Fire chief: Storm plan worked to keep Florence safe during Matthew

Fire chief: Storm plan worked to keep Florence safe during Matthew

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – First responders in Florence talked about just how crucial preparation and practice were when it came to helping victims of Hurricane Matthew.

The Florence Fire Department's storm plan has been on the books for nine years, but the fire chief said his team got a chance to really see its effectiveness while answering calls during the storm.

That plan consists of throwing out normal procedures and switching the department over to its own operations center.

When it's all said and done, central dispatch only sends calls to that ops center and crews then determine which arm of the department answers specific calls.

Florence Fire Chief Randy Osterman said this procedural change takes pressure off of the department and central dispatch because multiple calls were coming from the same areas during the storm.

He said the plan worked throughout Matthew's duration.

"The benefit to a hurricane is that you have time to tweak your plan as you go along," Osterman said. "It gave us the time to hold a shift over. We doubled our staff during that time period and it allowed us to staff more units than we usually have staffed."

In just one day the department had 250 calls, which is the amount it normally has per month.

At the beginning of the day, the department's calls were vehicles taking on water. The chief said that's when people were driving into standing water and needed assistance to evacuate their cars.

As the number of those calls died down, the department started getting reports of homes beginning to flood and people needing assistance to get to area shelters.

The last group of calls that came in dealt with gas leaks and downed power lines. The chief said as large trees began to fall, it affected those utilities.

"I'm really proud of my guys during this time period," Osterman said. "We were able to handle the influx of calls. We handled it with the resources that we had. I think we were prepared. We might change some processes as far as some communication with trucks, but overall our plan worked very well."

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