of the plan were
found to be weak, such as actual response information. The plan is in need of an update that
includes contemporary emergencies, such as plane crashes and terrorists attacks, as well as
specific response information to such incidents. There is a lack of outside agency contact
information specifically, but not limited to, law enforcement agencies and federal agencies that
would be responding to an instant disaster. An abbreviated community risk assessment was
conducted but a more comprehensive assessment should be completed and additional planning
established to reduce Tamarac’s vulnerability to instant disasters.
A summary of recommendations included conducting a new community risk assessment
to include contemporary hazards and vulnerabilities specific to Tamarac and its proximity to a
nearby airport. Pre-disaster contacts and relationships need to be established with numerous
outside agencies to ensure a more efficient and proper response and mitigation for an instant
disaster. These agencies include federal agencies, local law enforcement, county health, and
private contractor agencies, as well as numerous others. Additional training needs to be
conducted for fire and police personnel and include air crash rescue response procedures. For
fire personnel specifically, training on aircraft structural components and hazards, as well as
decon procedures, and urban search and rescue procedures. Additional training on WMD’s and
terrorism should be conducted. Specialized equipment needs to be purchased and stored in the
event of an instant disaster. Tamarac’s EOC should be relocated, rebuilt, and updated.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents.............................................................................................................................4
Background and Significance ..........................................................................................................5
Literature Review ............................................................................................................................8
Reference List ................................................................................................................................50
Appendix B ....................................................................................................................................53
Appendix C ....................................................................................................................................53
Appendix E ....................................................................................................................................55
The problem is that while Tamarac Fire Rescue is well prepared for a Slow Progressing
Incident of Disaster Emergency Response (SPIDER) such as a hurricane or other similar
meteorological events, the organization is not prepared for an instant disaster and does not have
an Instant Disaster Emergency Activation (IDEA) Plan. The purpose of this research project is to
analyze Tamarac Fire Rescue’s current readiness for a disaster of an immediate nature, with
particular reference to aircraft crashes, conduct a community Risk Assessment Analysis, and
identify recommendations for an Instant Disaster Emergency Activation (IDEA) Plan.
Evaluative and historical research methods were used to answer the following questions:
1. What Emergency Management Procedures are currently in place to mitigate large
scale community disasters?
2. What is the city of Tamarac’s current Risk Assessment Analysis particularly in
those communities that would be at the highest exposure to an instant disaster?
3. What experiences have other fire rescue and off site responders encountered that
might assist in the development of an IDEA Plan?
BACKGROUND AND SIGNIFICANCE
Tamarac Fire Rescue serves a populace predominantly made up of retired citizens in a
residential bedroom community. While time has changed the demographics of the community
since its inception, it is still a relatively new, or newer, community with very little crime. The
current population is approximately 56,000. A significant number of the population are Jewish
and there are numerous synagogues and Jewish community centers. After the terrorist attacks of
September 11th, 2001, this fact became more significant in calculating the community’s risk
assessment analysis. The average age of residents five years ago was 71. Currently, the area has
a large retirement population with an average age of 52.9 but, recently, a new public school was
built beginning to serve an increasingly younger group of citizens moving into the area. The
school was built in the western area of the City. Another school is planned nearby. Residential
communities are scattered throughout the City but, generally speaking, industry and business is
located along main thoroughfares and highways and generally more to the east. Newer and larger
scale residential communities are located more to the west.
There are two airports nearby. One is the Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport
located approximately ten miles south of Tamarac proper. This airport caters to both commercial
and general aircraft. The other closer airport is an executive business airport, the Ft. Lauderdale
Executive Airport, located just to the east of the City’s easternmost boundaries with numerous
aircraft that fall under the description of general aviation. These aircraft usually make their
landing approach from west to east, crossing over the Everglades, a non-residential, protected
wetland, and over the residential areas that are located in the western section of the City.
it is a modern community which has adhered to current building codes standards there has been
little property loss due to fire damage in the past 25, or so, years. The average fire loss is
approximately $500,000 and less annually (Tamarac Fire Rescue Annual Report, 2000. (p.3).
Additionally, due to enhanced building codes and because Tamarac is located farther west than
many other South Florida communities, the City has experienced minimal damage from natural
disasters such as hurricanes.
Tamarac Fire Rescue began in 1975. It is a small department of 96 paid personnel. Most
of the front line personnel are trained as both fire fighters and paramedics. They have been
trained and drilled in responding to mass casualty incidents but our resources are often
overwhelmed, quickly, by any incident that is categorized as an MCI, Level 3, (20, or more
patients). Special Operations such as Haz- Mat response, is handled by the neighboring City of
Sunrise Fire Rescue Department. Tamarac Fire Rescue does have a well established, experienced
Dive Rescue Team. The closest Aircraft Crash Rescue personnel are located at the Ft.
Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, about ten miles away.
There have been numerous small aircraft crashes in and around Tamarac. The National
Transportation Safety Board’s data base reveals there have been three separate aircraft crashes in
Tamarac proper and numerous others in nearby cities in which Tamarac Fire Rescue had to
respond. A review of the National Transportation Safety Board’s data has revealed that Florida
has one of the highest number of aircraft crashes in the United States and, consequently, one of
the highest number of aircraft crash fatalities. These numbers remain somewhat constant over the
years. Until the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, only California had more crashes and
fatalities than Florida (National Transportation Safety Board Annual Review Of Aircraft
Accident Data, U.S. General Aviation Calendar Years, 1996, p.34, and 1997, p.34).
Florida has a plethora of high density residential areas, nuclear power plants and military
installations that have the potential to become terrorists targets. Many of the terrorists that
conducted the September 11th attacks lived and operated in South Florida . Tamarac does not
have nuclear power plants, nor military bases. Tamarac does have high density residential areas,
particularly to the west. Numerous aircraft approach Tamarac from the west over unguarded,
unpatrolled wetlands to land at the nearby Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. Small planes that
spray chemicals for both mosquito control and crop dusting fly out of the Ft. Lauderdale
Executive Airport. Using materials and information from Unit 4: Community Risk Assessment,
from the Executive Fire Officer Program course: Executive Analysis Of Fire Service Operations
In Emergency Management (EAOFSOEM), an analysis of the City’s Risk Assessment was
conducted, and reveals that, whether by terrorist act, mechanical failure, or pilot error, Tamarac
has a significant probability of experiencing an aircraft crash that could devastatingly affect the
city and overwhelm the Fire Rescue Department.
The National Transportation Safety Board publishes its Annual Review Of Aircraft
Accident Data approximately three years behind the present year. Much of the data used in this
research project is from the calendar years of 1996 and 1997. More current data came from the
NTSB’s web site. A significant part of information used in the literature review came from the
Learning Resource Center at the National Fire Academy and the Palm Beach County Library
System. The Community Risk Assessment Model came from the EAOFSEM course of the
Executive Fire Officer Program. Other source material came from the City Of Tamarac’s
Department of Community Development.
In Aircraft Incident Management System: A Team Approach, Fire Engineering, March,
1991, Carr and Omans write that no one agency can handle an aircraft incident effectively.
Analyses of previous air incidents revealed that many responders met for the first time at the
accident scene; a factor that resulted in chaotic operations (p.143). Some of the following groups
and agencies can be, or should be, expected to respond: other fire departments, the health
department, coroner and/or medical examiner, disaster coordinating agencies, psychological
response teams, volunteer groups, private contractors, public works, civil attorneys, insurance
companies, airport administration, news media, elements of the political community including,
possibly, the state governor, Red Cross, postal inspectors, and federal agencies such as the Drug
Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the FBI, U.S. Customs
Service, and certainly the NTSB and the FAA (p.145). Roles and responsibilities change and
command may evolve due to the input of some of these agencies. One should develop the mind
set of when it happens rather than if it happens, develop an Aircraft Incident Management
System (AIMS) and ensure the cooperation of these various agencies prior to an incident (p.146).
In an article from Fire Chief, February, 2000, entitled Have Trainer, Will Travel, Nilo
wrote that growth forecasts from the Federal Aviation Administration indicate the number of
passengers carried on U.S. commercial aircraft will reach nearly one billion by 2010. Nilo
included information from the 1998 FAA Safer Skies conference and quoted FAA Administrator
Jane F. Garvey as saying, the enormous growth in aviation would mean more accidents (p. 70).
