Practice makes perfect for firefighters facing an unusual emergency.
First responders from across Broward County joined the Coast Guard in mapping out what would be a rare rescue at Port Everglades in a simulated drill Thursday.
The drill included an explosion inside a cargo ship’s engine room at port. It’s a chance for firefighters to find out how fast they can knock out flames and bring people onboard to safety.
"We’re dealing with metal, a tin can," explained Gregory Holness, Broward District Fire Chief for Port Everglades. It forces “high heat conditions, also a lot of noxious gases."
It’s much different from fighting a fire on dry land.
"If this was a real fire, we would talk about hours to possibly days being on the container,” said Holness.
Before rescuers climbed on board, crews examined the vessel's layout so they could avoid dangers like fuel lines and high voltage areas.
“Obviously our first priority is life safety,” said Exercise Director Todd Duke, who trains crews with Resolve Marine Group, Inc.
Rescuers have to account for all ship crew members quickly, and they’re not easy to reach.
“There’s very little access getting down into that engine room," Duke said.
With a ladder truck, firefighters simulated hoisting an injured crew member off the ship. Then there’s the trouble with dousing the flames.
“If you put too much water on it, the vessel will actually roll over and sink,” said Duke. "We sunk it on the computer, and it only took a few thousand gallons of water. It can happen really quickly, real easily… you can’t just go spray water everywhere."
The exercise is the first of its kind in Port Everglades, funded through a Port Security Grant in conjunction with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.