When a firefighter arrives on the scene of a fire, he (or she) has on his person two identical “accountability tags” – fire-resistant tags that identify who he is. He gives one to the chief officer in command at the scene. He keeps the other.
When the emergency is over, the chief returns the tags to his firefighters — if they make it out alive. An unreturned tag lets the chief quickly know if someone is missing and who it is. The tag the firefighter still has on him can help identify him in the event that he’s injured beyond recognition.
In the case of only one firefighter unaccounted for after a fire, the tags might not seem so necessary, but in 2001 when the World Trade towers went down and 343 first responders lost their lives, the system proved its worth.
On August 25, eight firefighters from Catoosa County, each carrying a replica accountability tag with the name of a firefighter lost in New York that fateful September 17 years ago, joined fellow firefighters from around the region in Chattanooga for the annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
Each of the men walked the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs — the number of floors in the World Trade Center — at the Republic Building on Chestnut Street to honor the memory of the fallen firefighter whose tag he carried.
“This is the fourth year in a row that members of the Catoosa County Fire Department have participated in the Chattanooga 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb,” says CCFD Assistant Chief of Operations and Safety, Steve Quinn, who has coordinated CCFD’s participation since 2015. “This is one of dozens of stair climbs held across the country to commemorate the New York firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. Funds raised from it help support the families of fallen firefighters through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.”
When the event is over each year, the firefighters who climbed place their honoree’s tag in their locker as a constant reminder of those who died trying to save others after the terrorist attacks.
“Knowing that we are there to complete the 110-story climb for those who could not on that day is a touching experience and one that I will never forget,” says Quinn. “I look forward to participating every year that I am physically able to and as long as the event continues to be held.”