How 9/11 changed fire service in the U.S.

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 8:41 AM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Twenty years after losing 343 firefighters in the September 11th terrorist attacks, fire departments across the U.S. have made changes to the way they prepare for and respond to disasters.

Williston Fire Department Capt. Prescott Nadeau joined the department in the post-9/11 world-- three years after the tragedy. He says major changes were immediately implemented in fire and emergency departments across the country.

“A lot of money came to all emergency services in the forming of the department of homeland security,” Nadeau said.

Before and on 9/11, first responders had no way of communicating with other responding agencies on scene.

“Police and fire departments were unable to communicate standing 30 feet apart,” Nadeau said.

With additional funding after 9/11, emergency departments were able to modernize their technology and strengthen their communication and interoperability.

“Agencies-- both fire agencies, town to town, city to city, and also fire, police and EMS -- could all speak the same common language,” Nadeau said. “Clear terminology, able to communicate on the radio with each other to give critical updates on emergency scenes.”

Another big change is the role modern-day firefighters and the situations they’re not trained to respond to.

“The expectation went from fighting fires, going to car accidents and some building alarms to now we were expected to do hazardous materials response, handle incidents of potential domestic terrorism,” Nadeau said “Weapons of mass destruction training was offered nationwide.”

Nadeau says firefighters also now go through more than 100 hours of training-- up from the 30 to 60 hours required two decades ago.

Nadeau says the long hours and strenuous trainings are worth it to keep Americans safe.

“What can I do for the next 20 years? Who can I help for the next 20 years to make sure that something like this does not happen, and God forbid it does, that we are prepared at the highest level,” he said.

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