Area departments hone high-rise skills
Evanston fire department captain, Steve Perrino enters the lobby of the One Rotary Center high-rise during a training session Nov. 8. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:15AM
EVANSTON — Area fire departments don’t often see high-rise fires — but if they do they’ll be sharper in response after a rigorous training drill earlier this month.
Some nine departments of Mutual Box Alarm System, or MABAS, and two companies from Chicago Fire, MABAS Division 9, took part in the three-day drill that saw at least 50 firefighters trooping through Evanston’s downtown Rotary Center.
The simulated drill called for firefighters to perform a rescue on the 10th floor of the 18-story Rotary Center, in which theatrical smoke was used to simulate a fire. In the drill, crews brought the victim down to Emergency Medical Service units on the building’s seventh floor.
The building’s eighth floor became the firefighters resource room and the ninth floor housed the rapid intervention crews assembled and ready to go in case there was a “Mayday” call, the term used to alert responders to a downed firefighter. Such a call was made, Evanston Fire Chief Greg Klaiber said.
A high-rise fire “is one of the most difficult operations to take on so we have to practice and we have to make sure we’re communicating effectively with all the different agencies,” said Klaiber, leading the critique of the drill afterward in the Rotary Center lobby.
“You can see there are probably 50 or more (firefighters) here,” he said, “so this would be the kind of response we would have.”
Key is “communicating effectively through our command system to make sure everything gets done that should get done,’’ he said.
At the Nov. 8 critique, Klaiber and others spoke about a glitch which had developed, moving between the different radio frequencies.
“This is why we do this,” the chief told the firefighters.
Lt. Mike Carnes of the Glenview Fire Department was one of the participants.
The “hardest thing we have to go through on a fire scene like this is communication so to come here with all these different companies, different fire departments and different frequencies, to be able to pull all this together in a drill and do well means it will help us when we have the real deal.”
Other participants also spoke in favor of the drill’s value.
“You polish up your skills, keep sharp on what we do,” said Pat Harrington, from the Wilmette Fire Department. “We don’t get live fires all that often but when you have done all this training with people you know what to expect out of people.”
Longtime Evanston firefighter-paramedic Dave Ellis noted that departments from Chicago and Park Ridge had joined the North Shore departments that took part in the drill.
He recalled a high-rise fire in Evanston at the 1603 Orrington building, which proved complicated as firefighters attempted to fight flames while moving employees out of the building.
“This is all logistics. It’s all a matter of getting people in place and coordinating, to be able to do it effectively. Especially if more than one floor is involved it can be a real tactical thing,” he said.
Klaiber praised the cooperation received from the Rotary International management. MABAS teams assemble in other drills throughout the year at a training facility in Glenview but the Rotary building provided a high rise setting for training, he said.
Communities participating in the drill were Chicago, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Park Ridge, Skokie, Wilmette and Winnetka.