A Blueprint for Success to Developing a Technical Rescue Team

This is the first of a five-part series on the development of a technical rescue team. The focus of this segment will be on asking the tough questions when you decide to take on a project of this magnitude.


With today’s growing demands on all emergency responders, being prepared for the low-frequency incident is becoming more and more challenging. Shrinking budgets and fewer grants make meeting these demands even tougher. Before jumping into setting up a team or specialty unit to respond to technical rescue incidents, you should do a thorough “needs analysis.”

A number of agencies around the country jumped on the “technical rescue team” bandwagon during the post-9/11 era. That was a time when money was being thrown at us by the bucketful as the country felt a strong need to prepare for the next event of that nature. Unfortunately, many of those departments have equipment sitting in stations and not being used today because the funds are no longer available to maintain these programs and keep their members trained.

The creation of a technical rescue team and the sustainment of that team can be possible as long as you do your homework and put the hours of preparation into the project that is required. Start out by asking yourselves a series of tough questions that will end up being your blueprint for success.

Considerations for Developing a Team

Is a team needed? Risk assessments are great tools to help you justify whether the need for a specialized team does in fact exist. It will also be of value in future phases of your development as it will provide those who may be funding the project with the justifications for those expenses. Your assessments should include your immediate community and the region around you.

What type of team is needed? In some cases, a single specialty such as a rope-rescue team will meet the needs of the community. In other cases, a multi-discipline response team may be the best answer to local and regional needs. The most common and recognized specialized teams of the multi-discipline type are the urban search and rescue (USAR) teams.

Is there a commitment from the emergency response community? Do you have leadership in place to manage the team? If the needed leadership is not already in place, will the agencies that govern your local operations support the addition of this team to their existing operations?

Training is also a major component of any specialized response team. Do you have the local infrastructure to support the required training for the team members? If these facilities are not locally available, where are they in your region and are they available for your people to use? If you plan to train locally, you must determine how many instructors you have or need to be successful and whether you have the equipment needed for these training courses.

What is the cost of a team? This will be the number-one question you will hear from many people when you decide to start a specialized rescue team. Many levels of a cost analysis must be addressed.

Start-up cost is the one most people think of first. You will have costs associated with personnel protective equipment, response and training equipment, administrative materials and the list goes on. Then there is the cost of the initial training that you will face. In some cases, you will have people already prepared to step in and begin the desired activities.

However, training must be a part of you perpetual cost analysis as new members will be coming in who need training and seasoned members who must also keep their skills honed through ongoing training programs.

Sustainment costs are one of the most important parts of a new team. If you don’t plan from day one as to how you will keep the mission moving forward financially, you will surely fail a short time down the road. The cost analysis of a team must be developed and monitored from the very first day of the process to bring a team to reality.

What funding is available? As mentioned previously, grant funds are great sources of money for a specialized team. This unfortunately is a double-edged sword when looking to sustain a team. Never look at grants as a part of your long-term sustainment plan. As fast as they arrive they can be gone. If you are questioning that potential, all you have to do is talk to anyone who was a benefactor of funds from the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI).

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