'Improvements will be made' - fire official
Wed, 05 Dec 2012 6:15p.m.
By Annabelle Tukia
A fire service official has promised the widow of a CTV victim that major changes will be made so a tragedy such as the botched CTV building rescue never happens again.
A coroner's inquest is into its final week investigating the deaths of eight people who survived the collapse of the CTV building but died trapped in the wreckage.
Paul McGill is the fire service's director of operations and training and today he took full responsibility for not preparing his staff adequately for an event such as the CTV building's collapse.
He also took the opportunity to make a heartfelt pledge to a victim's husband seated in the back of the court.
“Mr Cvetanov, you said your wish was that any learnings of this inquest would make a difference in the future to rescue efforts in New Zealand and overseas - the national commander and I promise you that significant improvements will be made,” Mr McGill told the court.
Alec Cvetanov had previously told the hearing that he doesn't know what killed his trapped wife, but today pathologist Martin Sage gave his opinion.
“All the other features were consistent with fire damage having occurred entirely after she had died of her massive crush injuries.”
The decision to pull rescue staff off the CTV building just 24 hours after the quake also came under scrutiny. Charmaine Tate, an army doctor attached to USAR, was involved in it.
“The driving factor of that discussion was not survivability and ending all hope, it was a factor of needing to prioritise finite resources,” Ms Tate told the court.
She said there were reports that 22 people were trapped in the cathedral and that, plus several other factors, influenced the decision.
An international disaster response expert, Los Angeles fire chief Ernesto Ojeda, also took his turn to criticise the emergency response at the CTV building. He says the lack of an incident command point at the site was a glaring error.
“I don't think any of the senior officers I know would get to that site and not leave somebody to set up a command post,” said Mr Ojeda.
The inquest will finish tomorrow.
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6/12/2012 9:41:51 a.m.
Ex Fire Service Officer wrote:
NZ fire Service Commander Paul McGill may have said "improvements will be made", however, when Mr Cventanov's Counsel asked Mr McGill what the NZ Fire Service was doing about preparing for the maximum credible risk scenario like a major earthquake striking Wellington Mr McGill was very quick to deflect the question by saying this was not the NZ Fire Services problem it was a MCDEM problem!
This underlying confusion of responsibility and accountability remains a major flaw in the NZ emergency management system and is a recipe for more chaos and unnecessary loss of life in the future.
As was the case with the CTV building the NZ Fire Service needs to show some leadership in this situation before their reputation is damaged again and more lives are lost.
An initiative which the NZ Fire Service (and the Coroner) would be well advised to consider is that which the Los Angles Fire Department has used successfully to compliment its USAR Teams.
While in NZ Fire Chief Ernesto Ojeda could advise the NZ Fire Service (and the Coroner) on the benefits of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) system which has been used successfully in disasters across the US for some time.
The NZ Fire Service will never be able to respond to everyone in a major emergency, however, by strengthening its technical rescue capabilities and engaging with the public proactively through a system like CERT the Service will be making meaningful improvements to public and firefighter safety and in the process will be once again able to hold its head up high!
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