Navy Board set to improve fire safety after report finds sailors “unprepared to fight fires in port”


U.S. Navy Sailors transit through hangar bay to a simulated fire during a harbor emergency exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in Norfolk, Virginia, October 24 2020. US Navy Photo

After losing an amphibious warship to a fire, the Navy will elevate the chief of the security service to a two-star position and create a new watchdog to improve fire safety across the fleet.

In response to the findings of a Navy investigation into the fire aboard the former USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and multiple fires aboard other ships in recent years, the service will have the two-star raised ticket to support the safety standards of non-nuclear surface forces and will report directly to the chief of naval operations , vice chief of naval operations Adm. Bill Lescher told reporters on Wednesday.

Additionally, Lescher has established a watchdog to help identify changes to improve the department’s fire safety posture.

The Learning Council for Action “has a similar function to the Readiness Reform Oversight Council (RROC), established after the Fitzgerald and McCain inquiries. However, it is different in that it is designed to be a sustainable organism, allowing L2AB to test whether the recommendations remain in effect over time and whether the recommendations are having the intended effect, ”a statement from L2AB reads. the Navy provided to USNI News.

The council will be chaired by the VCNO and the Undersecretary of the Navy and includes the Assistant Secretaries of the Navy for Energy, Facilities and Environment and the Navy, Manpower and Business reserve, as well as the commanders of the Fleet Forces, PACFLEET, Naval Forces Europe and the Director of the Naval Staff.

The changes come as the Navy has discovered that warship crews undergoing repairs across the fleet are not properly prepared to handle fires in port, according to a Navy study of 15 ship fires published in the part of the investigation into the July 12, 2020 fire on the old Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6).

The Major Fires Report, conducted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces, investigated fires on ships in service after the loss of the nuclear attack submarine USS Miami (SSN-755) in 2012 and the institution of a new set of instructions for training crews in maintenance fire management, the NAVSEA technical publication, Industrial Ship Safety Manual for Fire Prevention and Response, also known as manual name 8010.

“We have found that our ships meet high standards for fighting fires at sea, but when they move into the maintenance phase they face different dangers and challenges,” the deputy told reporters on Wednesday. Chief of Naval Operations Bill Lescher. “Most of our commanders and crews are tackling these issues successfully, but some are clearly struggling.”

At sea, the Navy trains to fight fires with all the crew on board and all the necessary equipment to deal with a fire on the job. However, during maintenance, the sections are split with smaller groups of sailors on board with degraded equipment and spaces that may be crowded with equipment needed for maintenance work – circumstances that the 8010 manual was created to alleviate.

In the case of Bonhomme Richard, 87% of their firefighting stations were offline and the crew “had a general unfamiliarity with the contents of the 8010 manual and said their training had not prepared them to fight a fire of the magnitude that s’ is produced, “according to the command’s investigation.

In addition to Miami and Bonhomme Richard, for the broader examination, investigators assessed the fires aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), USS George washington (CVN-73), USS Iwo jima (LHD-7), USS Boxer (LHD-4), USS Oscar austin (DDG-79), USS Chosin (CG-65), USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41), USS City of Hue (CG-66), USS Mccampbell (DDG-85), USS Gunston Room (LSD-42), USS Ardent (MCM-12) and USS Champion (MCM-4).

Examining the Navy, investigators “found that the training continuum adequately prepares crews to fight ongoing fires, but leaves crews unprepared to respond to a port fire, particularly with only the section of Service on board. The [report] also found that insufficient on-board training resulted in dysfunctional command and control of incidents.

The common thread running through most of the fires was that the ships were under maintenance.

“Of the events examined, 13 out of 15 occurred during depot-level or unit-level maintenance, six of the fires resulting from a significant violation of established fire safety requirements or indirectly caused or increased in severity by ongoing maintenance efforts, “the report reads.
“One incident occurred in a public shipyard and three in private shipyards. Six related to contracted maintenance activities or their presence on board during the fire or the events directly preceding the fires. Only two of the 15 events occurred during the course of normal operations. “

Other changes to the waterfront are already underway.

Naval Surface Force Commander Vice-Admiral Roy Kitchener told reporters in July his command had added additional firefighters to assess the crew’s firefighting skills and invested in additional equipment to detect fires on board ships.

“Their job is to come out, [and] evaluate the training ships do to fight industrial fires, because it’s different. They are there to ensure that the waterfront maintainers, as well as the private contractors and the ship’s crew perform their proper safety inspections. And if there are resources that they need, if there are things that we are lacking, then we should do it, ”Kitchener said.
“One of the things that we found is that we have made significant investments and in kinds of high end fire detection systems that we are now installing on ships because in some cases we are shutting down. systems and we wanted to make sure there weren’t any gaps, or if they were going to bring [systems] down, that we had something there to support them.

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