4.14 Lessons Learned
Several lessons were learned from the Graniteville incident.
Activate the Reverse 911® System at Incident Command
“Reverse 911® was not activated in a timely manner due to access available only by emergency management personnel. This weakness has been corrected so that Reverse 911® can now be activated through direction from the dispatch supervisor or authorization of the incident commander. Capability will also be established at North Augusta Public Safety and Aiken Public Safety dispatch centers,” as reported in the Aiken County Emergency Services After-Action Report.
Determine Levels of Protection Prior to Entry of Incident Zone
The GVW Fire Department feels that verification of levels of protection is needed prior to entry into the incident zone. As reported in the www.chemicalspill.org Web site article “Emergency Response Issues: What Went Wrong in Graniteville,” “emergency responders from the local volunteer fire department responded to the train crash and subsequent chlorine release without first donning personnel protective gear.” In addition, as reported in the Aiken County Emergency Services After-Action Report, the “first Aiken County Emergency Medical Services unit responded directly to the scene and had to leave the area due to fumes. Entry should be coordinated with [the] incident command.”
Ensure Emergency Alerting System Is Working
“[The] Aiken County Emergency Management Division had to contact [the] South Carolina Emergency Management Division to initiate the Emergency Alerting System (EAS), which only works if [a] radio station is in auto position. Aiken County Emergency Management Division did not have [EAS] monitoring capability to determine if [the] EAS message had been transmitted to citizens,” as reported in the Aiken County Emergency Services After-Action Report.
Ensure the Reverse 911® System Has Current Information
After the Graniteville incident, it was determined that the phone directory for the 911 system was approximately 5 years old and did not include unlisted numbers or cell phone numbers. Since then, an updated phone directory has been purchased since many people no longer have landlines for telephone service.
Provide Additional Training on Hazardous Materials
The GVW Fire Department learned that while they were able to respond to the incident, additional training was needed on hazardous materials for the next time. “Emergency responders from the local volunteer fire department responded to the train crash and subsequent chlorine release without first donning personnel protective gear,” as reported in the www.chemicalspill.org Web site article “Emergency Response Issues: What Went Wrong in Graniteville.”
Provide for Additional Multi Entity Training
The “Fire department believes that multiple agency response drills would be beneficial to future responses,” as reported in the GVW Fire Department After-Action Report.
The Aiken County Emergency Services After-Action Report states, “Joint training between Emergency Operations Center personnel and Command Post responders is needed. Agencies need to understand each other’s roles and capabilities.”
Provide Your Own Public Information Officer
The GVW Fire Department felt it did not receive the credit it was due so, in the future, the GVW Fire Department will have its own Public Information Officer.
Provide Standardized Identification Badges
The GVW Fire Department felt that standardized credentials are needed for access to allow for the proper identification of authorized personnel. There was a “lack of credentials [which] caused some problems with [the] movement of volunteer responders; [the] county produced generic badges with names, but no photos,” thus causing issues with the identification of responders as reported in the GVW Fire Department After-Action Report.
Use Technology Tools during the Incident
Some of the local emergency response staff utilized “Blackberries” to communicate with their forward command. These devices could be used next time to text message to others in the field or up to the command center.
There was an expression of a need for Internet access in the field. “With an incident like this one, the regional and local media come on the scene to report the incident. Internet access to distribute information such as fact sheets prepared for the incident would have been helpful,” as reported by the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer.
Verify Mutual Aid Sources
The GVW Fire Department feels that qualifications should be verified prior to the utilization of all mutual-aid sources.
February 6, 2006