1. Each year, about four thousand vessels carrying a wide range of commodities, including crude oil, refined petroleum products, liquefied petroleum gas, chemicals and other flammable and combustible cargoes pass through the Port of Hampton Roads. In addition to the inherent hazards associated with the transportation of the listed commodities, the heavy vessel traffic and the close proximity of anchored vessels to the major shipping channels within the port presents the potential for a major marine disaster. A fire resulting from a collision, allision, explosion, hot work, arson, carelessness or other event aboard a vessel presents unique problems to emergency response units. Some of the marine fire specific hazards are discussed in Chapter III. D. Preplanning and training are essential to ensure the best possible response.
2. For the purposes of this plan, a marine disaster is defined as any emergency that poses a threat to the harbor's facilities or vessels through fire or potential for fire. It is understood that other calamities may occur in the port, and these are addressed in other existing plans.
3. This plan is intended to promote a coordinated response to marine disasters and to ensure mutual understanding in an area where the cooperation of numerous and diverse parties may be essential. In addition, this plan is intended to inform marine facility operators, shipping agents, and vessel operators of the proper steps to take to notify cognizant agencies of a fire emergency and what information is initially important. It also compiles data, describes jurisdictions and responsibilities, and lays out initial response planning for a marine disaster.
B. Coordination of Efforts
1. This plan is a joint effort of all federal, state, and local agencies responsible for handling marine fire emergencies. Combating a major marine disaster may require expertise and specialized knowledge of vessel construction and equipment, stability, shipboard firefighting techniques, damage control, and hazardous material chemistry. In some cases, the services of a foreign language translator may be required. Specialized equipment may be required, such as boats suitable as firefighting platforms or for transportation of personnel and equipment, or international shore connections and other fittings compatible with metric or military equipment. Burning vessels may have to be moved across municipal boundaries either to protect port assets or to place the vessel in a better position for combatting the fire. In all of these cases, the coordinated effort and cooperation of several government agencies, fire departments and the vessel’s crew will be necessary.
2. Although this plan identifies responsibilities and the location of available equipment to enhance firefighting capabilities, the establishment of a comprehensive marine fire-fighting training program with an annual drill is a key element to the success of this plan. The training program organized and coordinated by the Maritime Incident Response Team (MIRT) outlines response arrangements, teaches the operation of shipboard firefighting equipment, explains general shipboard construction and layout, and discusses common firefighting techniques used on vessels and facilities. The use of case histories will help illustrate the important points.
C. Updating and Review
1. The Coast Guard in conjunction the MIRT and the Chairman of the Virginia Maritime Association (VMA) Fire Protection Committee will annually review all arrangements, jurisdictional relationships, and information contained within this plan, and update as necessary. All interested parties are encouraged to submit comments to the Chief, Contingency Planning Branch of Coast Guard MSO Hampton Roads.
2. An annual drill will be conducted to test the adequacy of this plan. The working group will propose a scenario for each drill, as well as a timetable for drill events. This planning will be conducted in consultation and cooperation with those agencies identified within this plan as having responsibilities or assets necessary to the firefighting effort. The exercise will, at a minimum, test response communications and pose challenging situations which might prove to be major problem areas. Possible scenarios might include a passenger vessel fire involving the evacuation and medical treatment of a large number of people; a fire on a bulk petroleum carrier or a containership; a fire on a vessel at anchor; a fire at a less accessible facility. Exercises generally shall be conducted during the day, but nighttime exercises will be considered. The drill will be the basis for the annual updating of this plan, generally through a post drill critique. Individual agencies participating in the exercise will be responsible for funding their own participation and should consider this in their training budget. The Coast Guard MSO will submit a funding proposal to higher headquarters, with the intent of securing adequate funding for the drill.
D. Mutual Assistance Agreements
1. All municipalities have existing Mutual Assistance Agreements (MAA) with other municipalities on their geographic borders. Further, the municipalities with major federal installations within their borders have existing MAAs with the installations. Most MAAs are identical. The major components of an MAA are:
a. The senior supervisor for the assisting fire department will direct the movement of all of that city’s forces; taking direction from the senior supervisor of the requesting city.
b. Response to alarms and the decision to occupy vacant firefighting stations will be commensurate with the scope of the emergency and to the extent of the forces available. These responses will be at no cost.
c. As long as the firefighting forces on federal installations remain under civil service and not private contract these responses can remain cost free. However, under the Federal Contract Analysis Program, costs would have to be determined by individual contract negotiations between the government and contractors in the event firefighting forces were contracted out to a civilian agency.