NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
This year, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) hosted the 29th Annual Robert E. Rumens Marine Firefighting School. Starting in 1991, the Marine Firefighting School originally only hosted local firefighters from the Hampton Roads area. Over the years, this program has grown in size to include students from all over the world. This training allowed NNSY a chance to share its expertise in industrial shipboard firefighting with future members of the Port of Virginia’s Maritime Incident Response Team (MIRT).
The primary mission of the Port of Virginia’s MIRT is to provide immediate on-scene maritime advice and to act as an agency liaison to the United States Coast Guard and other state and local Incident Commanders when responding to all hazard-type incidents in the maritime environment. The MIRT promotes maritime response capabilities in the Port of Virginia through an ongoing program of training, drills, resources, and continued support and coordination through port partnerships.
The MIRT is the first organization of its kind in the United States and is unique to any port. The concept of a coordinated maritime response team originated in 1984 when Bill Burket, now the MIRT Director, attended a Coast Guard hosted Train-the-Trainer course for marine firefighting. Up to this point, Hampton Roads had not implemented a collaborative response team capable of responding to a fire or hazardous material release in a port environment. Combining efforts with the Virginia Maritime Association, Coast Guard Sector Virginia, and the Navy Fire Fighting School, the MIRT was established.
The first Marine Fire Fighting School attendees were comprised mostly of firefighters from local fire departments. It was from these attendees that the cadre of MIRT personnel was formed. Since then, it has expanded and now hosts students from all across the United States. This year’s participants came from twenty-two agencies and fourteen states. This training was paramount in sharing knowledge across the industry with the program forging lasting connections, building upon resources, knowledge, and expertise, which can be called upon in the event of a major shipboard fire.
NNSY Emergency Management Specialist Alyx Riebeling said, “As a participant in the 24th Annual Robert E. Rumens Marine Firefighting School, I was very excited to be able to help coordinate tour requests from Bill Burket, Director of the MIRT, and to have NNSY support this year’s program. With coordination from the USS Toledo (SSN 769), the ex-[USS] McKee (AS-41), Radiological Controls (Code 105), Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (Code 106), Operations (Code 300), Security and Fire (Code 1120), Emergency Management (Code 1130), NNSY Fire and Emergency Services, and NNSY Security Forces, we were able to simultaneously execute tours for approximately 100 mutual aid firefighters across two platforms of vessels and through a dry dock, while also providing presentations on Damage Control CONEX boxes and shipboard fire response in a naval shipyard.”
The tours allowed participants to receive training and demonstrations in shipboard fire response in a naval shipyard. It also allowed them to return home to their agencies to share what they’ve learned.
NNSY was able to provide these students with a unique insight into shipboard firefighting in an industrial shipyard environment as well as provide the opportunity to tour a submarine and a former submarine tender. Providing these tours to future members of the MIRT and training them in a shipyard environment helps to build a strong partnership with MIRT and the local fire departments that respond to NNSY for trainings, drills, and real world events.