The DSS Regional Security Office in Monrovia, Liberia, recently organized its first embassy-wide fire drill of the year to prepare for emergencies that could happen, even in the midst of the global pandemic. In March 2021, Assistant Regional Security Officer (ARSO) Sue Wells worked with key embassy stakeholders to review the embassy’s floor warden program, an important facet of emergency response planning. ARSO Wells followed strict COVID protocols while providing important hands-on instruction to floor wardens. She also coordinated with the embassy’s facilities team and medical unit to instruct participants in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of fire extinguishers.
The Regional Security Office then put the training to the test through a drill that deliberately activated the embassy’s smoke detectors. Staff filled the chancery’s fourth floor with fake smoke; the noise and low visibility provided chief of mission (COM) personnel with a challenging, realistic experience. The Regional Security Office coordinated its response with the Marine Security Guard Detachment, while floor wardens evacuated personnel, including the ambassador, to the embassy’s helicopter landing area where all were all accounted for.
“The drill was intended to be disorienting, and the floor wardens did an exceptional job getting everyone to safety and accounting for all personnel,” said ARSO Wells.
Foreign Service National Investigators (FSNI) invited the Liberian National Fire Service to participate in the drill, and set ablaze a section of the embassy driveway for them to extinguish. A medical response scenario was developed for the fire service to practice its recovery operations, with two manikins placed in a building filled with obstacles and fake smoke for the firefighters to locate. The fire service did an impressive job extinguishing the staged fire in minutes and quickly rescuing the manikins.
RSO Michael Blees addressed the COM employees gathered after the drill: “Practicing fire safety can seem like a burden, but knowing the location of emergency exits and participating in drills with your partners can save lives.”