According to IFSTA, Aircraft Rescue And Fire Fighting, 3rd Edition, March, 1992,
there are basically four types of aircraft accidents, or incidents.
• In flight emergencies
• On-ground accidents/incidents
• Low-impact crashes
• High-impact crashes
Additionally, there are three locations where accidents may occur:
• In-air collisions
• On-site (at the airport) accidents/incidents
• Off-site (anywhere off an airport) accidents/incidents
For the purpose of this study, the subject of off-site accidents/incidents, either high-
impact, or low-impact, was the primary focus for fire rescue response and mitigation planning in
Tamarac. IFSTA defines low impact crashes as those crashes that do not severely damage, or
break up the fuselage and are likely to have a large percentage of survivors (p.122). There are
basically two types of low impact crashes: wheels up, or belly landings, both of which may occur
due to failure of a hydraulic, or electrical system. Fire is not uncommon with these types of
crashes but hazards are usually greater when the plane lands on airport runways rather than on
soft ground. Ditching is another example of a low impact crash which is a somewhat controlled
landing of a wheels up plane on water.
High-impact crashes are those with severe damage to the fuselage and have a
reduced likelihood of occupant survival (IFSTA, p.123). High impact crashes include hillside
crashes, usually caused by weather, or pilot, or instrument, errors. The aircraft will often break
apart upon impact with the ground or trees. Sometimes, hitting obstructions causes the aircraft to
cartwheel. Responders should expect to find main structural components, such as the wings, tail,
and undercarriage scattered over a wide area of approach. Under these conditions, a thorough
wide ranging search for casualties should be carried out. Other high impact crashes include
structural crashes when an aircraft collides with a building. The aircraft will break apart upon
impact and flying debris will damage surrounding properties. Damage to upper and lower floors
may occur causing walls and floors to collapse. Persons residing in the building(s) will be
or killed as well as those inside the aircraft. Hazards may include jet fuel run off and fire spread.
Rescue personnel should expect to search involved properties and evacuate the entire area.
Attempts to prevent fuel from running into gutters, sewers and storm drains should be made
High impact water crashes are another type of incident. Many airports are surrounded
by bodies of water and there are many occasions when pilots are forced to make the decision to
try a water landing. Frequently with these types of crashes there are a few survivors due to the
weight and high speeds of commercial aircraft. Lighter, smaller aircraft tend to fare batter in
these types of crashes. Rescue personnel should be aware that aircraft wreckage may be floating
trapped air in the top of compartments and making an opening at a point above the water level
may permit the air to escape and cause the wreckage to submerge before passengers have been
removed. Access to the wreckage and surviving passengers is usually the most significant
and specialized equipment such as rescue boats and helicopters should be considered (p.125).
In Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting: Vital Information for the Responder, Industrial Fire
World, December, 1995, Lindemann cites: A review of air carrier accidents reveals that 80% of
accidents occur on or within 3000 feet of a runway during takeoff or landing. Most occur at
relatively slow speed and most are survivable. 15% of accidents occur in the approach area and
are generally fatal. 5% of accidents occur en route and are most likely to be fatal (p.8).
Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport serves as a base for aircraft that fall into the category of
“general aircraft”, which is non-commercial, light airplanes. In Light Aircraft Accidents,
Emergency, December, 1982, Smith writes that in 1980, there were 3,799 general aviation
accidents nationwide. Of these accidents, 677 were serious enough to produce 1,375 fatalities
(p.26). This comes out to an average of ten accidents a day, of which approximately two cause
fatalities. These statistics have improved over time. A review of the of the National
Transportation Safety Board, Annual Review Of Aircraft Accident Data, 1996 and 1997,
editions, published respectively in 2000 and 2001, cites improved statistics. In 1995 there were
2,053 reported accidents. By 1996, there was a 7 percent decrease, with a total of 1,935 reported
accidents. 370 of these caused fatalities (p.1). In the 1997 report, the statistics continued to
improve, showing that there were 1,870 accidents, a decrease of 3 percent, with 351 of these
accidents causing fatalities (p.1). However, the number of actual passenger deaths increased due
to the fact that some of these airplanes were simply carrying more people. Causes of accidents
show that statistically, pilots were either the cause, or the contributing factor in 77 percent in
1996 (p.3) and 75 percent in 1997 (p.3).
Data from both NTSB reports, both 1996 and 1997, which is the most current
available in 2001, show some general trends that are pertinent to this research project. Florida
the second highest number of accidents and fatalities in the nation (1997 edition, p.34). Most
accidents happen in the months of June and July and occur on Saturday (p.33). Most of these
accidents happen during daylight hours (p.36). Most of the pilots fall into the age bracket of 40
49 years of age, and are experienced, instrument rated pilots (p.39-45). There are numerous other
statistics cited in the NTSB annual reports, the scope of which exceeds the time and theme of
research project. For our purposes, the data cited in this report pertains to information that may
be pertinent to fire department response, expectations of what, or whom, may be found on the
crash site, and statistical time when a crash might be anticipated.
There are numerous sources containing information on what to expect when arriving at
the scene of an aircraft accident. In Now What do I Do? Firehouse, 1995, Phillips writes that
structural fire fighters should view an aircraft accident as a variation of a structural collapse
(p.104). He suggests six simple steps that may begin to give some order to an instant and, by its
very nature, chaotic event.
Step 1: Survey the area. Make as complete a survey as possible starting at the initial point
of impact and going 360 degrees around that site.
Step 2: Remove hazards. During the survey you must decide where you can expend
limited resources for the greatest potential of saving lives.
Ask yourself: Where are the passengers most likely to still be alive? Protecting property
is not an issue if there are lives at stake.
Step 3: Remove surface victims. Look for walking wounded. Clear viable patients from
the hot zone to a safe zone as soon as possible.
Step 4: Search all voids and spaces. If there are part of the fuselage remaining, look into
breaks in the body of the craft as well as entrance doors and emergency exits for the
Step 5: Search for known or reported victims. This stage will most likely be a heavy
rescue operation. Areas of the fuselage may not look survivable but may contain
survivors. This is also one of the most dangerous operations as hazards may be
present and cutting or opening the fuselage may be rescuers into contact with
hydraulic systems, fuels lines, electrical systems, and pressurized vessels such as
Step 6: General debris removal. This is the recovery stage of the operation. During this
phase responders will be working with federal investigators and a strong emphasis will
placed on documentation (p104-105).
In The Voice, July 1994, Ausmus goes into more detail in his article, Aircraft Rescue and
Firefighting For Structural Fire Departments. Ausmus states that all firefighters should have
some basic knowledge of aircraft rescue and firefighting procedures. Firefighters having airports
within their jurisdiction should also become familiarized with the types of aircraft operating in
their area. Many of these airports rely on personnel and resources provided by surrounding
structural fire departments; many smaller airports may rely totally on the local fire department
for aircraft rescue and firefighting. Such is the case in Tamarac. Ausmus suggests some
important features that firefighters should note while pre-fire planning:
1. Size and type of aircraft: commercial, small private, cargo or military.
2. Construction features: fuselage, wings, control surfaces, location of fuel tanks, interior
3. Construction materials: aluminum, magnesium, titanium, composite materials, ANS
plastic, polyurethane, synthetic material in seats.
4. Aircraft systems:
a. type of propulsion: turbine, reciprocating, etc, type of fuel: Jet-A, Jet-B.
b. electrical system: battery location, auxiliary power units, shut-offs.
c. hydraulic systems: type and amount of fluid, brakes, landing gear, control
d. oxygen system: stored pressure, chemically generated, cylinder, cannister
5. Exits: location and operation of doors, windows, latches.
6. Military, or cargo aircraft: armaments, typical loads, ejection seats, hazardous
materials, shipping papers.
7. Other aircraft: crop dusters, air ambulances, helicopters (p.38).
Ausmus points out several tactical considerations (p.39). Upon arrival a size up should be
completed and include:
1. Aircraft factors: type of aircraft, type and amount of fuel, condition of aircraft, special
2. Life safety factors: number of occupants, escape routes in use, trapped occupants,
location of victims.
