(NOTE: AGC members who are willing to be placed on the AGC Disaster Response Team list should email Mandi Kime or call her at 206-284-0061. Please include some details about the equipment that you will be willing – as available – to invest in a disaster response. Plus let Mandi know if you would be willing to serve on a Disaster Response Task Force to discuss ways to enhance and spread construction industry engagement in disaster response.)
It’s a scary thing to think about but fortunately for all of us Seattle’s Assistant Fire Chief A. D. Vickery thinks about it anyway.
In fact he’s given it a lot of thought and he knows that when a major disaster occurs such as a terrorist attack that brings a building down engaging AGC members and skilled trades in the immediate response would be a life-saving move.
AGC members – particularly those with cranes and other heavy equipment – have the opportunity to save lives through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that AGC has signed with the King County Fire Chief’s Association. The purpose of the MOU is to involve the construction industry in a disaster’s life-safety phase (the immediate aftermath before formal demolition and rebuilding contracts are engaged). At the request of the incident commander AGC would call on members who may have the equipment and expertise which the first responders may not possess nor have the time to locate to assist in rescue efforts.
The MOU has been in effect for years but AGC wanted to remind its members of its existence and to encourage firms to participate.
Safety Director Mandi Kime is AGC’s point person and she would receive the call from the incident commander. Given the needs of the situation Mandi would contact AGC members who are likely in the best position to help.
Chief Vickery spearheaded the effort to involve the industry in emergency response after the country’s two most notorious terrorist incidents the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11.
“I was deployed to both Oklahoma City and 9/11 and in both cases saw what the skilled trades were capable of doing in the life-safety phase of a disaster” he says. “They helped shore up the Oklahoma City building in a way that the fire department would not have been able to do; the temporary shoring for a building that lost an entire façade was amazing.
“That spurred my interest and I wondered if we have prepared as much as we could for the life-safety phase” Vickery says. “In 2003 we got with AGC and with the Department of Homeland Security held a national seminar in Seattle on how to integrate skilled trades in incidence response. From that structures were put in place to engage the skilled trades. But that still left a missing piece – heavy equipment. The skilled trades are great but they don’t necessarily have or own equipment. We wouldn’t have complete integration without the companies.”
Thus the MOU with AGC was created.
Vickery says that through the MOU first responders would be looking for heavy equipment and expertise. AGC would find someone to serve as a construction liaison within the incident command structure. Plus the type of equipment that might be needed would depend on the situation. Cranes to lift rubble would likely be needed but there might also be a need for other equipment to clear roads so rescuers could access the site.
Over the years there have been a couple of important milestones boosting industry engagement:
- OSHA created the Disaster Site Worker program to provide non-public safety workers with 16-hours of training (e.g. respiratory protection).
- In 2005 Washington State enacted legislation regarding workers comp claims in disaster response. If a company’s employee is injured during the disaster response the employer’s risk rating is not penalized.
Although the Seattle Fire Department has taken the lead Chief Vickery made sure that a regional approach was taken. The MOU is countywide as it was signed by AGC and the King County Fire Chiefs Association. Other areas may adopt the template as well.
“In Seattle we have 208 firefighters on duty” says Vickery. “If a major incident occurs we may not have the horsepower and we need a structure to get it. This is the structure and it can’t be done without AGC. It’s about community at a time of great need.”