100 Hampton Roads firefighters participated in the 30th Marine Firefighting Symposium May 16-21, covering more than 50 hours of theoretical and practical training.
The event utilized Joint Base Langley-Eustis Marine Assets, 733rd Logistics Readiness Squadron Harbor Captain, 733rd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department, James River Reserve Fleet and 7th Brigade transport forwarder.
The course has been designed to equip a land firefighter with the knowledge and skills to respond to an incident and operate near a ship, dock or to perform support duties in the cold and hot zone at aboard a ship.
“The Hampton Roads area benefits greatly from this training, as firefighters across the East Coast gain knowledge and experience to handle a variety of all-hazards situations,” said Bill Burket, senior director of maritime instant response and business continuity at the Port of Virginia. “A lot of that is because this training develops and builds on partnerships, so they know who and what is available to them.”
The course also provided the combined awareness and operational level training to conduct defensive level operations during a maritime incident. Participants learned about maritime responses which included jurisdiction, operations in the marine environment, terminology, types of vessels and installations, issues unique to maritime responses, and tactical considerations.
“75% of our students are shore-based firefighters, and there’s no way the Port of Virginia can handle its entire area,” said Chris Baker, Port of Virginia’s Instant Response Operations Manager. “We bring them in to train with us to help distribute the effort if something happens.”
According to Baker, participants are separated from their conventional counterparts in the workplace and grouped with people they might not work with on a day-to-day basis, encouraging training with other team members and learning how other firefighters operate. .
During a simulation, teams responded to casualties aboard a ship that lost all operational systems. The task was to create a water supply from fireboats that were located on the starboard side of the ship. Teams then had to board the ship safely and don their personal protective equipment and assess the spaces that were taking casualties.
“The partnership is invaluable, and receiving hands-on experience combining Coast Guard rescue eﬀorts with firefighters, the systems they use, and how it all interconnects helps our ability to save lives,” said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Erica Elfguinn, response chief for Coast Guard Sector Virginia.
Since 1992, 5,000 firefighters have participated in the training symposium attended by firefighters from Europe, Canada and South American countries.
After this final iteration, these participants will have the opportunity to return to their respective departments with knowledge and experience that can be called upon to save ships and the lives of sailors operating in the waters surrounding Virginia.