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Always Expect the Unexpected

Since 9/11, attacks by terrorist groups and individuals have been on the rise. In the last year, attacks have been seen from Belgium to London, to the states, including the January shooting at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) that killed five and injured six. This rise in terrorism has impacted the training and response efforts of fire and rescue departments around the world.

District Chief Robert Palestrant with Broward County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office (BSO) Department of Fire Rescue, reviews the January 2017 attack on FLL and discusses the potential steps to take to prevent a similar situation in your district:

  • What issues were encountered regarding Incident and Unified Command with multiple fire rescue and law enforcement agencies responding?
  • How quickly were victims accessed, treated, and transported to medical facilities?
  • What access/egress issues were encountered?

We talked with Chief Palestrant regarding the rise in terrorism over the last decade and the impact it has had on the fire service.

The fire service did not choose to become part of homeland security: our role in prevention and response, and the attacks on 9/11 made it inevitable that we joined the fight. No longer considered collateral damage, fire and rescue personnel are at times secondary, or worse primary, targets. Training long considered part of law enforcement’s purview, including situational awareness, suspicious activity reporting, and recognizing the signs of terrorist activity are now part of every firefighter’s handbook.

An attack on such a populated, public place is sure to induce panic, but training taken by BSO Fire and Rescue personnel aided in appropriate and effective response efforts. Chief Palestrant elaborates:

Although this incident received international news coverage, all BSO Fire and Rescue personnel have received Rescue Task Force training and many, including command staff, are becoming Terrorism Liaison Officers which allowed us to handle the attack no differently than any other multi-casualty incident.No matter how much we train or how comprehensive our response plans are, we must always expect the unexpected.

To learn more and to join the discussion, plan to attend Chief Palestrant’s Fire-Rescue International education session, “After the First 80 Seconds – The Fort Lauderdale Airport Terrorist Attack” on Wednesday, ­ July 26 from 1:30 – 3 PM.

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