Logistics in the fire department
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
When I first signed up to be on my department’s USAR (Urban Search and Rescue), FEMA Florida Task Force 2 (FLTF2) team, I did not have a clue about the different disciplines there were and what was available. I just wanted to be a part of it. The Task Force Leader at that time said we needed logistics personnel. So, I said "OK," sounds neat to me! I soon found out that no matter what industry or organization you work for, logistics is basically the backbone of any company/organization. It is the support!
As a logistics specialist/manager/leader, you were responsible for all equipment and gear (the cache), its inventory, resupply and maintenance. We were also responsible for the vehicles and the driving of them (requiring a Commercial Driver’s License for tractor trailers and additional endorsements — a CDL), food and lodging, among other tasks.
I then proceeded to take a Logistics Specialist course. This involved getting certifications for loading items for travel over the road (49-CFR) and by airlift, either commercial (IATA) or military (AFMAN 24-204). Many types of items requiring special packaging were involved.
We needed to know how to package them and mark the corresponding boxes accordingly. Items included oils and lubricants, batteries, medical supplies, fuel/gasoline, compressed air, acetylene, oxygen, etc.
My first involvement was maintaining the database for the cache. In this way I developed an intimate relationship with all the boxes/cases and their contents. What also came naturally from this was the location for each case/item. Maintenance logs needed to be kept for all the power tools, meters, batteries, SCBAs (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), their air cylinders, medical gear, medicines and controlled substances, etc. — basically, anything and everything.
We were also responsible for the uniforms, work boots and safety equipment for all personnel. There were scheduled days when we had team members come in to get fitted for their proper sizes, then later issue them their uniforms/gear. For all items, there was always an extra inventory that needed to be kept, so as items became damaged or worn, they were readily replaced without delay.
A load plan was needed, especially for air travel — placing and securing the cases on pallets to be airlifted. Weight was a very important detail considered for proper loading. Before going on any aircraft, the pallets and the way the cases were loaded on them, along with the proper labeling and documentation, were inspected on the flight line by military personnel that specialized in airlift of gear — the Load Master. We would need to conform to anything they said if we wanted to get to our mission destination.
Along with all the requirements for "logistics" personnel, there were the courses required for all personnel. Among courses were Hazardous Material Awareness, courses in terrorism, critical incident stress debriefing, Post-Traumatic Stress courses, incident management systems and communication. It was a constant "learning" environment and was necessary to keep all required certifications up to date on an ongoing basis.
Another aspect was learning a new inventory and care and maintenance of gear and equipment for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) after the 9/11 attacks. This involved radiological monitoring equipment, atmospheric sampling meters, specialized breathing gear, Body Surface Isolation (BSI) apparel like chemical and Tyvek suits, decontamination equipment (DECON), and so on. Additional courses needed to be taken so we knew how to calibrate and maintain these sensitive, but necessary instruments.
What makes the difference in any logistics group is the people/personnel. They cannot be lazy. They must be motivated and be team players.
Our logistics group members were hand-picked because we had special skill sets and were willing to go above and beyond. We were more than team players — we were best friends and had a common and unique brotherhood, or as we would also say — "cadre."
We became known as the "loggie’s." Anytime anyone needed anything, team members would say "go see one of the Loggie’s." These were very special times in my career with many fond memories. We worked with motivated people, not only from my department, but from other departments and with civilians — non-sworn/uniformed team members. All were dedicated.
The common goal was to go help people in their time of need for any event, whether it was a natural disaster, a structural collapse, or from malicious acts. We wanted civilians and the public to know that trained, qualified people, operational ready 24/7/365, were going to be there to render aid.
The "loggie’s" motto was "first to arrive and last to leave."
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