3. Fire factors: size of fire, location of fire, direction and speed of fire spread, exposures.
4. Environmental factors: wind direction, terrain, weather conditions, time of day,
direction of fuel run-off.
5. Resource factors: mutual aid, EMS, extinguishing agents, water supply, specialized
equipment (lighting, cranes, etc.).
Ausmus states that there are too many variables to aircraft rescue to establish any hard,
fast rules regarding the exact methods to be employed in all incidents involving aircraft crashes
but all efforts in all cases should include the safe removal or escape of the occupants of the
aircraft. Other key points he suggests are cautionary. Rescuers may encounter heavy smoke and
poor visibility, adverse weather conditions, numerous injured or disoriented passengers and
debris that may damage apparatus and/or hinder approach. Depending on terrain, fire may be
flowing due to jet fuel run off. Aircraft incidents should be approached as a haz- mat situation:
upwind and uphill (p.39).
Ausmus states that, “Seventy percent of deaths in aircraft accidents are caused by the
effects of heat, smoke, and toxic gases. The fuselage can burn through in as little as 60 seconds.”
Upon arrival, if passengers are still exiting the plane, apply foam to extinguish burning
flammable liquid and create a path for escaping passengers. Streams should be maneuvered in an
attempt to push the fire away from the fuselage and insulate it from any outside burning
flammable liquid. Aircraft skin burns through at 1200 degrees, Jet-A fuel burns at 1800 degrees.
Deploy hand lines and begin an interior attack if possible. Perform ventilation utilizing normal
openings, avoiding cutting the craft and possibly hitting electrical, fuel, or hydraulic, systems.
Appoint a safety officerimmediately (p. 40).
This may be a crime scene. Secure the site and allow only authorized persons into the
area. Do not remove anything from the aircraft or site; it may be evidence to investigators. Try
not to move any switches or flight controls; make note of it if you do. If flight or cockpit data
recorders are recovered turn them over to the investigating authority. Body location should be
marked with survey flags prior to removal. Photograph, or videotape the entire aircraft and
accident site before conducting any salvage operations (p.41).
Due to the potentially large number of dead persons, as well as various fuels and
chemicals spilled at an aircraft crash, the site will probably become a haz- mat, or bio hazard
site. Wann, in his article, When A Big Crash Happens In A Small Community, Fire Chief,
September, 1995, writes about his department’s experience with a plane crash. Local and state
police sealed off an area one square mile around the crash site. Because the site was in a wet,
muddy area, a gravel road was installed by the county highway department, overnight. The
county coroner was brought in to deal with the bodies. As all the passengers in this particular
case were deceased, the fire department was assigned the task of decontaminating all working
personnel and plane parts at the site. This type of operation in itself can become extensive.
Trenches were dug, lined and used to decon airplane parts and equipment used at the scene.
Portable pools were used to decon personnel. Then, wastewater solutions from the decon areas
were pumped into tankers and hauled to hazardous liquid stations (p.51). Wann suggests that no
one be allowed to work in the field for more than four hours due to the enormous physiological
and psychological demands on rescue personnel.
In What Every Chief Should Know About Plane Crashes, Fire Chief, September, 1995,
Hilvers describes his experience with a plane crash as he expounds on several hazards that
responding fire fighters should be aware of. Hilvers again cautions that aircraft crashes should
treated as crime scenes. Bodies and body parts should be left undisturbed. Efforts should be
to document location and positions of bodies if they must be removed to facilitate victim rescue.
When attempting victim rescue, rescuers should be aware of the following information: Doors on
nearly all pressurized aircraft will be on the left side as passengers face the nose of the plane. All
commercial aircraft that hold more than nineteen passengers will have over the wing exits. Doors
on most commuter aircraft open out and swing toward the nose of the plane. Caution should be
used when opening doors on commercial aircraft for the deployment of emergency escape slides.
They are armed and will deploy automatically when doors are opened unless disarmed by the
flight crew. Doors and door frames are some of the strongest areas of construction on the plane.
It is easier to cut out the entire frame than to force the door. Use caution when using any cutting
device as sparks may ignite fuel vapors, or you may hit pressurized fuel, oxygen, or hydraulic
Most modern aircraft have structural components of combustible metals such as
magnesium and titanium. These metals are very difficult to extinguish once ignited and the
products of their combustion are extremely toxic. Tires on most commercial aircraft are
pressurized to over 200psi. When exposed to heat they can overpressurize and explode.
Hydraulic systems on aircraft can exceed pressures of 3000 psi. Cutting them can be hazardous
as well as the fluid itself, which may be Skydrol, a particularly caustic substance that can
dissolve turnout gear and its combustion is also toxic (p. 46). Rather than single officer
designations, command should consider using several safety officers as well as several liaison
and logistics officers. Haz- mat officers are an absolute necessity in an aircraft crash incident
command structure (p.48).
In Managing Fibre Hazards at Aircraft Incidents, Fire Engineering, March, 1997,
Woodward cautions responders on the hazards of some of the composite materials that are used
to construct aircraft. Some of these materials are: Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP),
Armid Reinforced Plastic (ARP), Glass Fibre Reinforced Plastic (GRP) and Kevlar. Collectively
these products are called Man Made Mineral Fibres (MMMF) and they can be deadly. All
materials used in aircraft construction will offer some kind of toxic hazard during and following
a fire or crash situation. The most hazardous are MMMF’s. The fibers will support a flame and
release vapors at a very low temperature, 195 degrees Centigrade; cyanide is released at
approximately 150 degrees Centigrade (p. 34-35). Fire fighters should try to minimize the
disturbance of fibre particles by laying down a blanket of foam and maintaining it during the
entire operation. MMMF’s are difficult to cut and all cutting actions will result in needle sharp
particles being released. The particles will cause respiratory irritation, or worse, and possibly
have long term negative effects. In addition, MMMF’s are highly conductive and can cause
serious damage to electrical equipment and installations. At one incident, extensive damage was
caused to two electrical generating installations, the furthest one being ten miles from the crash
site. To prevent disturbance of these particles, helicopters should be restricted from hovering
directly over the site.
Another potential hazard is Floureastomec/Viton used in making aircraft seats and fuel
pipes. After it is burnt, this material becomes Hydrofluoric Acid which, if it comes into contact
with skin, will eat into the body and attack the calcium in the bones (p.35). The product can
remain dangerous for up to 2 years. Woodward suggests zoning as a form of incident command
and control at an aircraft incident. Zone 1 is the incident site. This area concerns the
aircraft/wreckage and the attending fire and rescue personnel. Fire control and rescue of
surviving occupants is the primary goal in this zone. Zone 2 is for casualty clearance. This zone
is located upwind and uphill if possible. This is basically the triage area. Zone 3 is the ambulance
loading point which is self-explanatory. This zone should be located next to Zone 2 and,
preferably near an accessible road (p. 36).
Kuhr and Lee, in No Fly By Night Operation: MCI Response To Aviation Disasters,
Rescue, September/October, 1993, suggest using the basics of Multiple Casualty Incident (MCI)
Management to deal with victims and casualties. Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment (START) a
system developed by emergency doctors, nurses and fire fighters in Newport Beach, California,
enable emergency personnel to perform a logical and rapid assessment of multiple casualties
(p.55). This is a simple system that uses four colored tag sectors: Red, for those needing
immediate care. Yellow, for those patients who need immediate care but whose injuries are not
life-threatening. Green, for minor injuries and ambulatory patients. Black, for deceased patients.
The Black sector should be set up away from other patients who are being cared for to help
preserve the emotional stability of both survivors and rescuers. A good starting point for
determining the number of victims is the air carrier’s manifest, if it can be obtained, but it will
not account for potential victims on the ground (p.56-57).
There are some mechanical aspects of aircraft that all crash site responders should be
aware of. Smith, in Light Aircraft Accidents, Emergency, September, 1995, outlines some basics
that will allow responders to make a safer approach to a downed plane:
Fuel Tanks: All general aviation aircraft have fuel tanks in their wings. Some have
torpedo shaped objects in the ends of each wing. Infrequently, there may be some tanks located
behind the passenger compartment.
