While catastrophic marine fires are a rare event, minor shipboard fires do have a significant potential for damage and a potential impact on the marine transportation system. As such, it is critical that responders at the federal, state, local, industrial, and contractor levels be trained and prepared to conduct timely operations to mitigate any incidents that occur. Due to the nature of services performed in the firefighting community today (fire suppression, rescue, hazardous materials response, and emergency medical services, to name but a few), time and effort is not always dedicated towards responding to events onboard vessels. As over 70% of fire departments in the United States are volunteer departments, this has the potential to become even more of an issue. In addition, shipboard fires typically require some level of participation from a marine salvor. Depending on the damage to the vessel, this may involve significant salvage activities. The number of salvors scattered throughout the United States is somewhat limited, and their home base locations dictate their response times to specific geographic areas. Critical issues that need to be addressed by senior response managers who may find themselves involved in responding to vessel fires include: 1. Establishment of an effective Unified Command to address all stakeholder issues, 2. Enhancing knowledge of regional capabilities and resources to respond to shipboard fires and resultant salvage activities, 3. Ensuring appropriate training of response personnel that meets recognized standards (such as NFPA 1405), and 4. Developing, exercising, and validating plans to respond to shipboard fires and salvage activities. Efforts throughout the Eighth Coast Guard District over the past several years have begun to address many of these issues, with enhanced incident management training, challenging exercises to validate plans, and extensive workshops to improve responder knowledge being a few of the positive steps. Only by addressing these four critical areas can response managers be assured of an effective and efficient response that would minimize the impact to the marine transportation system.

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