IAFF Assists Members Responding to Florida Condominium Collapse

July 6 • 2021

Updated July 6: The IAFF is continuing to ensure peer support services are available to all members impacted by the condominium collapse including members of Metropolitan Dade County Local 1403, Miami Beach Local 1510 and Miami Local 587. The peer support team has been in contact with more than 1,100 members so far.

July 1: As IAFF members continue to search for survivors of the Surfside condominium collapse in Florida, International headquarters staff, including General President Ed Kelly, General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma and 12th District Vice President Walt Dix are onsite to support members. 
“Our members are doing what fire fighters do. They responded and asked, ‘how can I help’ and are working tirelessly to find additional survivors,” says General President Kelly. “Our job is to protect the health and safety of our brothers and sisters involved in the response. We will be there for them now and in the aftermath of this devastation.”

“This IAFF will always have the backs of our members, especially in the wake of tragedies of this magnitude,” says General Secretary-Treasurer Líma. “We had resources on the ground almost immediately and will continue to make those available for as long as they are needed.” 

Metropolitan Dade County Local 1403 President Billy McAllister and his members appreciate the IAFF’s immediate response, enabling them to focus on the enormous task at hand.

“The IAFF’s response has been incredible with nearly two dozen peer support members on the ground within hours to help our members process the magnitude of this experience,” says Local 1403 President McAllister. “We also appreciate the IAFF’s health and safety experts’ assistance with addressing respiratory protection concerns and setting up air monitoring systems. General President Kelly and his incredible staff have truly never left our side the entire time.”

Peer support teams have been in Surfside since June 28. On day one, teams visited with more than 200 fire fighters at 10 fire stations to let them know they were there and available to anyone in need.   

In coordination with the Metropolitan Dade County Local 1403 Peer Support Team, the IAFF is making counseling a service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

In addition to behavioral health, the IAFF is also working to address potential toxic exposures among the building collapse responders. The concern is the plethora of materials released into the air when the building collapsed. Those materials may include toxins that can lead to cancer, respiratory disease and other occupational illnesses if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin. 

The IAFF’s new Director for Science and Research, Derek Urwin, is spending his first days on the job working with the University of Miami to establish an environmental monitoring system onsite. The university has graciously agreed to give the IAFF access to labs and equipment. The equipment will be monitoring air contents and taking appropriate next steps to address health dangers to the members.

The International also worked closely with UMiami to secure additional protective respiratory equipment to help prevent the ingestion or absorption of any harmful materials. But out of an abundance of precaution, the IAFF will be testing fire fighters for any toxins that may penetrate the protective equipment.