By Bob Hickey
There was plenty of excitement on the pier Wednesday as numerous agencies participated in an integrated fire drill onboard USS New York.
Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) is charged with conducting an annual shipboard fire drill to test the Navy's capability to fight a shipboard fire on a ship undergoing a maintenance availability. Depending on the type of repairs being conducted, a ship can be more vulnerable to fire damage during these repair periods, and outside assistance from the Base Fire Department and other agencies could be required.
"Planning for this drill has been ongoing for months," said Aaron Moore, SERMC's Safety and Environmental Department Head. "It is extremely challenging integrating different firefighters, evacuating and mustering repair contractors and treating casualties."
Moore added that this drill not only involved the ship planning and executing a fire drill, but also integrating the Naval Station's Federal Firefighters, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) and Sailors from the USS Iwo Jima. In the event of a major fire, an affected ship could get support from neighboring ships, but these civilian firefighters could also provide critical assistance.
In this particular drill, the fire spread quickly and outside assistance was called in. This provided an excellent opportunity for these other first responders to go aboard the ship, work alongside Navy firefighters and gain valuable experience.
"This was an excellent opportunity to work with the ship and other firefighting organizations to combat a casualty," said Capt. Dave Gombas, SERMC Commanding Officer.
Gombas reported that there were many lessons learned and all parties benefitted from the training. This was the third fire drill of this type conducted by SERMC and they are growing in complexity each time.
In addition, the drill provided the Naval Station Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the SERMC EOC an opportunity to train. Critical functional areas such as environmental impact, command and control and public affairs were also flexed.