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A hazardous material spill. A search for a missing Alzheimer’s patient. A fire in a sprawling warehouse.
Emergencies of this magnitude demand plenty of personnel. But to coordinate the many personnel and many efforts required to handle such jobs, an on-the-site organizational structure is required. That’s why Limerick Fire Company recently placed in service its 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Command Unit, known as Command 54. The vehicle is equipped with metal marking boards, maps of the township, layouts of the building, additional radios and firefighting gear.
“The purpose is to have all three agencies—fire, police and ambulance- work together under one command structure,” stated Kenneth Shuler, chief of the Limerick Fire Company. “It’s usually a chief, deputy or assistant chief who are the ones at the command post. Together, they size up the incident and decide what is the best approach to take.
“We discuss who is responsible for what operations, where emergency apparatus should be placed, and who is responsible for directing personnel. We make sure everyone knows what his or her responsibility is. Let’s say we’re at a major warehouse fire. Some people are responsible for sectors of the roof, some for the interior of the building and others for the exterior of the building.”
Every week, possession of the Limerick Fire Company Command Unit vehicle is rotated among the chief, a deputy or assistant chief. It is their responsibility to respond to every call, said Shuler. Usually, they are first on the scene in an emergency. They can then size up the situation and decide what additional resources may be needed.
Recently, Montgomery County Fire Academy has been encouraging company officers to take a course, “Incident Commander,” which focuses on the operation of incident command units, such as Limerick’s.