Selecting and Training Technical Rescue Team Personnel

Firehouse Technical Rescue Editor Bob Duemmel explains the need to establish training guidelines and outlines basic training for technical rescue teams.


In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we focused on considerations for developing a team and the first two phases of development. In this edition, we will continue our review of the third phase of a team’s development. Remembering that much of the content you utilize in these phases will have originated from the questions you asked of yourself in Part 1 of the series.

Phase 3 – Development of Team

Team member selection – Assemble a committee to oversee the selection process. This group can be a permanent group that attends to the selection process long term or this can be an ad-hoc committee assembled for this one task then disbanded after the completion of the task.

Develop a standardized application and questionnaire for applicants to submit as the first step in the selection process. This format allows for easier data collection by the committee, while the questionnaire is a valuable tool in identifying unknown talent with in your candidate pool.

It is very important that the expectations of the team be defined and presented during this phase. You will most likely suffer a loss of many applicants if you do not provide this information in advance.

An example of a few of the elements the expectation list may include:

  • Make sure the candidates are aware their participation with the team/unit is an additional commitment beyond their current obligation to their home agencies. Establish a standard where they must meet their host agencies hours, monthly points or whatever standards that exist within that agency to maintain their eligibility to participate in this secondary activity.
  • As you develop a team, training will be a major part of your initial activities. Most organizations do not have the luxury of starting up with a fully trained staff of responders. Make sure applicants are aware that some of the courses required will be obtained over time through team training activities. I have seen a few lost opportunities to have a very talented member of the community on a team because they assumed their lack of technician level certifications would not allow them to apply.
  • Have minimum standards as a part of the process. Awareness level courses are often utilized as a part of a team’s minimums for applications. These courses provide two things to the applicant: an overview of the types of activities they will be engaging in; and the applicant will be showing their individual willingness to commit to an activity.
  • A new team member’s assigned position(s) will be specific to operational needs of the team and not always parallel to their positions in their host agency. Just because the candidate is a chief or holds another rank in their host agency does not guarantee they will be a team leader, squad leader, etc. on a technical rescue team. (I have heard individuals state that they are “better at giving orders than taking them” – this is a major red flag and is one of the many good reasons for having an interview process as a part of your team’s development plan.)

As you fill your initial team roster, keep in mind that it should be a top-down process. This reflects on the importance of filling the support positions of your team during the initial wave of development. Without people in place to accomplish the position specific tasks you will end up with gaps in your capabilities. Many of the applicants will be aspiring to hold rescue specialist positions as that is the place where they can get into the mix and “break some rocks.” Those specialist positions are important, however, without the leadership to bring that process together you will never get your team off the ground. Additionally, if the command and general staff slots are not filled; you will inevitably burn out those who do fill the positions around the vacancies due to the overload of work they will encounter.

Training the team – Prior to initiating your training program you should establish a priority list of the programs you will provide and in what order they will be offered. Determining the level of operational capability you plan on aspiring to will help in this process.

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