The mission of the Maritime Incident Response Team (MIRT) is to provide immediate on-scene maritime advice and agency liaison to the United States Coast Guard and Incident Commanders responding to fires, hazardous materials, search and rescue, and other emergencies in the marine environment. The MIRT will promote maritime response capabilities in The Port of Virginia through an ongoing program of training, drills, resources, and continued support and coordination through port partnerships.
The MIRT is the first organization of its kind in the United States, and unique to any port. The concept of a coordinated maritime response team originated in 1984 when Bill Burket, now MIRT Director, attended a Coast Guard hosted Train-the-Trainer course for marine fire fighting. Up to this point, Hampton Roads had never seen a collaborative response team capable of responding to a fire or hazardous materials release in a port environment. Combining efforts with the Virginia Maritime Association, Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads (then MSO Hampton Roads), and the Navy Fire Fighting School, the Maritime Incident Response Team was established.
MIRT hosted its first Marine Fire Fighting School in 1991 and attendees were comprised mostly of firefighters from local, Hampton Roads fire departments. It was from these attendees that the cadre of MIRT personnel was formed.
1995 was a big year for MIRT. The Virginia Maritime Association, through the state general assembly, was afforded special appropriations to fund the team’s first large-scale fire pumps and response vehicles. It was also in this year that the Virginia Port Authority offered to formally accept management of the team.
Federal grant programs available post-9/11 brought about additional funding and support for the growth of MIRT and its missions. Once a regional fire-fighting-only team, the breadth of capabilities expanded to include hazardous materials and eventually an all-hazards response posture.
For more information, please contact:
Bill Burket, Director, MIRT/Emergency Operations
Phone: (757) 683-2199
MIRT today is a task force comprised of personnel from the following agencies:
- Chesapeake Fire Department
- Hampton Fire Department
- Henrico County Fire Department
- James City County Fire Department
- Newport News Fire Department
- Norfolk Fire Department
- Portsmouth Fire Department
- Poquoson Fire Department
- United States Coast Guard – Sector Hampton Roads
- United States Maritime Administration (MARAD)
- Virginia Beach Fire Department
- Virginia Department of Emergency Management
- Virginia Pilots Association
- Virginia Port Authority
- York County Fire Department
These agencies have various and overlapping expertise in shipboard firefighting, damage control, stability, ship construction and hazardous materials incident response.
The MIRT is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to, and provide assistance during, various types of incidents including:
- Assisting the master of any vessel in port that is on fire or experiencing a related type of emergency, either by providing a thorough analysis of the situation or suggesting action to control the emergency.
- Assisting the local fire chief with an incident in his/her jurisdiction.
- Compiling a detailed list of commercial and military sources of specialized marine firefighting equipment and identifying alternative firefighting piers.
- Providing information and expertise on the type of firefighting equipment available on particular vessels.
- Providing a review and analysis of a ship’s fire control plan.
- Participating in local fire department periodic and annual training exercises.
- Responding to any marine disaster in the harbor or offshore waters or at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition, MIRT assists in the coordination of several regional and international training events including the Search and Rescue Forum, Annual Fire Fighting Symposium, quarterly hazmat training, and any additional requests received from local departments.
MIRT supports regional law enforcement and fire department dive team operations through the organization of training opportunities, allowing the diver’s level of certification to be raised to Public Safety Diver, and the funding of additional mission critical equipment through federal grants.
Additionally, MIRT is a key player, in addition to the Coast Guard and other government agencies, in reconstituting the port after a major storm or natural disaster where port operations have ceased due to safety or security reasons.
The Port of Virginia’s internal MIRT team also coordinates its emergency operations program. Those responsibilities include:
- Virginia Port Authority Emergency Coordination – provide familiarity with the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan (COVEOP), coordinate with VDEM and local agencies, monitor state websites for updates to the COVEOP and ensure an emergency action plan is in place. Provide annual updates of the COVEOP to VDEM.
- Continuity of Operations – implementation of the continuity plan by direction of the Executive Director and facilitation of annual required training and exercises.
- Virginia Homeland Security Working Group – The VPA is represented as a member of this working group, which focuses on disaster recovery and COVEOP.
- Virginia Emergency Response Team (VERT) Representative for ESF-1 (Transportation) – Support of ESF-1 functions at the State EOC during a response and/or declaration of emergency.