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departments to provide coverage for
the city residents kept the machine
running. We must all work to develop
these relationships and train with our
neighbors to share skills and tactics.
• Quarantine. Work to get enough space
around the scene. This fire led to multiple spot fires for several blocks. This
necessitated positioning crews in other locations around the fire building
and immediate exposures. The ember
plume carried debris for miles.
• Value of leadership. The opportunity
to lead is everywhere during a large
incident. The personnel who set a
calming tone from the “first five
minutes” to a sudden benchmark,
like a crane collapse, to the days of
investigation that followed the event
gave formal and informal leaders a
chance to show their talent. Many
of these folks had no desire to be in
the spotlight, but their number was
called. When that opportunity arrives
for you, will you be prepared to handle the situation?
Dispatching and Radio Procedures
We also learned valuable lessons
about dispatching and radio procedures.
On this call, a veteran telecommunicator
handled call-taking and dispatching duties. His experience led to such positive
outcomes as the following:
• The dispatching of units to the high-rise.
The standard call information would not
have clearly suggested the need.
• A request for a pressure boost for the
hydrant system before the IC called
• An on-call assistant who coordinated
staff and operations.
• The triaging of emergency calls received during the fire.
• Handling of the complex radio traffic
for multiple alarms and of the radio
We also recognized the need for radio
consistency. Small things make a big impact when an incident of this magnitude
occurs. For example, the language used
to describe fire behavior or apparatus
placement must be uniform and understood. Also, when a group of radio channels is requested, those channels should
be close together—if possible, within the
same radio “bank” such as Tac 18, 19,
20, 21, 22. You should not have to press
additional buttons on portable radios to
In addition to the above lessons
learned, the Raleigh Fire Department
has been reviewing its major incident
planning since the Metropolitan fire.
Any fire department, regardless of size,
must have a plan for large-scale incidents. We have an All Hazards Plan, a
living and adaptable layout of how to
handle any major event. The scope includes components for coverage, calling
back personnel, logistics responsibilities, and activating the Emergency
Although this plan is practiced annu-
ally, this event showed us a few pieces
that could be shored up:
• Efficient callback procedure is para-
mount. It is recommended that we use
an automated system for notifications
to off-duty personnel and include
where they should report on scene.
This allows one or two people to handle the callback.
• Incidents lasting 24 or more hours
should have logistics and planning
sections. They are not normally areas
of concern at a structure fire, but
they are needed for incidents that
have components such as extensive
rehab efforts and multiple operational
• Off-duty personnel should refrain from
responding to the scene. First, rest is
part of the operational period system.
The incoming platoon needs its personnel to be rested and ready to work.
Second, off-duty help, while well-intentioned, adds to the complexity of
• A public information officer should
be appointed. This role should not
be filled by personnel who have been
engaged in fireground activities—
for example, a sleep-deprived chief
officer who has been on scene for 14
hours. Although it may be necessary
at times, avoid appointing nonde-partment personnel who do not have
a knowledge of firefighting.
The Metropolitan fire reinforces the
importance of preserving history. Every
fire department has stories that should
be told. Members must be willing to
show pride in their accomplishments
while looking in the mirror to recognize
weaknesses. Lessons must be learned.
This glimpse into the night of March
16, 2017, is intended to praise the hard
work of the Raleigh Fire Department and
to recognize areas in which improvements could be made. The pride and
ownership of our actions, good or bad,
are the core of the fire service’s good
reputation. Our best leaders learn from
mistakes on the fireground and transform their tactics in such ways as were
successful at the Metropolitan fire.
STEPHEN J. CORKER has been a member
of the fire service for 18 years and is a
full-time captain in the Raleigh (NC)
Fire Department, where he has been a
member since 2002. He is serving as the
career development coordinator in the
Training Division. He has several instructor
credentials, including those by the National
Fire Academy in leadership, fire officer,
driver operator, and live fire.