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NEWS | April 6, 2015

USS Tornado Shipyard Fire Drill Successful

By Dan Smithyman SERMC

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) conducted a fire drill April 1 aboard USS Tornado (PC 14) while the ship was in dry dock to test the ability of the crew, shipyard workers and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) to integrate in what could be a real-world situation.

The recent fire aboard USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), which occurred in a shipyard environment, was a disturbing reminder of the inherent dangers aboard ship, and during a shipyard maintenance period in particular.

"The fire drill was conducted to demonstrate proficiency and coordination among SERMC, ship's force, and fire and emergency services in responding to shipboard fires that may occur during industrial work," said Aaron Moore, the fire drill's organizer and head of SERMC's Safety Department. "Coordination is essential so we can rapidly respond to a major fire casualty and successfully bring it under control to prevent injury and damage to the ship."

Moore indicated drills like this are required annually by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), which is responsible for the Navy's major repair facilities like SERMC. These major fire drills provide an abundance of useful lessons that can be employed for future drills or actual casualties.

"Communication, communication, communication!" Moore said. "Everybody at the beginning of a maintenance availability talks about how important communication is, but during a fire, communication can be the difference between life and death. There is never enough training when it comes to fighting fires on Navy vessels."

Tornado's commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. David Catterall, agreed that communication is critical, especially in deconflicting terminology used between military and civilian personnel. He was impressed with the overall performance of each agency particularly in such a challenging environment where the ship is enclosed in a cocoon-like plastic with scaffolding and hoses, tubes, and equipment obstacles at every turn.

"I believe the crew performed exceptionally well with the shipyard and JFRD," Catterall said. "Ships with small crews, like the Cyclone-class patrol craft, depend greatly on outside support for major casualties and early coordination with the shipyard, the local fire department and the maintenance center is very important."

Catterall summarized the event, "Whether you are a Navy Sailor learning how JFRD operates, a shipyard employee understanding the immediate needs of the ship's firefighting teams, or a JFRD firefighter navigating through a naval vessel for the first time, there was something to learn. The experience of this drill is invaluable to all involved."