Firefighters report shortages


A Mobile Incident Command Training Simulation System is not a gadget out of 1984 but it is futuristic, at least for Alexandria, which could receive the emergency training device if the Federal government approves City Councils grant application, authorized Tuesday at City Hall.

The grant request was spotlighted at the meeting as part of what firefighters say is an overarching shortfall in equipment and manpower. The realization of the shortage came after a fire at an Edsall Road apartment high rise last August injured six Alexandria firefighters.

The simulation system is like a flight simulator pilots use for training. It would provide training on various emergency fronts, from terrorist attacks to influenza outbreaks. It would enhance our capabilities to handle mass emergencies, Capt. John Morehead said.

But more important than the simulation system is additional staff, said Fire Chief Adam Thiel, who also cited a lack of training resources. People put out fires, Thiel said. My job is to provide Council with a report on what we need. Council has the difficult job of trying to prioritize that.

An independent consultant provided a study for the fire department, which presented the laundry list of necessities to the council members. Capt. Morehead and Chief Thiel both noted that the department needs an average of four people per fire engine rather than the current three-person response teams.

This was a very thorough report, a very sobering report, Vice Mayor Redella Del Pepper said. I had no idea that we had these kinds of needs.

Councilman Rob Krupicka noted that the fire departments requests were the single most important issue on the docket. This is something we should all be concerned with and aware of in this community, Krupicka said.

The Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program will receive the application which, if approved, could fund one $150,000 unit.

The council is expected to match any approved federal grant at 20 percent, making the citys possible cost $30,000. A third of that cost would be paid out of the Alexandria Fire Departments existing training budget, according to a memo from City Manager James K. Hartmann.

The fire departments needs will be addressed further at April 1 budget work session, in order to flesh out budgetary implications. The City Council stands ready, Mayor Bill Euille said.