MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Amid criticism over how rescue efforts were handled in a deadly boating accident which killed four people on July 4th, the Miami-Dade County Fire Department released a new operations plan on Wednesday.
According to the memorandum CBSMiami.com exclusively obtained, the Operations Plan sent by Assistant Fire Chief Arthur L. Holmes Jr., is meant to “provide guidance and a framework of how we will tender/cross-staff and operate a hard hull boat.”
The hard hull boat called “Marine 39” will be “tendered” by Ladder 39 (L-39) and docked at PortMiami, according to the operations plan.
A minimum of two “hard-hull” certified personnel must be on staff within the Ladder 39 crew, but “personnel will not be moved nor hired for overtime to fulfill the above staffing requirements unless pre-approved,” according to the plan.
If Ladder 39 is unable to staff the boat, then they will contact the Fire Alarm Office Chief and Battalion 5 to let them know they “are not hard –hull capable.”
The plan also defines the “mission” of Ladder 39 and Marine 39.
“The Primary mission of Ladder 39 is as an Advanced Life Support (ALS) suppression unit providing service to PortMiami. The Secondary mission is to add a rescue boat to provide rescue service as requested through 911. The capabilities of Marine 39 include: providing search and rescue, emergency medical service, and dive rescue capabilities.”
CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana spoke to Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey who said while this isn’t an actual “fireboat,” the vessel does have Advanced Life Support equipment on board as well as a special infrared radar system known as FLIR, that can detect bodies in darkness either on the water or under the water
He said he thinks it’s a good alternative for right now, but wouldn’t call it a “compromise” with the union.
Downey said it’s just “the right thing to do,” adding they are still trying to develop solution that will allow the department to better cover the waterways.
The hard-hull boat cannot fight fires. If Marine 39 is dispatched to a fire, they will request the City of Miami Fire Fireboat to respond with them.
In regards to dispatch, the plan states, “With each request it is the decision of the L-39 OIC (Officer In Charge) whether Marine 39 will respond. This will be based on available personnel, conditions, and type of call.”
If Ladder 39 is dispatched for a call, it’ll be placed Out of Service and Marine 39 will be placed in-service. Another ALS suppression unit will immediately be moved to PortMiami to cover Ladder 39, according to the plan.
Once the call is complete and the boat has been docked and secured, Marine 39 will be placed Out of Service, Ladder 39 will be placed back in-service and the covering unit will be released.
The plan was put into place after various local fire departments, police departments and state and federal agencies were criticized for their rescue efforts during the July 4th boating tragedy.
Following that deadly boating accident, Miami’s Fire Chief Maurice Kemp said various agencies would analyze their rescue efforts.
The father of one of the victims, Jack Garcia, a 33-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Fire Department demanded change in rescue efforts.
The new operations plan will be implemented starting July 28th, according to the memo.
Downey said he notified the fire union of the plan on Monday but has not received a response.
Pastrana also reached out to the union president but did not hear back.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez is aware of the plan. His spokesman said the chief had the resources to do this, so he did it for the good of the community despite possible union objections.
In the past, union leaders have been against the “cross-utilization” plan, saying the port is required to have a full-time crew on site.
The plan explains a unit will immediately be moved to the port whenever Marine 39 is dispatched.