Lessons from Chile: Hope and readiness

Chilean National Fire Service Personal Protective Equipment
Bomberos de Chile PPE

Firefighters with the Junta de Bomberos de Chile, the National Fire Service of Chile, have been working round the clock alongside police and military personnel to rescue victims of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region early Saturday February 27. Powerful aftershocks further complicate rescue efforts near the already-toppled buildings in the earthquake zone. Locating survivors in the tsunami-struck areas is also proving to be a challenge. Yet their efforts remain tireless, according to a statement on the Bomberos de Chile website: [translated] “we can never rule out finding survivors. We have the cases of Haiti, people who recovered after many days, the case of Mexico and the case of Armenia. We will continue working with the same intensity of the first day.”

Reports on the website indicate significant damage to many fire stations and emergency vehicles along with interruptions in communication, especially in the southern part of the country. However, thanks to the firefighter readiness, response times are less than 15 minutes to calls in every city affected by the earthquake.

While last month’s quake was far more powerful than the one that struck Haiti in January, loss of life has been reported as significantly lower in Chile due to the location of the fault and to preparedness:  

  • The Chilean epicenter occurred offshore, 21.7 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, and was spread over a larger, sparsely populated area; whereas Haiti’s quake occurred inland, just 8.1 miles beneath the surface, and focused on Port-au-Prince, that country’s most densely populous area.
  • Strict Chilean building codes require reinforced concrete in all new construction to help mitigate the risks of falling debris in the event a structure tumbles in an earthquake.
  • The country’s residents and school children are highly educated on earthquake safety.
  • Chile is credited with a well-trained, well-equipped emergency infrastructure that is readily deployed in the event a natural disaster such as this occurs.

The Junta de Bomberos de Chile is a Lion customer. As part of the organization’s readiness, firefighters are equipped with NFPA 1971-compliant structural firefighting gear from Lion. Coats and pants feature a black Fusion™ outer shell with a liner of Chambray Pure™/Gore RT-7100. This fire and thermal-resistant gear delivers tough abrasion resistance during inland rescue efforts and moisture protection along with liquid-borne pathogen resistance during rescue efforts throughout the country, including the tsunami zone.

Firefighters around the world are called upon to perform many tasks in an addition to fire suppression, so their gear must deliver protection to all the challenges they face. What challenges does your department face, and are you ready?