Case Studies - U.S.S. Miami Shipboard (Submarine) Fire

The Incident

At 5:30 pm on May 23, 2012, a Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) painter intentionally set fire to a bag of rags in the Forward Compartment of the USS Miami submarine. Minutes later the shipboard alarm and automatic alarm are activated alerting all onboard and the PNSY fire department.

Due to extreme heat and heavy smoke conditions, the seat of the fire was finally located at 6:50 pm.

At 10:00 pm, the Incident Commander calls for all fire departments "within 100 miles" to respond to the incident with manpower and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) bottles. By 10:30 pm, there was sufficient resources and manpower to begin what would end up being a five-and-a-half hour battle to extinguish the fire. The damages from the fire totaled approximately $440 million.

Responding Agencies

Civilian Agencies

  • Portsmouth FD
  • Kittery FD
  • Eliot FD
  • Newcastle FD
  • Rye FD
  • Newington FD
  • South Berwick FD
  • Rollinsford FD
  • York Beach FD
  • York Village FD
  • Greenland FD
  • Somersworth FD
  • South Portland FD
  • Dover FD
  • York County EMA
  • Hampton FD
  • Massport FD

Defense Agencies

  • Ship's Force Damage Control
  • Navy Radiological Response Team
  • Pease AFB FD
  • Hanscom AFB FD
  • SUBASE New London FD
  • U.S. Coast Guard

Key Conclusion

"The lack of an effective, common communication device between firefighters and DC Central for both Ship's Force and land-based firefighters significantly hindered efforts throughout the casualty"

--Final Command Investigation Into the Fire That Occurred Onboard USS Miami (SSN 755) at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 23 MAY 2012. Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. 20 MAY 2013

How Could FirstNet Help?

Organization and Plan of Attack

A whiteboard and drawings were used to assist the Incident Commander and civilian firefighters who did not have a common terminology for the spaces onboard the submarine. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) could have used public safety broadband to distribute ships plans to responding agencies.

Lack of interoperable communications

VoLTE and P25-LTE Gateways allowing LMR to LTE connectivity with talk groups, push-to-talk phone to LMR and emergency pre-emption for Incident Command across talk groups

Medical Emergency Triage

Eight personnel were injured while fighting the fire and many more suffered the effects of heat exhaustion. FirstNet applications could coordinate triage; organize EMS and ambulance response and notify hospital emergency rooms of the scale of the incident.

Asset Tracking and Accountability

Twenty-six fire departments and 100+ firefighters responded to a secure and industrial Naval facility that most had never been to before. FirstNet applications could assist with directing and staging mutual aid apparatus arriving on the scene. Such applications could also assist with accounting for personnel not familiar with the layout of the base, the drydock and shipboard firefighting techniques.