On Monday, July 20th over 40 firefighters from four local volunteer fire companies participated in a comprehensive fire drill at the Donegal Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Members of the Chestnut Ridge, Ligonier, Mount Pleasant and Saltlick Township Volunteer Fire Departments participated in a first of its kind working fire drill that included a simulated search and rescue operation, the setup of a multi-alarm response with Ladder Trucks, Pumpers, Tankers and other apparatus necessary to evacuate potentially 200+ hotel guests and to practice the response protocols necessary to prevent the hotel from becoming a total loss in the event of a “real” fire.
This fire drill was coordinated by me and Shawn Kestner, Fire Chief of the Chestnut Ridge VFD. Volunteer Firefighters in the Chestnut Ridge VFD are required to participate in 8 hours of training each year and our Property and Casualty Insurance Carrier requires us to have an annual fire drill as well. This was a win-win for us and the fire companies and we were mutually happy to participate in this drill.
Managing guest relations during the drill was a significant effort for my Hotel staff, coordinating approximately 50 guests who had already checked into the hotel. Guests were notified in advance of the fire drill but those guests arriving during the drill were not sure what was going on, so we stationed a Manager near the entrance of the Hotel to advise them that this was only a drill and that they could check-in once the “all-clear” was given. Fortunately for us, the Hotel guests were very understanding, impressed and happy to see the firefighters responding so professionally.
As expected, the drill was a significant learning event for all of us. We tested our fire detection and life safety systems, emergency response and evacuation procedures as well as the process of communicating with the first responding Fire Department Line Officers. The fire departments got to test the setup of their equipment, evaluate individual personnel, their response procedures, and we provided them a detailed tour of the internal structure of the hotel and most importantly, we learned how to work together in a simulated emergency situation.
As a result of this fire drill, we have modified our procedures to improve how we communicate with the Fire Department regarding the initial Hotel evacuation plan and have now established a procedure to quickly transport Hotel guests to a nearby school in the event of a “real” large scale emergency, which is particularly important during inclement weather conditions.
Did you know that the Chestnut Ridge VFD responded to over 400 calls that involved thousands of man hours in the past year? In addition to their Firefighting training, these dedicated volunteers are trained and certified in CPR, First Aid, and AED operations.
Lastly, the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company is looking for new members. If you or someone you know would be interested in becoming a Volunteer Firefighter, please call them at 724-593-2206.
On behalf of the Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce, and the Owners, Management and Staff of the Donegal Holiday Inn Express and Suites, we would like to thank all the men and women who graciously volunteer to serve our community through their local fire department. Your time commitment and personal sacrifices to serve and protect our community are greatly appreciated!
Timothy J. Pisula,
MLCC Board Member and
General Manager, Donegal Holiday Inn Express & Suites