A career with an Industrial Based Fire Department can be a truly rewarding experience filled with the same level of camaraderie, brotherhood, and tradition of the surrounding local municipal departments.
Along with the same similarities such as training, morning rig checks, and stories shared around the firehouse dinner table, the Industrial Fire Service comes with other elements and experiences unique to the environment at hand that a firefighter wouldn’t normally encounter during their career riding an engine in a rural community.
For close to a decade I was employed in the Submarine Capital of the World (Groton, CT) as a Firefighter / EMT with the Electric Boat Fire Department. Besides those who have served in the Navy, there are only a few firefighters that can say they’ve stretched a hoseline into the Torpedo Room of a multi-billion dollar submarine in an effort to suppress a fire or have implemented rope and rigging equipment to safely and swiftly extricate an injured trade worker out from a submarine up through a topside hatch.
Many businesses and industries across the country own and operate independent fire departments (Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casinos, Sikorsky Aircraft, Six Flags Great Adventure, Pfizer Pharmaceutical, and Jack Daniel’s Distillery, ) for the sole purpose to prevent fire and damage to their properties and assets while also providing stellar service to their employees and onsite clients should an incident occur that warrants the response and mitigation of emergency personnel.
A major portion of Industrial Based Firefighting is the role of Inspection and Public Education. Prevention is the goal for any company and business and that is achieved through vigilance with the testing, inspection, and maintenance of the onsite fire detection and suppression systems.
In many cases, the Fire Chief of the local municipal department is ultimately the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and the municipal department is brought onsite for large scale incidents. It is highly advantageous on part of both the municipal and industrial based departments to establish and maintain a working relationship conducive in providing the absolute best service to the business/industry operating in the community.
Several aspects of the Industrial Fire Service revolve around prevention and knowledge of site-specific hazards. There is a great deal of time and effort put into planning for events and establishing Standard Operating Procedures relevant to the site-specific hazards, building construction, and property layout (access, hydrants, storage, etc.).
The following are great avenues that should be explored and practiced between the Industrial and Municipal Departments:
1. Evaluate and determine equipment compatibilities such as,
2. Share Resources that are unique to your specific hazards, response area, or expertise for example,
3. As part of the inspection and prevention aspect, Industrial Based Fire Departments tend to have a greater grip on pre-incident planning and logistics for their site because the hazards are known, and each structure and area has been evaluated as a target hazard.
Working in the Industrial Fire Service has better prepared me for when responding offsite as a Part-Time Firefighter in a bustling shoreline town as well as when volunteering in the rural community I raise my family in. Often, we have been met with alarm activations or sprinkler system malfunctions that I was familiar with due to my time spent working vigorously through the inspection and testing aspect of the fire service. On occasion, the level of training I’ve been fortunate to have to achieved through the industrial setting from increased rope rescue training and metering/monitoring has helped to develop action plans while operating in the outside setting.
The Industrial Fire Service can make for a great career, learning experience, or steppingstone to getting on the job elsewhere. No matter the circumstance that is presented, never pass up the opportunity to work for or alongside this exceptional group of firefighters for it will be a valuable learning experience that can be implemented and adapted throughout your career wherever you end up.
AB Turenne is a 22-year veteran of the fire service in Eastern Connecticut. As a Certified Level II Fire Service Instructor, AB's training curriculum has proven to be conducive with the operational needs of those he teaches and in turn has improved the human capital knowledge of many. A graduate from the Master of Public Administration program at Anna Maria College, AB has continued his efforts in training and education by contributing to the Fire Engineering Training Community.