The Chief of Special Operations manages the rescue and hazmat disciplines for the Columbia Fire Department . The Special Operations Chief reports to the Assistant Chief of Operations and works with the three Division Chiefs on shift to oversee the planning, staffing, and response aspects of Special Operations. The Special Operations Chief also works closely with the Training Chief to coordinate the training of more than 150 personnel within the Department. Special Operations consists of both Rescue and Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) operations and all the disciplines that fall within those functions. This includes, but is not limited to, the following rescue disciplines: vehicle extrication, machinery entrapments, elevator rescues, trench collapse, confined space rescue, rope rescue (high and low angle), and swift water rescue. All Haz-Mat related functions such as suspicious odors, gas leaks, hazardous materials spills and leaks are handled by Special Operations with the exception of Haz-Mat Permits which fall under the direction of the Department’s Fire Marshal’s Office for those within the City of Columbia and the Hazardous Materials Division of the Richland County Emergency Service Division for those properties outside the city limits.
In addition to these day to day operational activities, Special Operations is also responsible for the management and coordination of the state supported Type II Collapse Search and Rescue Team (SC-TF5), Type I Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)/Haz-Mat Team (SC-HM5), and the Midlands MMRS (Metropolitan Medical Response System) program. The Department supports other Regional and State teams such as the Midlands Type III Incident Management Team (IMT), and the Type I Urban Search and Rescue Team (SC-TF1).
The purpose of Special Operations Bureau within the Columbia Fire Department is to plan, coordinate, and manage most activities that are not fire or medical related and to act as a liaison for the Department with all agencies it may work with on special projects and events.
There are five rescue companies within the Columbia Fire Department that are responsible for mitigating technical rescues for the entire county. Rescue 1, a Heavy Rescue, is located at Headquarters (Station 1), Rescue 2 responds out of the Ballentine Station (Station 20), Rescue 3 is located in the northeast portion of Richland County (Station 27), and Rescues 4 and 5 cover the entire lower portion of Richland County operating out of Congaree Run and Hopkins (Stations 29 and 23) respectively. The five rescues are supported by five ladder companies (L-7, L-8, L-9, L-14, and E-4 a Quint) that assist them with many of the duties they perform.
Auto extrication is one of the most commonly performed rescue functions. Companies need to be prepared for not only passenger vehicle accidents, but large commercial vehicles, and sometimes farm machinery. These can be difficult incidents that present unique circumstances for the responders to operate under. A closely related function is machinery entrapments that often take place in industrial settings and include large reinforced machines as well as stalled elevators with persons inside.
These companies also perform technical rescues involving trenches, confined spaces, as well as compromised or collapsed structures.
With so many rivers, lakes, and ponds in the county the Department also responds to a large number of water related emergencies. The Department has a robust Swiftwater Rescue component with numerous boats and pieces of specialty equipment. The extensive training the personnel participate in paid off during the 2015 flood that affected most of South Carolina, especially Richland County.
Rescue companies are also prepared to perform rope rescue, both high and low angle. These calls refer to persons stuck on or below steep hill sides, in trees, or on other elevated structures.
The rescue companies also respond to all structure fires and operate in a support function by completing searches for victims, looking for hidden fires, ventilation, and salvage operations.
There are four hazardous materials companies within the Columbia Fire Department that provide hazardous materials response for the entire county. Haz-Mat 1, is located at Headquarters (Station 1) and is the primary response unit. There are three engine companies referred to as Haz-Mat Support Companies (E-3, E-12, and E-33) that assist Haz-Mat 1. The support companies are staffed with technician level personnel.
The common hazardous materials calls to which the Department responds are suspicious odors, spills and leaks of chemicals, traffic accidents involving hazardous materials, natural gas leaks, fuel spills, and spills at fixed facilities.
They also respond to assist law enforcement with suspicious packages, bomb threats, and methamphetamine labs, and other clandestine operations.
Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS)
The Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Grant Program that provides funding to the 124 largest jurisdictions to support the integration of emergency management, health, and medical systems into a coordinated response to mass casualty incidents caused by any hazard. On May 24, 2002 the City of Columbia received pharmaceuticals, equipment, and training, in support of disaster management, whether natural or man made, through a grant. This program currently covers the Midlands Region of South Carolina.
MMRS supports and enhances public safety agencies, hospitals, public health, and emergency management response capabilities to manage mass casualty incidents. The program reduces the consequences of a mass casualty incident during the initial period of a response by augmenting existing local operational response systems before the incident occurs. Hundreds of personnel and multiple local and state agencies and organizations are involved in planning, training, response, and exercises.
MMRS has purchased personal protective equipment for public safety agencies, hospitals, public health and medical examiner personnel; decontamination systems for area hospitals; radiation detectors for fire/EMS and law enforcement vehicles; equipment for the Regional Medical Assistance Teams, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) identification equipment for public health and Haz-Mat teams; communication equipment for hospitals and public health; medication temperature control equipment for responder vehicles; and supplies/equipment for mass prophylaxis dispensing centers.
MMRS was initially funded through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants and has received nearly $2 million in DHS contracts and grants since joining the program in 2002. It was the only federal grant program that supported multidisciplinary mass casualty response planning at the local/regional level. The final grant under the program was awarded in 2011.
MMRS participates in many exercises within South Carolina, including the annual NDMS Air Exercises and exercises on Fort Jackson. The program deployed its Mass Evacuation Unit in response to the 2015 flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin and well as Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force operated out of the South Carolina Fire Academy (SCFA) under the SC Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations operates a Type I Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Team (SC-TF1). When originally founded in 2003 with the assistance of State Homeland Security funding four Type II Collapse Search and Rescue Teams were funded (Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Hilton Head, and Greenville). In 2008 the State of South Carolina made the decision to add Columbia as a fifth location. Over the next two years the Department received funding to equip and train a team to be comparable to the previously funded four teams and in 2010 the team conducted its first Operations Readiness Exercise at the SCFA.
Since 2010 the team has deployed to the Carolina Forest Fire in Horry County, SC to assist with the search efforts following a large fire that spread quickly and destroyed an entire apartment complex. It deployed water assets to Maryland during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and to Hilton Head during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) oversees the seven regional WMD SWAT, Bomb, and Haz-Mat Teams. The teams are set up to operate regionally. The Columbia Fire Department along with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department are the two agencies that make the Midlands team. The Columbia Fire Department has a Type I WMD/Hazardous Materials Team. The other six teams are located in (Rock Hill, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Hilton Head, Greenville, and Anderson).
Chief of Special Operations, Daniel McManus
1800 Laurel Street Columbia, S.C. 29201
Phone (803) 545-4526 Daniel.Mcmanus@columbiasc.gov