Training Together

Published July 20, 2021

Photo by Aaron Pritchett

Newport News Shipbuilding Fire and Rescue recently conducted joint training exercises with the city of Newport News Fire Department on John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).

The exercises brought together personnel from both departments to fight a simulated fire and conduct search and rescue operations on the ship.

“The Newport News Fire Department is our No. 1 mutual aid provider, so we’ve talked about having them come in here to do some integrated training to see how we work together,” said NNS Fire and Rescue Lt. Michael Taylor.

He walked participants through the space on the ship used for the training exercises with the lights on and with clear visibility before turning the lights out and filling the air with simulated smoke. Firefighters used a weighted hose to simulate a pressurized line. The nozzles shot lasers at a fire on an LED screen. Weighted dummies also were used to train for rescues.

“This is as close to the real thing as we can get,” Taylor said. “We tried to make it that way so when there is a real fire, we are best equipped to handle it. The only thing missing from this evolution is the fire, heat and actual water. We’re trying not to damage any progress on the ship.”

The training comes after some high-profile incidents aboard U.S. Navy vessels, including a July 2020 fire that gutted amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego.

“There has been a push in the last couple of years to integrate the municipal fire departments that surround naval installations to familiarize them with ship construction, ship operations, ship personnel and anything we have to do to mitigate an incident,” said Newport News Fire Department Capt. Jimmy Simonsen.

A former NNS shipbuilder, Simonsen said it’s important for emergency responders to be familiar with the ship systems and use that knowledge to solve problems – especially on a ship such as CVN 79 that is under construction.

“When they’re building one of these, things change almost daily,” he said.

Watch a video on MyNNS to see the training exercises in action.