Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Maritime Incident Response Team Exercise

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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: 

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Massachusetts Department of Fire Services, Firefighting Academy Special Hazards Training Branch

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-68962016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-6896 Massachusetts State Police 

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-76672016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-7667 Massachusetts Maritime Academy - Facilities and the T.S. Ranger vessel    

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Bourne Fire Department - 18 foot M-130 Edgewater

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-81352016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8135 New Bedford Fire Department - 41 foot USCG UTB

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Sandwich Fire Department - 37 foot Moose Boat Catamaran Rescue Boat

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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.

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-70302016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-7030 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-70662016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-7066 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.

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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.

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-69292016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-6929 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-84602016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8460 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-77402016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-7740 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-69532016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-6953 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.

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-80692016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8069

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-82122016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8212 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-81692016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8169

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MIRT techs then determined if second team was needed to relieve first entry team and determine whether body recovery operations should be initiated.

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-82442016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8244 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-84232016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8423 2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-85212016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8521

A hot wash was conducted at MMA facility on land to conclude the exercise.

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Other actions of MIRT and TSU during the exercise included: 

  • Assignment of MIRT/TSU staff to positions
  • Appropriate use of MIRT/TSU staff
  • Development of site safety plan, Incident Action Plan and Communications Plan
  • Determined appropriate use of MIRT and TSU equipment
  • Conducted risk-benefit analysis with an emphasis on safety
  • Selection of detection devices 
  • Selected appropriate PPE relative to boarding the vessel 
  • Assessed the results of metering equipment in the area and on board the vessel
  • Analyzed the vessel for other materials
  • Determined best course of action to mitigate the incident 
  • Evaluated the scene to determine whether decontamination would be required
  • Determined actions needed to terminate the incident

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2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-87822016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8782

2016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-87832016-06-24 MIRT at MMA-print-8783


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