Fuel Shut-Off Valves: All general aviation aircraft have a fuel tank selector valve. There
is a shut off on each selector valve. The valve should be placed in this position on every aircraft
accident, if possible. The valve is usually located on the floor of the cabin between the two front
seats. If it is not there it will be within easy reach of the pilot’s seat.
Fuel Lines: Fuel lines run from the tanks to the engines; care must be taken when cutting
into the wing or floor of any aircraft. Caution should also be taken when cutting through the roof
of high-winged aircraft as fuel lines are routed through this area as well.
Electrical: A major hazard is the electrical system of a downed plane. All general
aircraft have automobile-type batteries. Unfortunately, their placement differs from manufacturer
to manufacturer. Generally, single-wing aircraft have their batteries located in the engine
compartment, or in the tail behind the passenger compartment. Twin-engine planes can have
them located almost anywhere. The only suggestion is to assign a person to find and disconnect
the battery. If the battery can not be found, there is a master switch which can cut electrical
power. The master switch is usually located along the bottom edge of the instrument panel,
within reach of the pilot (p. 26-27).
Additional Safety factors that need to be considered at an off-site crash site were looked
at in articles and documents concerning the Valujet crash in the Florida Everglades wilderness,
1996. Fischer, in Emergency In The Everglades: The Recovery Of Valujet Flight 592, FBI Law
Enforcement Bulletin, September, 1997, lists numerous items based on his personal experience.
Fischer suggests considering the placement of two command posts, based on accessibility of the
site; one on-site, near the crash site and one closer to civilization and paved roads. If the site is
very remote, portable repeaters should be used to enhance radio communications efficacy. He
recommends the use of a USAR Team, as well as a haz- mat team, and the earlier the activation
of the teams, the better. Weather is another vital consideration. In the Florida Everglades where
thunderstorms occur frequently, it was necessary to set up lightening rods around the site.
Temperature should be considered and portable shelters (DRASH) that can provide a cooling
atmosphere in high heat atmospheres (keeping in mind the NTSB reports have indicated most
accidents occur in June, or July, particularly hot months), or in cold weather, warm atmospheres
will need to be set up as rehab shelters. Portable lavatories need to be brought to the crash
location. Fuel tankers will be needed to replenish portable generators and gas-powered tools at
the site (p. 8-12).
Perry, writing about the same crash in, The Crash Of Valujet Flight 592, EMS Magazine,
April, 1997 gives additional considerations. Due to the potential for puncture wounds Tetanus
shots should be given to all responders on site who have not had recent shots. Sunburn can be a
major problem and the use of a strong sunblock is recommended. Animal control officers might
need to be considered depending on the type of wilderness. In the Everglades, alligators and
snakes were a constant problem. Practically speaking, Perry recommends having a finance
in place for documentation and securing of needed funds. The absence of a finance officer can
seriously delay operations (p. 51-58).
Information on actual response requirements for an aircraft incident was detailed in
Collision, EMS Magazine, September, 1992. Cowen wrote about in aircraft incident that
occurred on-site at Los Angeles International Airport which he responded to. After the initial air
crash rescue units arrived;(1 rescue, 2 engines, and at least 2 command supervisory personnel)
and a size up was completed, the following additional resources were requested:
• 5 additional paramedic ambulances
• 3 air ambulances
• 2 tasks forces for additional manpower
• 1 HERT (Hospital Emergency Response Team)
• An additional EMS supervisor
• Separate tactical channels for medical group operations, as well as other functional
• CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing) personnel (p. 35)
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Aircraft Rescue Firefighting, Palm Beach International
Airport Standard Operational Guidelines, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Department, April,
1998, lists the following type and number of response units, for an off- site aircraft crash:
• Activate Mass Casualty Disaster Plan through EOC on order from Incident
• 1-Aviation District Chief
• 1-Aviation Battalion Chief
• 3-Brush Trucks
• Triage Trailers
• 1-Mobile Command Bus
• 10-BLS Transport Ambulances
• 2-District or Battalion Chiefs
• 1-Rescue Chief
• 1-Deputy Chief
• 1-Fire Rescue Administrator
• 2-Rescue Lieutenants
• 1-Volunteer Support Unit
A second alarm assignment would include:
• 1-Brush Truck
• 1-Rescue Lieutenant, and possibly, upon request of IC:
• 1-Additional Tanker
• 2-Additional Rescue Lieutenants
• 10-Additional ALS vehicles
• 10-Additional BLS vehicles (p.10A-11A).
In summation, the literary review led this researcher to the conclusion that if Tamarac
actually experienced an aircraft accident, it would most likely be an off-site crash. It could be
high impact, with the likelihood of no survivors from the plane itself but possibly some on-
ground survivors if the plane impacted a building. The crash could be a low-impact incident;
scrutiny of several years worth of NTSB data reveals there have been a significant number of
these in Tamarac and the surrounding area, and the likelihood of survivors is much greater. This
survival rate could be enhanced with additional training of fire department responders and
planning an AIMS to enhance our readiness for an instant disaster of this type.
A summary of information gleaned from the literature review compelled this project into
several directions. A review of our current emergency management plan was necessary to
determine what, if anything, was needed to make a more comprehensive instant disaster
emergency plan in respect to aircraft crashes. Additionally, we needed to assess our risks for an
instant disaster, with respect to aircraft crashes. A complete risk assessment for the community
would be far greater in scope than this project’s time would allow. However, an accurate, if
brief, vulnerability and hazard assessment (using the model from Unit 4 of the EAOFSOEM
class) could be, and was, conducted to provide more detailed data with which to analyze our
readiness (evaluative research). To define what fire rescue responders might expect from a
practical point of view, it was decided to conduct interviews with persons whom had actually
been to an off-site airplane crash to better construct our IDEA plan (historical research).
Additional, and up to the moment, information would be provided by the NTSB web site, to
provide current data as needed to make sound conclusions. Finally, information gleaned from the
literature review gave pertinent background information and helped establish questions that
would be used in personal interviews. A thorough review of all information was to give us
insight into what would be needed to formulate a more comprehensive instant disaster response
The theme for this research project developed as a result of analyzing our readiness for
instant disaster, with particular reference to an aircraft crash in, or near, Tamarac and finding that
there was no definitive plan established for this type of disaster. A number of resources were
used to collect data and pushed the project into several various directions in which to make
inquiries, including a personal interviews with Miami-Dade County fire and law enforcement
personnel whom had worked on a crash site, the Valujet crash in the Florida Everglades, an
environment similar to what Tamarac personnel could expect; the (Appendix A). The Learning
Resource Center at the National Fire Academy provided extensive articles and data which was
included in the literature review. The library system of Palm Beach County also contained a
wealth of information in book and periodical formats. A review of Tamarac’s current Emergency
Management Plan was conducted (Appendix B attached index page only, for brevity)
Emergency response plans from air-crash rescue fire departments in the tri-county area of: Palm
Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade provided specific response information as outlined in the
Literature review (Palm Beach County included for brevity). A Risk Assessment Analysis was
performed using the Risk Assessment Matrix from Unit 4 of the EAOFSOEM class of the
Executive Fire Officer Program (Appendix C). The department of Community Development
provided census information on populations that would assist with the vulnerability assessment
and provide potential target hazard information. (Appendix D). The National Transportation
Safety Board was contacted via the internet, www.ntsb.gov/registration/registration.asp and
www.ntsb.gov/pressrel/pressrel/htm, and an automatic informational e-mail send out was set up
delivering up to the moment updates on any information concerning aircraft crashes to this
researcher (Appendix E, as example). Combining information gathered from all these sources
provided a sound basis with which to consider a more comprehensive instant disaster plan.
Assumptions and Limitations
Time is always a limiting factor when doing an extensive research project. Six months to
complete the project, initially, seemed adequate but to conduct personal interviews means to
determine which people with personal experience on the subject would be most advantageous to
interview, then locate them, and try to find a time that is suitable for them for an interview. The
personal interview format itself was somewhat constricting as the researcher is required to ask
the same questions of all persons interviewed. The personal interview format itself, is inherently
erroneous, particularly when seeking information from individuals whom assumed widely
varying roles at the scene of disaster. However, the questions were used as a format only and the
interviewed subjects were allowed to expound on their experiences and provided additional
information that was valuable to the research. Time was also a problem in completing a thorough
community risk assessment analysis. For brevity the research project centered only on plane
crashes. It was unimportant how or why they occurred; whether it was mechanical failure or
terrorist act. The research scope was to look at how well Tamarac is prepared for a catastrophic
disaster of an immediate nature. Therefore, the hazard section which deals with the probability of
occurrence was essentially completed before the project started. That is, the probability of an
occurrence was already assumed based on Tamarac’s history of small airplane crashes. A full-
scale community risk assessment would have exceeded the given time frame for completing this
Another limitation was that during the research, perhaps the largest instant disaster in the
nation’s history occurred on September 11, 2001. Due to the fact that it was an act of terrorism,
some informational sources became restricted and some individuals selected to be interviewed
decided to forego the interviews, some stating security reasons and others had to respond to the
World Trade Center disaster site. Lines of information previously open were restricted, or closed
completely for security reasons. Airport personnel and facilities became particularly guarded.
Additionally, in respect to September 11, the fact that the selected research project had so many
correlations to the terrorist act itself, the project became a daunting task of trying to select what
was now relevant in a world that was drastically and irrevocably altered. The question of what
can any organization do to prepare for such an instant disaster became a challenging point when,
in the end it seemed, looking at both New York and Washington D.C.’s targets, that no one can
prepare adequately, and all that any organization can do is respond to the disaster. If that is the
case, then fire rescue organizations are doomed to manage by disaster only and that is not
acceptable. Therefore, the research continued, somewhat altered due to the tragedy of September
11th, but persevered nonetheless in the hope that if this type of terrorism continues then,
eventually, all fire rescue departments will be required to have this type of instant disaster
planning whether they are near an airport, or not.
Definition Of Terms and Abbreviations
AIMS: Aircraft Incident Management System.
DRASH: Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter.
EOC: Emergency Operations Center.
FAA: Federal Aviation Administration.
FDLE: Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency.
General Aviation: the term assigned to cover all aircraft that are not commercial
IAP: Incident Action Plan.
IDEA Plan: Instant (or immediate) Disaster Emergency Activation Plan: a term devised
by the researcher to quantify an emergency plan of an immediate nature, such as a plane
NTSB: National Transportation Safety Board.
MCI: Multiple Casualty Incident: there are generally three levels. Level 1 is 5-10
patients. Level 2 is 11-20 patients, and Level 3 is over 20 patients.
MMMF’s: Man Made Mineral Fibres: a general classification of materials used in the
construction of most modern aircraft.
SPIDER Plan: Slow Progressing Incident of Disaster Emergency Response Plan: a term
devised by the researcher to quantify an emergency plan of a slow progressing disaster,
such as a hurricane.
START: Simple Triage And Rapid Treatment.
USAR: Urban Search And Rescue: A team of technical rescue professionals from various
fire rescue departments with specializations expertise and assigned to disasters as a
Federal Task Force working under FEMA.
1. What emergency procedures are currently in place to mitigate responses to large-
scale community disasters?
The Tamarac Emergency Plan is the adopted emergency plan for the City. It is a good
plan and comprehensive for a hurricane. However, the plan is strictly hurricane driven, that is,
designed to mitigate response for a slowly progressing incident of disaster emergency response
(SPIDER), with adequate media and departmental warnings issued to both fire rescue personnel
and civilians. Indeed, South Florida residents are so accustomed to hurricane threats that many
have their own preparations in place and CERT’s (Citizen Emergency Response Teams) are
available for response.
There is no immediate, or instant, disaster plan in place for Tamarac Fire Rescue. Much
of the current plan could be adopted into an IDEA plan, however. For brevity, the Index page has
been included in the Appendix section to indicate the areas of management that are currently
covered (Appendix B). The weakest area, and one that is not addressed at all in the current plan,
is that of actual number and type of response units. There has been no training in regard to
aircraft crashes and responders are ill-equipped for such an emergency. Police responsibilities
are vague. There are only two pages outlining police responsibilities and much of that is
patrolling to prevent looting and/or safeguarding hazardous areas or flooded streets. Emergency
supplies and equipment is insufficiently planned as well. Another weak area is the emergency
contacts area, including interaction with federal agencies. Federal agencies are practically
ignored other than a policy to guide an officer on filling out FEMA forms for reimbursement of
costs associated with a hurricane. There are no policies with direction to agencies such as the
FBI, FAA, or NTSB, as these agencies seldom deal with hurricanes but they would be of
primary importance at a crash site. There are relatively well outlined policies for assembling an
EOC; who is required to respond, who is in charge, which responsibilities are given to whom,
etcetera. There is also some reference as to when to contact the County EOC. The location of the
City’s EOC is in the western area of the City and very close to what may be the largest
residential target area. It’s size and logistics, equipment and communications technology, the
building’s construction itself, is insufficient to the point of being unpractical and unsafe for a
contingent of emergency managers to conduct an operation other than one that is minimal in
There were vulnerability and hazard assessments completed and included in the plan, but
it is based on the 1990 census figures, and a 1996 “estimated population” (pp.6-8). There are
several primary topics covered, briefly, in the assessment. They include a description of
“Emergency Conditions” and a brief definition of such (p.56). The Vulnerability Analysis,
based on the 1996 estimated population figures states that the City’s vulnerable population is
those residents, 65 years and older, of which the City is comprised of approximately fifty
The Hazard Analysis includes several categories: Hurricanes and Tropical Storms (high hazard),
Tornadoes (low hazard), Flooding (moderate hazard), Nuclear Power Plants (low hazard),
Hazardous Materials (moderate hazard) and Armed Violence, to include Terrorism (low hazard)
(pp.6-8). This area gives a brief description of what causes terrorism and mentions that
South Florida’s vulnerability is increasing. It ends by stating that there “very likely would be a
joint jurisdictional management of the operation coordinated at the County level and include the
Sheriff and FDLE”. It states that the lead agency “may be FEMA or the Department of Justice”
(p.8). There is no reference to aircraft crashes.
The practical application of numerous areas and responsibilities is outlined in the plan,
such as the City’s various department’s responsibilities: including: fire, finance, risk, public
works, parks and recreation, social services, utilities, communications, personnel, building,
community development, politician responsibilities and basic operational responsibilities and
2. What is Tamarac’s current Risk Assessment Analysis particularly with those risks
that tasks the fire department beyond normal capabilities?
Unit 4: Community Risk Assessment from the EAOFSOEM class of the National Fire
Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program was utilized. Risk Assessment Analysis is conducted
by completing three matrices:
• Matrix 1: Hazard Identification
• Matrix 2: Vulnerability Assessment
• Matrix 3: Risk Rating
Hazard Identification was essentially completed prior to the beginning of this research
project. That is, the hazard was already determined: plane crashes. There are numerous potential
hazards for any community. Because the scope of this project specifically focused on plane
crashes, the hazard was already defined. Some risk mapping was completed by the department
of Community Development and some target hazards established. For this part of the research, a
high population residential area was chosen. The Hazard Identification Matrix was used and the
following results established (Appendix F).
1. What is the probability this hazard will occur?
Potential answers are: 1. unlikely, 2. possible, or 3. likely. Based on the communities previous
history of plane crashes, the answer was likely.
2. What is your best estimate of the total population that could be affected seriously
by this hazard? Consider peak population:
Based on information provided by the City’s Community Development Department, it
was determined the highest number of population that would be affected would be those in a
residential area on the westernmost area of the city called Kings Point. This is a highly
condensed condominium residence populated with a majority of elderly resident, many with
limited mobility. 4867 persons live in several multi-storied buildings which could be an
accidental crash site from a plane approaching the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport from the
west. This is also the home of a predominantly Jewish community, making it a potential terrorist
attack site. Demographics from the most current census do not provide information on religious
affiliations. However, Kings Point community’s focal point is the Jewish Community Center and
cultural theater in the heart of this residential area. Tamarac officials have received numerous
cautions from the FBI to be on high alert for possible terrorist activity in our South Florida
community as many of the terrorists that performed the September 11 attacks were from the
South Florida area. Additionally, executive airports have less stringent security than do
international airports. Crop dusting planes, which are potential WMD’s for terrorists are located
at the executive airport.
Next, the Vulnerability Assessment was completed (Appendix G). In this matrix, there
are five Impact Rating categories with three quantifiers, each with escalating points for severity:
low = 1 point, moderate = 2 points, and high = 3 points. At the bottom of the matrix, there is a
Total Vulnerability Rating. The categories were estimated and justifications are given:
Danger/ Destruction: 3 points because, “numerous fatalities, mass casualties overwhelm
system, infrastructure compromised for more than 24 hours.”
Economic: 2 points because, “will either exceed community fiscal limitations, or effect
Environmental: 2 points because, “impact is long tern, or affects public health.”
Social: 2 points because, “some shelters established, some historical/cultural values
Political Planning Level: 3 points because, “planning, response, and recovery are at the
Total Vulnerability Rating: 12. 5 to 8 is “low.” 9 to 11 is “moderate.” 12 to 15 is
“high.” At 12, Tamarac’s vulnerability rating is high.
Finally, the Risk Rating Matrix was completed (Appendix C). Again using just one
hazard, airplane crash, the equation for the matrix went like this:
Probability of occurrence: high = 3 points.
Vulnerability: high = 3 points.
Risk (probability x vulnerability) total: 9 = high.
3. What experiences have other fire rescue and off-site responders encountered that might
assist in the development of mitigation response?
The literature review provided some experiences that responders have encountered that
would be beneficial to developing mitigation response. To further develop possible response
planning from a personal and practical point of view, a personal interview format was developed
(Appendix A). Several persons whom had worked on the site of the Valujet crash in the Florida
Everglades were contacted and gave taped interviews based on their various experiences.
Answers to the personal interview questions are provided in narrative form and have been
abridged for brevity. Again, due to the September 11 attacks, some interview subjects were no
longer available. Others were deleted as their answers were repetitive to those already gathered.
Interview Subject Number One: Major Russell Fischer, Miami-Dade Police Department.
Major Fischer worked as the “forward site supervisor/commander.”
“My initial observations upon arriving at the site pertain to the difficulties of the
situation. The heat, looming thunderstorms, biohazardous conditions and the isolated location of
the incident. How would we recover human remains from such a location? The crash happened
late afternoon and it was getting dark. An initial flyover was done with helicopters and it was
apparent there were no survivors. A decision was made to begin operations the next morning.
The first consideration was how do we get to the site and begin operations. Helicopters began
bringing personnel in and it became clear that this was going to take several days. A canal was
located near the site and we decided to use police boats to bring in personnel as well. Driving in
was not going to be feasible.
“Basic safety considerations became apparent right away. Water, food, shelter. The heat
was going to be a problem. The fire department had big tents that could be air
conditioned. Two main tents were set up; one was used for command and operations. One was
used for rest and relaxation, eating, etcetera. This was critical right from the beginning. The
biggest safety concerns (on the site itself) was the jet fuel and biohazards. There was some fear
of alligators and other animals. Water was a big factor for hydration of personnel.
“We did have a general disaster plan in place with general references to airplane crashes.
But, we (the police) were not well versed in incident command. Since the crash, we have been
schooled in incident command. We have become much more sophisticated. We now have a
mobile critical incident management unit. These people are trained in this type of operation. The
fire department was well versed in incident command and that knowledge helped on the scene.
“Risk assessment is done more by the fire department than the police department. We are
aware of some target hazards but mostly we don’t deal with risk assessment, not formally
“The police department has a health services department that deals with critical incident
stress debriefing. They were present everyday on the scene (of the crash) in a kind of low profile
way. They were available for anyone who thought they might need to talk to someone. They
for everyone: civilians, police and fire personnel. It was not mandatory for anyone to talk to
but everyone was acutely aware that they were there for them. An after action report was done
and they went on record as saying there were no major incidents (of critical incident stress)
involving personnel. Many of the police that were there were from homicide and they are
somewhat used to seeing dead people, so there was not much negative impact. But, the beauty of
it was that the staff psychologists was out there, eating with people and so forth, and they were
looking for people who might be showing some problems. This tact, though informal, was
“I was the forward site commander, involved mainly with recovery. But, there was an
overall commander as well that dealt with logistics, NTSB, and so forth. I dealt with the
NTSB quite a bit as well.
“From a police department point of view (to be better prepared) we could use some
training in incident command. Planning would have helped. Certainly we need more specialized
equipment than we had at the time. Availability of funds for procurement of equipment. We had
a cumbersome way of procuring funds and that has changed. Being familiar with the fire
department command has helped and we have meshed that with the police department command.
We (the police) were very impressed with the fire department’s system. Someone fills a role and
after their shift is over someone else can fill in that role. Logistics, food, water, etcetera, is
important and the fire department had that down better than the police. They had the decon
procedures down to a science and that was important.
Interview Subject Two: Battalion Chief Cindy Sears, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Battalion
Chief Sears initial role was “planning section chief.”
“We did a flyover just to determine where it (the crash) was. It was just a hole in the
ground. Objectively, it was very difficult just to pinpoint where it was. It was a pretty forbidding
place. Our official position was (still) it was a rescue operation. In our hearts we just knew, there
was just no way... .We didn’t go into recovery mode until well into the next day.
“The appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) and safety equipment should be
considered a high priority. There was decon procedures going on all the time. This was a
protracted incident-- we were out there over thirty days and I would add, that the highest priority
would be to get everyone together from the beginning, organize all the resources and get
everyone on the same page, so that you reduce the risk of duplicating efforts, wasting resources
and manpower and making sure everyone is safe.
“Primary safety concerns should be an awareness of the environment you’re working in.
In a previous crash of an L-10 in the early ‘70's, we had problems with gangrene and so forth
from working in the muck with fuel and biohazards. We used epidemiologists from the
University of Miami and they were doing continuous testing of the mud and water so that site
workers knew what they were in. Along with that, you had the heat and humidity, rough working
conditions and you needed a place to get them out of that for rehab. On top of that, we had the
regular afternoon thunderstorms and a threat of lightening. We put up lightening rods, because
out there (the Everglades) we were the biggest target. The fuel was the main concern at the
actual crash site. The alligators were a problem in the perimeter around the site because, I
believe, it was alligator mating season. The game and fish agency was out there and patrolled in
boats, armed with rifles.
“I was the planning section chief. We had an IAP (Incident Action Plan) the first night.
Safety being the biggest concern. Our initial IAP’s were brief as they should be but after the first
week, they grew to be voluminous. We were basically supporting the police department, because
of the homicide aspect, at that point (as a primary goal of the IAP) and we couldn’t do enough
them. Another thing we did was make sure we had tetanus shots for all site workers. We had our
occupational safety experts giving inoculations. A lot of this type of thing came from our USAR
team experience; they had dealt with this type of thing before. A lot of it is simple hand washing;
something you don’t think about much on a normal operation but you have to when you’re in
type of environment. The shelters with air conditioning was helpful as well. The decon facilities
were important. Communications was a real problem. We were able to set up communications,
again because of the USAR team they set up communications all over the world we were able to
set up portable repeaters. We had cell phones everywhere. We basically built a city. It was very
impressive...until we got the bill.
“We had alarm assignments for this type of thing; number of units that would respond
and so forth. It does differ a little bit whether it is an on-site or off-site operation. But is there a
plan that says this is our off-site, Everglades aircraft crash plan? No. We have the IC plan. We
have response strategies.
“Emergency Operations Center traditionally does community risk assessment and they
fall under the umbrella of the fire department. Then, more locally, Battalion Chiefs do risk
assessment in their areas of responsibility. There’s not always a great sharing of information. But
the EOC puts this together very well.
“CISD counselors on the site is pretty usual for us. Anytime you are deployed (to a large
scale incident) it is mandatory that you attend a CISD. We’re pretty pro-active with this type of
thing. Its good that its there in case it there’s someone who is struggling with things but it is a
very individual thing. I think it was very useful in the last line of fire death we had. It was very
“Basically, an operation like this can be more effective if there are good, strong
interagency relationships developed prior to an incident. If you at least know the people it would
help. Getting together for the first time on a scene like this can be confusing especially when you
are handing out IAP’s and everyone has their own idea of what they think they are supposed to
be doing, what their responsibilities are.
