How does your department define the roles of a squad or rescue company at emergency incidents? In some parts of the country the term Rescue Company and Squad Company are interchangeable. In other departments the Squad or Rescue Companies are used only as support apparatus and do not have a clear definition of what their roles and responsibilites are at fire or rescue incident. In this month's article, I will be using the FDNY as a model; defining their department's definition of a Rescue Company and a Squad Company. Specifically looking at their roles and responsibilities on the fireground and the purpose of riding assignments.
Over the years, departments find themselves in the position to open up new companies to meet the demands of their changing districts. Many times these new companies are not the traditional Engine or Ladder companies, but heavy Rescues or Squads. They frequently perform dual functions; Haz-mat, Collapse or other special operations, but their main focus is still suppression.
In some Departments, these two terms and companies are interchangeable. However, there are some differences in the two types of units. In the FDNY, the Rescue Companies use typical heavy rescue apparatus, with no pumping capabilities and no compliment of ground ladders. The equipment carried includes a full compliment of SCBA's, hand tools and power saws for fire fighting, and an assortment of rescue tools to handle everything from auto extrication, confined space operations, water rescue, to building collapses. Most of their fire ground assignments are based on ladder company duties. These include forceable entry, search, and ventilation. Although the rescue companies usually respond as a special unit, if they are closer to an alarm than the first or second due truck company, the rescue assumes the duties of that truck.
Squad Companies in the FDNY use Engine style apparatus but also carry specialized equipment. These companies serve dual purposes. In their normal 1st alarm area, they respond as an engine company, either first, second or third due. Their duties are the same as any other engine assigned to an alarm. In other than their first alarm area, the Squads are assigned as a special unit, and the incident commander assigns them tasks on the fire ground. These tasks can be either engine or truck company related. If the IC decides that the engine companies need help stretching lines or an additional handline is needed, the Squad can be assigned this task. If the IC decides that vertical ventilation is needed, the Squad can be assigned to perform or augment the roof top ventilation.
In many cases the rescues and the Ssquads will be called upon to perform specific tasks on the fire ground. In order for the Company to perform these tasks efficiently, the companies must have in place riding assignments to govern their actions. In the FDNY, both companies are assigned an Officer and 5 Firefighters at the beginning of each tour. Each individual company assigns the personnel depending on the type of work most frequently encountered. Rescue #3 in the Bronx does most of their work in tenements and apartment houses so their riding assignments reflect this type of fire. In contrast, Rescue #1 in Manhattan does more work in commercial buildings and hi-rises. The other 3 Rescues also have varied types of occupancies where they do most of their work.
Rescue#3's typical riding assignment called for the company to split into teams. One team is comprised of the officer and 2 Firefighters. One of the firefighters carries a hydraulic forceable entry tool and 6'hook and the other a set of irons. (halligans and flat head axe). These three comprised the inside team and their position would usually be the floor above the fire. As much of Rescue-3's work is in large multiple dwellings, the floor above frequently has several doors that need to be forced and apartments to be searched. The inside team would go to the floor above to assist the 2nd due truck company, whose assignment is the apartment directly above the fire apartment.