The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services (DFS), Hazardous Materials Response Division’s Maritime Incident Response Team (MIRT) conducted a full field exercise on June 24, 2016, based out of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. This exercise was also supported by the DFS Tactical Support Unit (TSU) as well.
Weather during the exercise was mostly sunny, 76F, with winds north/northeast 10-15 mph. Tides were low at 0728am and were high at 1240pm.
The overall purpose of the exercise was to allow the MIRT to organize their available assets and implement an effective response to a hazardous materials incident at sea. The general expected outcome of the exercise was to permit the MIRT and TSU team members to incorporate all components of the maritime response training to date.
The exercise provided a forum for the organization of the MIRT and TSU response members, incident hazmat response command and control, team communications, maritime vessel assignments and hazmat equipment load out. The scenario required the travel to a vessel at sea and boarding of an anchored vessel at sea, metering, hazard assessment and mitigation of the hazardous materials that are encountered on the vessel.
In addition to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, Hazardous Materials Response Division Maritime Incident Response Team and Technical Support Unit, other agencies involved in the exercise were:
Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, Firefighting Academy Special Hazards Training Branch
Massachusetts State Police
Massachusetts Maritime Academy - Facilities and the T.S. Ranger vessel
Bourne Fire Department - 18 foot M-130 Edgewater
New Bedford Fire Department - 41 foot USCG UTB
Sandwich Fire Department - 37 foot Moose Boat Catamaran Rescue Boat
Wareham Fire Department - 25 foot Safe Boat providing exercise support and five Safety Divers
Also, the United States Coast Guard, Sector Southeast and Massachusetts National Guard, 1st Civil Support Team were integral to the success of this exercise.
Scenario for the exercise began when the United States Coast Guard (USCG) received a call from a mariner at sea reporting a vessel adrift in Buzzards Bay. The vessel was reported as the T.S. Ranger.
The USCG initiated a response by a USCG vessel to the radio call. The USCG had located the T.S. Ranger vessel near the Cleveland Ledge Light based on the mariner’s radio transmission of the coordinates of the drifting vessel that they had encountered. The USCG attempted to communicate, via radio, with the vessel. They were not able to raise any response from the T.S. Ranger vessel and initiated a boarding of the vessel. Upon boarding they observed two non responsive victims with no pulse. The USCG anchored the vessel at sea in a safe and stable condition. During this boarding process they discovered what appeared to be some sort of makeshift laboratory in the galley area below the pilot house.
Based on this observation, the boarding crew withdrew from the T.S. Ranger, established safety zone around the vessel and communicated their findings with USCG Sector Southeast. USCG Sector Southeast has requested a hazardous materials response per their response plan.
Upon receiving IMResponding messages, MIRT and TSU assets began to respond and shortly upon arrival at MMA, organize resources, makes team member assignments, establish communication plans providing for land-based to sea-based assets, builds equipment load-out based on the scenario and expected needs, and made response vessels assignments.
Once at sea, MIRT assets metered the perimeter of the TS Ranger prior to boarding, determined optimal vessel boarding location, boarded vessel, conducted a full search of the vessel, conducted a hazard and risk assessment, metered and communicated information to Command and Control.
MIRT techs then determined if second team was needed to relieve first entry team and determine whether body recovery operations should be initiated.
A hot wash was conducted at MMA facility on land to conclude the exercise.
Other actions of MIRT and TSU during the exercise included: