Technical Rescue - Part III

Previously we discussed the issues affecting the development and organization of special operational deployment and technical rescue capabilities. In this installment we'll address planning considerations for the training and skills development component of the process.

Regulatory impact of associated state/federal regulations along with the influence of recognized national standards will also influence and help direct the planning, organization and training process. These regulations and standards may assist the planning group or committee in identifying relevant issues that may impact the development of objectives, goals and organizational scope for the subsequent teams deployment.

The NFPA 1670 Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Rescue Incidents provides the basis from which the development, training and operations for special operations technical rescue teams are measured against. Built upon its predecessor, the NFPA 1470 Standard on Search and Rescue Training for Structural Collapse Incidents, which was first published in 1992, the current NFPA 1670 Standard presently integrates seven (7) technical rescue discipline areas into a unified standard addressing organization, training, operations and incident management.

The NFPA 1670 Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Rescue Incidents establishes three [3] integrated levels of operational capability needed to conduct operations at technical rescue incidents safely and effectively based on hazard analysis, risk assessment, training level of personnel, and availability of internal and external resources.

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The three operational capability levels consist of Awareness, Operations and Technician Levels. The development of these levels were based upon the established consistency of the hazardous materials operational levels identified in NFPA 472 Standard on Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents. The significant difference that distinguishes the NFPA 1670 Standard's operating level capabilities is the manner in which the seven [7] technical rescue discipline areas are unified, cross-integrated and referenced for identified competency and skill levels. These operational levels are described as follows:

Awareness. This level represents the minimum capability of a responder who, in the course of his or her regular job duties, could be called upon to respond to, or could be the first on the scene of, a technical rescue incident. This level can involve search, rescue, and recovery operations. Members of a team at this level are generally not considered rescuers.

Operations. This level represents the capability of hazard recognition, equipment use, and techniques necessary to safely and effectively support and participate in a technical rescue incident. This level can involve search, rescue, and recovery operations, but usually operations are carried out under the supervision of technician-level personnel.

Technician. This level represents the capability of hazard recognition, equipment use, and techniques necessary to safely and effectively coordinate, perform, and supervise a technical rescue incident. This level can involve search, rescue, and recovery operations.

Exemplifying these operational level capabilities, the following two examples of operational capabilities for their respective levels of Awareness, Operations and Technician for Structural Collapse Rescue Teams and Confined Space Rescue Teams is provided.

Structural Collapse Rescue Team Operational Capability

Awareness

Note: Structural Collapse Rescue Team Personnel operating at the Awareness Level must also meet ALL awareness-level requirements regarding Confined Space Rescue specified within the NFPA 1670 standard.

Awareness-Level functions at structural collapse incidents shall include the following:

  • Size-up of existing and potential conditions at structural collapse incidents
  • Identification of the resources necessary to conduct safe and effective structural collapse search and rescue operations
  • Development and implementation of procedures for carrying out the emergency response system for structural collapse incidents
  • Development and implementation of procedures for carrying out site control and scene management
  • Recognition of general hazards associated with structural collapse incidents including the recognition of applicable construction types and categories and the expected behaviors of components and materials in a structural collapse
  • Identification of five types of collapse patterns and potential victim locations
  • Recognition of the potential for secondary collapse
  • Development and implementation of procedures for conducting visual and verbal searches at structural collapse incidents, while using appropriate methods for the specific type of collapse
  • Development and implementation of procedures for the recognition and implementation of the FEMA Task Force Search and Rescue Marking System, Building Marking System (structure/hazard evaluation), and Structure Marking System (structure identification within a geographic area)
  • Development and implementation of procedures for the removal of readily accessible victims from structural collapse incidents

Operations-Level functions at structural collapse incidents shall include the following:

Personnel operating at the Operations Level must meet ALL awareness-level requirements specified in the NFPA 1670 standard. In addition, personnel shall be capable of hazard recognition, equipment use, and techniques necessary to operate safely and effectively at structural collapse incidents involving the collapse or failure of light-frame ordinary construction and un-reinforced and reinforced masonry construction.

Personnel operating at the Operations Level must also meet ALL operations-level requirements regarding rope rescue, confined space rescue, transportation/machinery, and trench & excavation rescue identified within the NFPA 1670 standard. In addition, ALL personnel operating at this Operations level must also meet ALL awareness-level requirements regarding water rescue specified within the NFPA 1670 standard.

Operations-level functions at structural collapse incidents for light-frame ordinary construction and reinforced and un-reinforced masonry construction includes the development and implementation of the following:

  • Procedures for recognizing unique collapse or failure hazards
  • Procedures for search operations intended to locate victims trapped inside and beneath collapse debris
  • Procedures for accessing victims trapped inside and beneath collapse debris
  • Procedures for performing extrication operations involving packaging, treating, and removing victims trapped within and beneath collapse debris
  • Procedures for stabilizing the structure

Technician-Level functions at structural collapse incidents shall include the following:

Personnel operating at the Technician Level must have met ALL operations-level requirements and ALL awareness-level requirements specified in the lower level competencies. In addition, personnel shall be capable of hazard recognition, equipment use, and techniques necessary to operate safely and effectively at structural collapse incidents involving the collapse or failure of concrete tilt-up, reinforced concrete, and steel construction.

Personnel operating at the Technician Level shall meet all technician-level requirements regarding rope, confined space, transportation/machinery, and trench specified within the NFPA 1670 standard.

Technician-level functions at structural collapse incidents for concrete tilt-up, reinforced concrete, and steel construction includes the development and implementation of the following:

  • Procedures for recognizing unique collapse or failure hazards
  • Procedures for search operations intended to locate victims trapped inside and beneath collapse debris
  • Procedures for accessing victims trapped inside and beneath collapse debris
  • Procedures for performing extrication operations involving packaging, treating, and removing victims trapped within and beneath collapse debris
  • Procedures for stabilizing the structure

Confined Space Rescue Team Operational Capability

These Confined Space Rescue Team requirements apply to departments that provide varying degrees of response to confined space emergencies. The scope of these requirements includes all confined space rescue incidents and response organizations including those not regulated by U.S. federal mandates.

Personnel operating at the Awareness Level must also meet the awareness-level requirements regarding rope rescue and ALL awareness-level requirements specified in NFPA 472, Standard for Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents. Organizations at this level shall be responsible for performing certain non-entry rescue (retrieval) operations.

Awareness-level functions for confined space rescue incidents include the following:

  • Size-up of existing and potential conditions
  • Initiation of contact and establishment of communications with victims where possible
  • Recognition and identification of the hazards associated with non-entry confined space emergencies
  • Recognition of confined spaces
  • Procedures to perform a non-entry retrieval
  • Procedures for implementing the emergency response system for confined space emergencies
  • Procedures for implementing site control and scene management

Operations-Level functions at confined space rescue incidents shall include the following:

Personnel operating at the Operations Level must meet ALL awareness-level requirements specified in the NFPA 1670 standard. Personnel at this level will be responsible for the development and training of a confined space rescue team consistent with the requirements of this section.

Personnel operating at the Operations level must meet ALL operations-level requirements specified regarding rope rescue and the requirements of a confined space rescue team as specified in the standard. In addition, personnel operating at the operations level must also meet ALL operations-level requirements regarding trench and excavation rescue specified in the NFPA 1670 standard.

Operations-level functions for confined space rescue operations shall include the following:

  • Procedures for protecting personnel from hazards within the confined space
  • Continued size-up of existing and potential conditions
  • Procedures for assuring that personnel are capable of appropriately managing the physical and psychological challenges that effect rescuers entering confined spaces
  • Identification of the duties of the rescue entrant(s) and back-up rescue entrant(s), rescue attendant, and rescue team leader as defined herein
  • Procedures to monitor continuously, or at frequent intervals, the atmosphere in all parts of the space to be entered and to monitor for, in the following order, oxygen content, flammability (LEL/ LFL), and toxicity
  • Procedures for entry-type rescues into confined spaces meeting all of the following specific qualifying characteristics:
  • The internal configuration of the space is clear and unobstructed so retrieval systems can be utilized for rescuers without possibility of entanglement.
  • The victim can be easily seen from the outside of the space's primary access opening.
  • Rescuers can pass easily through the access/egress opening(s) with room to spare when PPE is worn in the manner recommended by the manufacturer.
  • The space can accommodate two or more rescuers in addition to the victim.
  • All hazards in and around the confined space have been identified, isolated, and controlled.
  • Procedures for the safe and effective use of victim packaging devices that could be employed in confined space rescue
  • Procedures for the transfer of victim information including location, surroundings, condition when found, present condition, and other information pertinent to emergency medical services
  • Procedures for planning and implementing an appropriate confined space rescue operation
  • Procedures for selection, construction, and use of a rope lowering and raising system in the high-angle environment

Technician-Level functions at confined space rescue incidents shall include the following:

Personnel operating at the Technician Level must have met ALL operations-level requirements and ALL awareness-level requirements specified in the lower level competencies. The personnel at this level will be responsible for the development and training of a confined space rescue team consistent with the requirements of this discipline area.

Technician-level functions for confined space rescue operations will include the following:

  • Continued size-up of existing and potential conditions
  • Procedures to assure that rescue team members shall take part in a medical surveillance program
  • Planning response for entry-type confined space rescues in hazardous environments
  • Implementation of the planned response

As you can see, the NFPA 1670 three-tiered response level capabilities outlined for each of the two technical rescue response disciplines for Structure Collapse Rescue and for Confined Space Rescue consider and stipulate very definable levels of operational commitment that a special operations team member or emergency services support personnel can perform at a given incident. In both technical rescue disciplines, each operational level competency is built upon the previous level of skills and training competencies and also expands competency requirements into other NFPA 1670 technical rescue disciplines. This constitutes the level of integration and cross-disciplinary training skills and competencies required for personnel to safely operate at respected technical incident operations.

There are six pertinent NFPA Standards that should be considered required readings that will provide additional guidance in the planning and development process:

  • NFPA 1006, Standard for Rescue Technician Professional Qualifications, 2000 edition
  • NFPA 1500,Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, 1997 edition.
  • NFPA 1561, Standard on Fire Department Incident Management System, 2000 edition.
  • NFPA 1670,Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Rescue Incidents, 1999 edition.
  • NFPA 1951, Standard on Protective Ensemble for USAR Operations, 2000 edition.
  • NFPA 1983,Standard on Fire Service Life Safety Rope and System Components, 2001 edition.

Technical Rescue Training Considerations

Technical Rescue Training development planning must include provisions for initial team start-up and provide measures for competencies applicable to the specific or multiple discipline area(s) of technical rescue deployment. This area of program involvement must be scheduled in a manner that will allow for sufficient time to elapse prior to team deployment and activation in order to develop the necessary skills and techniques that will be required of the personnel in their respective assignments. Remember, there is little room for errors or lapses in skills and required competencies at actual incidents, therefore there MUST be a high degree of confidence and reliability that personnel assigned to the team are truly competent in their acquired skills and are operationally deployable.

The training methodologies should be well developed and make use of both classroom and extensive practical hands-on skills development. Tool and equipment acquisitions must be made prior to the initiation of the training program or the availability of proposed tool selection should be obtained from vendors or manufacturers to ensure that personnel become familiar with the operations, functions and limitations of these appliances in their respective rescue capacities during the respective training cycles.

The Technical Rescue Training program and schedule should be:

  • Realistic
  • Achievable
  • Measurable
  • Documented
  • Technically Accurate

In addition, the training program development phase should include considerations for the following:

  • Identify & integrate applicable Standards and Regulations- these form the basis for the program(s)
  • Research existing local, regional and national training program offerings
  • Survey Fire Department personnel/staff for existing levels of expertise
  • Review training records of personnel for appropriate selection criteria or special attributes
  • Establish Funding Source(s)/Budget
  • Coordinate with Departmental Training schedule and activities
  • Establish "Train-the-Trainer" Program
  • Secure Technical Assistance from outside/private agencies and sources
  • Contract with private training consultants offering specialized services if applicable
  • Identify cross-disciplinary teams, local/regional/national for training opportunities or cooperative training integration
  • Identify upper tier special operations technical rescue teams and coordinate training and operational protocols to ensure fluid consistency in future operations
  • Establish Training Schedule; initial, sustained and re-qualification cycles
  • Implement Training Program
  • Monitor, Evaluate, Validate
  • Test & Re-qualify
  • Revise and update as required

Although the focus of deployment capabilities may be direct to the technical rescue team, it is very important to always consider the support function of other personnel and companies within the organization. There may be numerous support functions and requirements that may be required for tactical deployment objectives, with these task assignments being able to be carried out by the balance of responding companies for the incident assignment. These companies and their personnel become a critical resource in carrying out respective technical rescue assignment functions. The NFPA 1670 standard specifies lower tiered support capability requirements and training levels for those respective disciplines. Integrating ALL personnel within the organization into a training program whereby they gain a level of competency and understanding of the technical rescue operational arena, will ensure the highest degree of personnel safety during technical rescue incident operations.

The support function of other departmental companies are part of a "unified system" whereby they become critical to the tactical objectives of the specialized rescue team personnel. Training should be developed to an awareness level by which these personnel gain an understanding of procedures, safety and hazard awareness and precautionary measures, tool, equipment and appliance support in operational deployment and an understanding of their scope of limitations in how they are part of the overall technical rescue system for incident management and operations. This awareness level training of general companies should be expanded to include mutual-aid agencies that typically are called upon so they too can become an integral part of the support system for incident operations.

The development of applicable and unifying operating procedures, incident management policies, team organization, safety and response procedures and standard operating procedures will fill-out the requirements for the development and subsequent mission ready activation of the specialized rescue team. Through careful planning and analysis, coupled with an examination of the goals, objectives, and ultimate scope of responsibilities for the technical rescue team component, these documents will operate and exist within the department's organizational structure and interface within the emergency delivery system.

Special Operations Technical Rescue Incident Management System

A significant area that in the past has not received the level of attention and focus required during the planning and implementation phases of special operations teams, is that of the Incident Command Management component. Strategic and Tactical operations at technical rescue incidents REQUIRE an enhanced set of ICM skills and competencies that are unique to the daily standardized response and integration of traditional ICM methodologies. In other words, incident commanders, who manage technical rescue incidents, must have a basis of understanding of technical rescue demands and requirements, they must be knowledgeable of the elements and components that comprise a specific technical rescue incident and must have an established technical rescue incident command management model that can be integrated into the response and operations cycle.

The effective and safe management of technical rescue incidents demands that an appropriate technical rescue specific ICM model be implemented during operations, built upon the established day-to-day ICM system utilized by your department. Special Operations Technical Rescue requires unique strategic and tactical operational attributes, planning and logistical needs. Incident Commanders must clearly understand these unique characteristics and elements in order to ensure safe mitigation of these types of incidents. You cannot mange technical rescue incidents the same way you mange typical fire alarm and multiple company operations.

Technical Rescue Incident Command Planning Considerations

  • Develop and utilize training on the implementation of an incident management system that meets the requirements of NFPA 1561, Standard on Fire Department Incident Management System, with written special operations technical rescue standard operating procedures applying to all personnel involved in technical rescue operations.
  • Develop a Technical Rescue ICM model that integrates into the existing ICM system utilized for daily operations.
  • Develop, train and implement required support elements to ensure the technical rescue ICM model integrates with surrounding agencies and upper tiered specialized response resources, teams, agencies and support groups.
  • All personnel involved in direct or support technical rescue emergency operations must be familiar with this ICM system and SOPs.
  • The department must provide for training on the implementation of an incident personnel accountability system that meets the requirements of NFPA 1561, Standard on Fire Department Incident Management System, and addresses the unique characteristics of special operations technical rescue incidents.
  • The incident command management system should account for the need for qualified direct and support level personnel to ensure rotation of personnel to reduce stress and fatigue during extended operational periods of a technical rescue incident mission.
  • The incident commander shall ensure that all personnel are aware of the potential impact of their operations on the safety and welfare of other rescuers, victims, and other activities at the technical rescue incident site.
  • The department must ensure that technical rescue team personnel and support function personnel are psychologically, physically, and medically capable to perform assigned duties and functions at technical rescue incidents and to perform training exercises in accordance with NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program.
  • Practice and train utilizing the technical rescue incident command model on a frequency that will ensure skills and competencies are maintained.

Conclusions

It is highly encouraged that efforts should be undertaken by departments and agencies seeking to development and enhance technical rescue capabilities, to research and obtain information from other departments and teams locally, regionally and nationally in order to gain the wealth of information that can be analyzed and disseminated with applicable information applied and augmented in order to meet with local team planning, logistics, training and team objectives.

This research, data acquisition and networking will save a tremendous amount of time and effort, without having to "re-invent the wheel" for program planning on technical rescue team applications. There are many teams and departments that have developed highly effective technical response teams over the years and the process by which they developed, the procedures & methods utilized for operations and the tool & equipment utilized coupled with the enhancements that have been adopted through field-proven and mission specific situations can only help to provide time-proven data and information.

It is imperative that departments and agencies considering developing specialized technical rescue team capabilities understand the long-term commitments required and the level of dedication necessary to fulfill the operability and usefulness of the team's activation and mission readiness. Furthermore, take into consideration the manner in which your technical rescue team will fit into the larger scheme of the emergency response matrix.

Local level response capabilities are where you need to make your team operable, but at the same time do not loose sight of the fact that your capability and resources are part of a larger upper tiered system. Under the capabilities and limitations of these special operations technical rescue or urban search and rescue systems, components and task forces. Reflect upon what we have learned thus far from the events of 9.11 in New York City and in Washington, D.C. What you do and have on the local level may one day be called upon to integrate into a larger, more complex unified effort to mitigate the consequences of significantly challenging and demanding events.

