Of these last two weeks at Cape Hatteras, I only actually spent half of the time in North Carolina. The week of July 9th, my supervisor and I spent a week taking part in the Park Structural Fire Coordinator seminar at NCTC in West Virginia. As anyone familiar with the most recent installment of A123 can tell you, every park in the country had to appoint a Structural Fire Coordinator to oversee day to day structural fire protection activity. Unfortunately, the furthest extent of many of these appointees knowledge of structural fire protection is calling the alarm company to find out why they got five TROUBLE SIGNAL emails at 3 o'clock in the morning. While a few PSFCs do have a firefighting background, the majority are LE and Facilities Management personnel who have taken on the PSFC job as a collateral duty.
This 3-day long class helped to expand this knowledge of fire protection, essentially a crash course in structural fire protection. Teachers included Jim King, Brian Johnson, Donna Baumgaertner, Andy Wilson of the Smithsonian, Don Boucher, Matt Kim, and myself. These FP professionals gave lessons on everything from alarm systems to the Life Safety Code to on-site inspections.
Matt and I did a lesson on portable fire extinguishers during the second day of class. The major issue country-wide when it comes to PFEs is that they are simply not inspected. For the most part, they are installed, just not kept up to date on monthly and yearly inspections. As with everything, ITM is critical with PFEs, so we explained the required steps during a monthly inspection. It could be catastrophic to run up to a trashcan fire only to find that the extinguisher's hose is blocked or the gauge is busted and no suppressant comes out. We had some PFEs as props and had two of the students do a mock inspection to demonstrate.
Additionally, we gave some insight into how extinguishers work, the different classifications for which they are designed, and proper placement/spacing of extinguishers. As for the latter, we have an issue here at HQ that is totally the opposite of what one would expect; next to the break room, we have 4 extinguishers within a 40 ft. span.
Overall, the class was a great success in my opinion. I was glad to be able to help where I could, and I learned as much, if not more, than I taught. The NCTC campus is fantastic as well, there are lots of great hiking trails and exhibits (see below) and the food was quite a few steps above the UMD North Campus diner. Students and instructors alike took advantage of this opportunity and went for walks, ate together, and talked over "just one" beer at the NCTC pub.
In addition to a great training campus, NCTC is home to some great exhibits and trails that allow you to see some of West Virginia's (and elsewhere's) natural beauty.
Upon returning to CAHA, I put some of what I learned to use almost immediately. I started putting together flip-style emergency/evacuation plans for our HQ and have made up several evacuation diagrams for the buildings around Fort Raleigh.
I'm continuing to inventory the fire protection systems around the park. I've started compiling all of the deficiencies I've found thus far into a spreadsheet, and I will be hopefully turning them into work orders within the next week. My prescriptive analysis of the Cape Hatteras Double Keepers Quarters is coming along as well.
View of the DKQ from the nationally recognized Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
I've gotten the floor plans from our Facilities Management folks and have the square footage and NFPA 101-calculated occupancies on paper. Monday I will be making the hour and a half trip down to the Hatteras Lighthouse area to get a few more specifics on the structure, then I will be spending time during the rest of the week compiling a comprehensive, code-based report.