Orlando Fire Department response to Pulse shows failures that hampered response, according to review

Posted at 11:13 PM, Nov 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-14 23:20:18-05

ORLANDO, Fla. — The review ordered by the fire department and conducted by the National Police foundation praised OFD for “professionalism, dedication, and bravery” saving the lives of victims.

As mass shootings become the new normal, agencies in Florida and across the country are struggling to keep up.

The National Police Foundation interviewed more than 60 Orlando Fire Department employees and other city staff. The team reviewed 911 calls and department policies and procedures.

The report reveals the fire response may have been different if the fire chief had been on the scene and if different policies and procedures were in place. 

It was 2:02 a.m. when gunman Omar Mateen walked into the Pulse nightclub in June 2016.

Fourteen minutes later, an assistant Orlando fire chief was dispatched to the call. 

According to the review, it was two hours later when 911 dispatchers sent a page that went to the fire chief and three deputy chiefs.

“We did not have redundancy in the system,” Orlando Fire Chief Rod Williams said.  “We have since corrected that and that’s why if within three minutes they have not heard from senior staff, the job is to follow up with a phone call.”

When Orlando Police moved their command post, the fire department didn’t follow suit. That left ambulances underutilized in transporting patients. The review also found firefighters received information on a radio channel that was not the primary channel used by law enforcement.

The report also shows that some first responders report suffering from PTSD. Many felt that they didn’t do enough to help.  

The chief was asked why ballistic vests that could’ve been used to protect firefighters were never distributed to crews.  

The chief said he would not let firefighters go into the line of fire.

“Firefighters are not equipped to go in where bullets are flying. That level of ballistic vest three stops a small hand caliber gun.”

When it came time to breach a nightclub wall to take out the shooter, the Orlando Fire Department initially thought an improvised explosive device had gone off. 

The lack of communication and coordination also temporarily stalled the process of having firefighters take more victims to the hospital, forcing some police officers to rely more on their patrol units, instead of using the ambulances. 

Sometime between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., the Orlando Fire Department executive staff, including the chief, started to arrive at the scene. 

By then, Mateen had been killed by police.