A department's should never loose sight of the applicability or need to implement or enhance to the identified types and levels of technical rescue service(s), if there is a true need or risk present or postulated within the jurisdiction or community. As in the 1980's, many jurisdictions quickly implemented hazardous material teams as the wave of this concept and need swept throughout the service only to find that the demands of time, financial support, and commitment levels necessitated a re-evaluation of their level of commitment and degree of involvement.

The current levels of interest being generated within the areas of specialized operations technical rescue are increasing the awareness of many jurisdictions as to the needs and applications for increased focus on enhanced technical rescue capabilities. Some departments are blinded by the high-tech applications and are drawn into program initiatives for reasons that have no actual basis or need on local or regional levels community requirements. Others have recognized the need, but cannot support the implementation due to internal limitations. Seek out alternatives, identify potential cooperative efforts between departments, across imaginary jurisdictional boarders, and between different agency compositions.

Although the needs are evident and the regulatory requirements for their application present, the most appropriate method for meeting those demands and community based risks must be carefully analyzed and the most financial sound and relevant method and system selected in order to meet current and projected incident response demands.

The development of a technical rescue program can enhance a jurisdiction's ability to handle the challenges imposed upon it by technology, growth and the socio-economic parameters that influence its day-to-day emergency responses. Only through careful planning, analysis and forecasting can risk factors be minimized to a manageable level that constantly addresses the safety and health of the emergency service personnel charged with delivering those services to their community. Adequate preplanning, preparation and resource organization can prepare a jurisdiction to handle the challenges of specialized technical rescue operations. Our world has significantly changed, our demands have increased, our level of preparedness must be strengthened and our abilities, skills and training must be constantly enhanced.

The following are recommended reference documents to assist in your Technical Rescue Team Development Process:

National Fire Protection Association, 1 Batterymarch Park, P.O. Box 9101, Quincy, MA 02269-9101.

  • NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction, 1999 edition.
  • NFPA 471, Recommended Practice for Responding to Hazardous Materials Incidents, 1997 edition.
  • NFPA 472, Standard for Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents, 1997 edition.
  • NFPA 1006, Standard for Rescue Technician Professional Qualifications, 2000 edition
  • NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, 1997 edition.
  • NFPA 1561, Standard on Fire Department Incident Management System, 2000 edition.
  • NFPA 1581, Standard on Fire Department Infection Control Program, 2000 edition.
  • NFPA 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Rescue Incidents, 1999 edition.
  • NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments , 2001 Edition
  • NFPA 1720, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the to the Public by Volunteer Fire Departments ,2001 Edition
  • NFPA 1951, Standard on Protective Ensemble for USAR Operations, 2000 edition.
  • NFPA 1982, Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS), 1998 edition.
  • NFPA 1983, Standard on Fire Service Life Safety Rope and System Components, 2001 edition.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street, SW, Washington, DC 20472.

  • FEMA Earthquake Hazards Reduction Series 41, Rapid Visual Screening of Buildings for Potential Seismic Hazards: A Handbook.
  • FEMA US&R Response System. FEMA Web Site www.fema.gov.

Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402

  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910.120, U.S. Federal OSHA Standard on Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER).
  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910.146, "Permit-Required Confined Spaces," May 19, 1994.
  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910.1030 (OSHA), "Blood-Borne Pathogens," July 1, 1992.
  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1926, Subpart P, Appendix A, "Soil Classification," July 1, 1995.
  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1926, Subpart P, Appendix C, July 1, 1995.
  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1926, Subpart P, Appendix B, "Excavations, Sloping and Benching," August 9, 1994.
  • Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1926.651, "Specific Excavation Requirements," August 9, 1994.

United States Fire Administration, Emmitsburg, MD.

  • FEMA, New Techniques in Vehicle Extrication, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, MD, September, 1994.
  • FEMA, Urban Search and Rescue Response System-Operational System Description and Mission Operational Procedures, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, MD.
  • United States Fire Administration, Protective Clothing and Equipment Needs of Emergency Responders for Urban Search and Rescue, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, MD, 1994.
  • United States Fire Administration, Technical Rescue Program Development Manual, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, MD, August, 1995.
  • United States Fire Administration, Technical Rescue Technology Assessment, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, MD, January 1995.
  • United States Fire Administration, Technical Report Series. Refer to the USFA web site for various technical reports and case studies of technical and urban search and rescue missions

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