Interview Subject Number Three: Harold Sears, Training Captain, Miami-Dade Fire
Rescue, Air Crash Rescue. Captain Sears was safety officer on the Valujet crash site.
“I was Safety Officer. For the Valujet crash, primary safety concerns were
bio, and fuel hazards. Getting to the site was a safety concern. Naturally occurring hazards such
as bacteria were a concern. Heat. Another crash site, Finn-Air, was primarily a fuel hazard
complicated by the fire attack itself. Primary safety concerns at the forward site (of the Valujet
crash) were heat exhaustion, because they were all in Tyvek suits and needed proper
decontamination. Eating facilities had to be controlled; everyone had to be deconned before
eating. Even just hydrating people, workers had to be deconned before drinking water. We knew
about the alligators.
Out of series question: Do you have designated response assignments for your crash
rescue division for either on-site, or off-site crashes?
“We have various preparation levels, or alerts that give us various levels of response
Alert 1, we are standing by at the fire station. Alert 3, we are standing by on the runway in
designated spots. An alert 3 means we have an actual crash itself. Any type of crash,
or general aircraft would be an Alert 3. If we called for an Airport Assignment, we would get: 9
additional suppression vehicles, 9 additional rescue trucks, 3 additional Battalions (Chiefs), air
rescue (helicopter), a hazardous materials response unit. After that it becomes more ancillary.
As the focus of this project centered on Tamarac’s preparedness for an instant disaster, a
review of our current plan was necessary, as well as an assessment of Tamarac’s risks. The latter
was accomplished by performing a community risk assessment. Additionally, a review of
literature pertaining to instant disasters, with particular reference to aircraft crashes, was
necessary as well as collecting information from those sources whom had had experience with
such an event. The literature review provided specific information on aircraft details, safety
concerns, and response requirements, as well as background information that led to the questions
asked in the personal interview format.
The review of Tamarac’s current Emergency Plan revealed that it was, basically, a good
and comprehensive plan for slow progressing incidents of disaster, which we have come to refer
to as SPIDER’s, such as hurricanes and flooding. The plan was inadequate providing information
in what we have come to refer to as IDEA’s, or instant disasters emergency activation. Clearly,
the weakest area of the plan is that it does not provide specific response information. It does not
suggest a number, or type of units, that should respond. Emergency supplies and equipment are
not outlined, or suggested. The plan lacks an IAP (incident action plan) for aircraft crashes, or
any disaster that might be immediate in nature. Interaction with Federal agencies is practically
Contacts with these agencies is left up to a vague suggestion of letting the county EOC make
contacts with the required agencies once it has been established which may take some time and,
in the mean time, leaves responders with the responsibility of mitigating the incident and not
knowing who, or if, appropriate agencies are responding to assist. This is unacceptable. Looking
at the literary review statistics on aircraft crashes and integrating the information gleaned from
the risk assessment that was conducted, it is apparent that it is not a matter of if a plane crash
will happen in Tamarac, but when (Nilo, p. 70, 2000, and NTSB Annual Reports, pp.13, 1996 &
1997). There is no AIMS, and the current Emergency Plan does not provide for many of the
agencies that are expected to respond, such as federal disaster coordinating agencies,
psychological response teams, private contractors, legal agencies, NTSB or FAA, ATF and/or
DEA, FBI, etcetera (Carr and Omans, p.146, 1991). Currently, Tamarac is ill-prepared to
integrate the services of these outside agencies.
If Tamarac Fire Rescue responded to an aircraft crash, the organization would be
overwhelmed immediately. Tamarac Fire Rescue is a small department with only two engines,
and four or five rescues as front line units. There are automatic and mutual aid agreements in
place with nearby fire departments but training in air crash rescue has been negligible with all of
these responders. More importantly, there has been no training of fire department personnel on
air crash rescue response, structural components of aircraft, or expectations of what to expect
upon arrival as such a scene.
Ausmus wrote, “all fire fighters should have some basic knowledge of aircraft rescue and
fire fighting procedures and fire fighters having airports within their jurisdictions should become
familiar with types of aircraft operating in their area as many of these airports rely on personnel
and resources provided by surrounding fire departments” ( p.38, 1994). There has been no
training in the subject of aircraft crashes, or aircraft structure, or the myriad of hazards
associated with crash scenes such as those pointed out by Woodward (pp.34-35, 1997) This lack
of knowledge could lead to serious safety problems and result in injury, or death of numerous
responders, as well as hampering any efforts to assist even a small number of survivors. There
are no plans or training for decon procedures, or awareness made of the bio hazards,
environmental hazards, or haz-mat hazards that may be encountered at a crash site. There is no
specialized equipment available, nor pre-contracting with those private, or public agencies whom
might provide such equipment. Equipment such as boats and temporary shelters maybe needed
but are currently not readily available.
Tamarac’s Public Works Department could be utilized but they, too, lack any training in
this area. Other agencies could be called in, last minute so to speak, but doing so might place
them in harm’s way and burden the fire department with the responsibility of their welfare and
possible litigation in the aftermath.
There has been extensive training in MCI and START procedures in Tamarac, as Kuhr
and Lee suggest (p. 55, 1993), but there has been very little training in haz- mat mitigation, or
the zoning of command that Woodward suggested (p.36, 1997). Something as simple as a plan
for the number of units that should respond to a crash is non-existent. Plans, such as Palm Beach
County’s crash response plan could serve as a model for initial response requirements but pre-
event planning would require additional mutual and automatic aid agreements, which at this
time, are non-existent, or very limited.
Information gathered in the personal interviews with people whom had worked in an
environment very similar to which Tamarac responders might find themselves, tells us there are
special needs. Agreements with the county health agency to provide tetanus shots, contacts with
animal control, and even contacts and training with volunteer agencies need to be completed.
There is an Employee Assistance Program in place in Tamarac, as well as some minimal CISD
trained personnel. However, it is unclear how many psychologically trained persons could, or
would respond to an off-site crash. Tamarac does have portable repeaters that could assist with
radio communications in the event personnel had to work at a very removed site in the
Everglades, such as the Valujet crash of 1996. Likewise, Tamarac does have an experienced dive
rescue team but they, too, would need additional training in the area of recovery rather than
rescue and their equipment would have to be altered, or enhanced to work in a fuel laden, or bio-
Looking at data from the NTSB reports would suggest the most likely time of an aircraft
crash would be in the daytime, in the summer, June, or July, and high heat would be a
detrimental factor for rescue responders (pp.33-36, 1996 & 1997).
The Risk Assessment Analysis in Tamarac is outdated and does not include reference to
air crash rescue, nor some of the hazards and concerns that are currently being considered
nationwide such as terrorist attack response. The brief Risk Assessment Analysis performed for
this research project clearly shows that there is a high likelihood of an aircraft crash in, or around
Tamarac, and that there are areas in the community that are vulnerable either to accidental
crashes, or terrorist acts.
The fact that many of these residents are elderly would suggest that responders could
reasonably expect patients with already limited mobility that could not physically deal with
being displaced from their homes, or healthcare provisions. The task of just relocating uninjured
but displaced residents would be daunting and there is currently no plan for doing so.
Organizational implications of this project’s results are that an analysis of Tamarac’s
preparedness for an instant disaster, such as an aircraft crash, or terrorist act are currently
Recommendations relate directly to the stated problem and purpose. That is, an analysis
of Tamarac’s disaster preparedness revealed that the City does not have a plan that can
adequately deal with a disaster of an immediate nature. In this project, we looked at aircraft
crashes, specifically; the causes of such are not paramount to the analysis. However, in light of
the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001, the need for such an analysis became
much more significant. Recommendations are varied but supported by the research that was
conducted and included in the following paragraphs.
1) A comprehensive community risk assessment should be conducted to include the risk
of instant disasters such as aircraft crashes, or terrorists attacks, but should not be limited to just
those areas. Anthrax attacks would not be considered instant but they can be devastating and a
number of them showed up in South Florida. Indeed, Tamarac Fire Rescue operations was, at
times, overwhelmed with responses to these attacks. A thorough risk assessment would bear out
the results of this research project and assessors would find that there is a significant
vulnerability to aircraft crashes in Tamarac, whether by mechanical failure, pilot error, or
terrorist attack. This vulnerability should compel further development of Tamarac’s Emergency
Management Plan to include response for an instant disaster emergency activation plan (IDEA).
