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Mayor’s Press conference on Sofa Store fire

Nothing new except the spin
Marc Knapp

At last night’s much-heralded press conference, Mayor Riley tried to put a new spin on the same old information. It was not very convincing and the same questions are being asked. The Fire Department had a major melt down on the eventful evening of June 18. Nothing that the Mayor said last night exonerates the City from blame, or excuses the fire-site poor management. To say that this tragedy came about through mishandling by a bunch of “keystone cops” would be an understatement, in my opinion.

The Mayor stated “we made some mistakes but now we need to move forward and learn from our mistakes”. Like no one died! His speech was much the same as that at last week’s City Council meeting, except last night’s speech was accompanied by a glossy full-color media/public relations package.

Mayor still extols ISA class rating
The Mayor still extols the ISO Class rating received by the City Fire department. One needs to know that 46% of this rating is based on the water supply system ie, Charleston Water Systems ability to provide an adequate water supply. The Mayor continues to say that the department met state and federal standards for safety and training. If this were true, then why would the blue ribbon panel have made 27 major recommendations for change so quickly? These recommendations were across a wide range of items, from training, to equipment, to safety, to uniforms and yes, even seat belt use. Mandatory seat belt laws have been on the books for how long now? Non-compliance with this regulation suggests the department was operating well below standards, and not even close to best management practices.

We reported on the changes implemented, or to be implemented to the Fire Department practices in our report on the Council Meeting of September 11. Lee Walton also covered them in his report on September 17.

Still 6 investigations under way
There are presently 6 on-going investigations related to this fire. The really interesting one will be the report from OSHA. I suspect it will be very critical of the department, and the city could see some substantial fines.

There were of course questions asked as to whether there should have been stricter building-code enforcement. The owner of the Sofa Store had made a small but illegal addition. Some argue this may make the owner culpable or that the City and the Fire department in their site inspections should have recognized the addition. And we also wonder. Would it really have mattered if it were there or not? Again the Mayor continues to try to spin the blame in other directions. But wherever the blame lies for the start and progress of the fire, the procedures and actions of the Fire Department at the scene are open to considerable criticism.

Arrogance and hard headedness
The bottom line is that arrogance and hard headedness, all too
commonplace traits of this administration have impacted the well being of this City. They have led to the injury and death of some citizens. Such attitudes are intolerable.

Your Comments:

The sad thing is some of the changes were just a matter of implementing new policies and no equipment or extra manpower was required.

One thing not being addressed is communications. In the event of multiple alarms at different locations. everyone in the department is on the same channel. There have been times when Rusty has blocked the dispatcher from sending out another response for another incident. His constant uhm and uhh while trying to call the shots on a scene he hasn't even been to yet, in my opinion, is an embarassment to the department.

Charleston needs to be broken down into sectors: Daniels Island, W. Ashley, James and John Islands, Downtown. Each sector has a channel to go to dedicated for their own use on emergency responses. Keep the primary channel open for the initial dispatch of apparatus not yet in the loop.
Sad thing is the administration fails to see any need for this since it wasn't done 20 years ago and someone other than himself thought it up.

Posted by: Peerpressure at September 20, 2007 07:18 AM

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