The Most Expensive Training Exercise: Lessons in Community Relations

The City of Bloomington, IN, Fire Department spent months planning an acquired structure live burn which included a lengthy process through the State's Environmental Management Department, work with the building owner to remove known hazards, and community wide notifications. The week of the live fire training went well until the final live burn to demolish the home was conducted and a citizen identified lead contamination in the ash that rained down on the adjacent neighborhood. The training exercise and planned community event quickly turned into a multi-operational period incident. From the initial complaint that occurred while the live burn was still in progress to the lingering complaints a month after the incident, the department focused on rapidly containing the issue, crisis communication, adaptive care and community engagement. Community and political demands directed the process to mitigate this incident and required some out-of-the-box solutions to meet expectations that the department was not tooled to fulfill. The department turned to environmental testing and cleanup companies to help mitigate the situation and avoid litigation from the community, however, this training exercise cost the taxpayers nearly $160,000 by the time it was over. The actions of the department following the incident created stronger ties to the community and serve as an example of how a department can turn a negative into a positive. This interactive lecture will review this training exercise turned incident from beginning to end, go over lessons learned, and will help attendees understand the components needed to establish and maintain strong community ties following a poor interaction with the residents. In addition, a review of this case study will showcase options that can be used to provide detailed communications relatable to other incident types such as a hazardous materials release or large fire with harmful byproducts. Beyond the incident's lessons learned, this class will also look at the cost versus benefits of live fire training in an acquired structure and provide some tips to help minimize the risk of conducting this valuable training.

Jason Moore
Date & Time
Thursday, September 28, 2023, 9:15 AM - 10:15 AM