2) The IDEA plan should include contact information for all outside agencies and
specifically those federal agencies which would undoubtedly respond to such an event but are
seldom contacted until a disaster occurs. Pre-disaster meetings should be conducted with
representatives from agencies such as the FBI, NTSB, FAA, ATF, DEA, FEMA and the regional
USAR teams, the county health department, the county coroner’s office, CISD workers, and
perhaps most importantly, airport personnel. Local contractors who can supply special
equipment should be contacted and pre-event agreements made. The purpose of these meetings
should be to establish a rapport that, hopefully, would enhance on-scene relationships between
all entities and help add order to a chaotic event. Meetings and agreements with surrounding fire
departments should be conducted and a typical response plan established for the estimated
number and type of units needed for an aircraft crash, whether it be high or low impact, in an
uninhabited area or a
residential community. An AIMS should be designed using these designated units. To continue
without such a response plan would be irresponsible.
3) Training of all fire department personnel, and to include volunteer CERT personnel,
local politicians, and other nearby fire departments and law enforcement personnel should be
4) A relationship with law enforcement is paramount to the plan and training should be
conducted with police and fire personnel so that responders will be aware that crash sites may be
crime scenes and appropriate measures are assured to safeguard the scene. Fire fighters should
be given extensive training in the structural makeup of aircraft, the hazards associated with
aircraft crashes, and specific response information such as correct approach, fire stream
management, what to expect on scene, safety considerations, incident command and START
procedures, and who to call when such a crisis occurs. Further terrorist training and WMD
training should be conducted.
5) Training and procedures for urban search and rescue should be established in the event
a plane impacts a building. Tamarac’s dive rescue team and nearby Sunrise Fire Rescue’s haz-
mat response team should be trained in air crash rescue procedures, and all personnel should be
well trained in decon procedures for airplane crash sites as well as other haz-mat incidents that
can occur instantly.
6) Equipment and supplies should be purchased and stored, ready for instant deployment.
Such equipment should include at least two DRASH shelters and portable air conditioning
equipment. The DRASH could be set up quickly and from the start of the event to ensure some
environmental protection for on-site responders. Having at least two shelters would allow for a
forward site for emergency personnel and an off-site command post logistical, financial, planing
and other support team members. Portable lightening rods should be considered, especially for
responses into wide open areas such as the Everglades. This equipment should be stored with
other disaster management equipment and supplies, including the portable repeaters that
Tamarac currently has. Additional backboards should be purchased, or a logistical connection
established with an agency whom may provide them in short time, to remove both surviving
crash victims and those who have perished. Inflatable boats should be purchased to aid in the
deployment of personnel to a possible waterous site, such as the Everglades, and/or pre-event
agreements made with game and fish agencies to deploy airboats to the scene in a timely fashion.
Tamarac has a bus system and this could be utilized to transport personnel to the scene, as well
as remove those patients with little or no injuries. Some basic training on what to expect and how
to respond for the drivers of these vehicles should be established.
7) A relationship with the county health agencies needs to be established. Emergency
medical supply needs should be established and include: tetanus shots, and anti-venom drugs in
case of snake bites. Training should be conducted for medical personnel who may have to
respond to the site. Additional medical comfort supplies should be considered and include
quantities of sunblock and insect repellants.
8) Agreements with nearby nursing home facilities and hotels should be established and
training conducted with these agencies to accept those residents whom may be left homeless
after a crash that impacts a residential building. It is highly likely that a residential building such
as those that were identified in our vulnerability assessment (Kingspoint), would be left
uninhabitable but that there would be a significant number of survivors left homeless and many
of these would be elderly persons. Contacts should be established with mental health agencies to
establish procedures to ensure persons trained in CISD would respond and treat survivors as well
as emergency personnel as needed, which could continue throughout the rescue/recovery
operations and for many weeks thereafter.
9) Finally, Tamarac’s EOC should be relocated and rebuilt, constructed with bomb-
proofing construction and updated with new technology; specifically, communications
Aircraft Rescue and Fire fighting Procedures. (March, 1992).
IFSTA. pp. 122-125.
Annual Review Of Aircraft Accident Data: Calendar Year 1996. (1999). National
Transportation Safety Board. Washington, DC. pp. 1-3, 33-34, 36, 39, 45.
Annual Review Of Aircraft Accident Data: Calendar Year 1997. (2000). National
Transportation Safety Board. Washington, DC. pp. 1-3, 33,34, 36, 39,45.
Annual Report, Tamarac Fire Rescue. (2000). Tamarac, FL. (p.3)
Ausmus, Franklin G. (July, 1994). Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting For Structural Fire
Departments. The Voice. pp. 38-40.
Carr, John N. and Omans, Leslie P. (March, 1991). Aircraft Incident Management System: A
Team Approach, Fire Engineering. pp. 143-146.
Cowen, Alan. (September, 1992). Collision. EMS Magazine. pp. 35.
Emergency Response Plan. (April, 1997). City Of Tamarac. Tamarac, FL. (pp.6, 56-58).
Fischer, Russell. (September, 1997). Emergency In The Everglades: The Recovery Of Valujet
Flight 592. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin . pp. 8-12.
Hilvers, Bob. (September, 1995). What Every Chief Should Know About Plane Crashes. Fire
Chief. pp. 42-48.
Kuhr, Steven and Lee, Michael. (September/October, 1993). No Fly By Night Operation: MCI
Response to Aviation Disasters. Rescue. pp. 55-56.
Lindemann, Tom. (November/December, 1995). Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting: Vital
Information For The Responder. Industrial Fire World. pp. 8.
Nilo, James, R. (February, 2000). Have Trainer, Will Travel. Fire Chief. pp. 70-71.
Perry, Nancy. (April, 1997). The Crash Of Valujet Flight 592. EMS Magazine. pp. 51-58
Phillips, Thomas J. (June, 1995). Now What Do I Do? Firehouse. pp. 104-105.
Publications Manual (1998) (4th Edition).American Psychological Association. Washington,
Smith, Barry D. (March/April, 1993). Light Aircraft Accidents. Emergency. pp. 26.
Wann, Charles F. (September, 1995). When A Big Crash Happens In A Small Community. Fire
Chief. pp. 51-52.
Woodward, Mark Edward. (March, 1997). Managing Fibre Hazards At Aircraft Incidents. Fire
Engineers Journal. pp.34-16.
An Analysis Of Fire Rescue Preparedness For Instant Disaster Emergency Activation (I.D.E.A.)
Plans. An applied research project for the National Fire Academy. Student: Patrick
Kendrick, Battalion Chief, Tamarac Fire Rescue
Personal Interview Questions
1. Please describe your initial observations upon arriving at the site of the airline crash, first
objectively (observations of geography, access, resource allocation, etc.) then, if possible,
subjectively (initial impressions, theories, thoughts on planning, etc).
2. Having worked on an off-site aircraft crash, what primary needs do you consider to be of
the highest priority for responders to this type of disaster?
3. What, in your opinion, do you consider to be the primary safety concerns for responders
to an off-site aircraft crash?
4. What resources (manpower, communications, food, shelter, special equipment, etc.) did
you feel were most needed?
5. Did your department have a plan in place for an immediate, or instant, disaster of the type
associated with an aircraft crash? Does it now?
6. Has your department conducted any Risk Assessment Analysis of areas in your
community that would be most impacted by an instant disaster?
7. There is a large body of documentation about the lingering psychological aftermath of
large scale, instant disasters on rescue and law enforcement responders. Did your
department conduct crisis intervention discussions? Was CISD counseling offered
individually, in groups, or both? Do you feel the debriefing was helpful to your
8. What was your position in your department when you responded to the aircraft crash?
What position(s) did you perform while at the crash site?
9. In retrospect, what could initial responders do to make such a rescue/recovery operation
run more efficiently, or be more effective overall?
Appendices B-G is not included. Please visit the Learning Resource Center on the Web at
http://www.lrc.fema.gov to learn how to obtain this report in its entirety through
Appendices B, C, D, E, F, G is all available on the hardcopy only of this project.