FDNY Special Apparatus

Prior to 9/11, there was one tractor-drawn decontamination unit. In 2003, two tractor-drawn decontamination units, built by Advanced Containment Systems and pulled by 2002 Freightliner tractors, were assigned to Engines 37 in Manhattan and 283 in Brooklyn. They have the ability to process more than 250 people per hour. Three smaller decontamination units were delivered by Ferrara in 2006, built on Mack chassis. These units are assigned to Engine 4 in Manhattan, Engine 160 on Staten Island and Engine 251 in Queens.
Twenty-five ladder companies are trained to the Hazmat Technician I level and are equipped with Level A and B suits, meters, mitigation material and limited technical rescue equipment. They are also trained to initiate and support technical rescue operations. This equipment is carried in a utility truck designated as a Rapid Response Vehicle. When assigned as an SOC Support Ladder, the unit responds with both apparatus. During severe storms, or other situations where demand for services increases, these units can be staffed independently to respond to specific incidents. The SOC Support Ladder Rapid Response Vehicles are 2001 Ford/Knapheide utility trucks.
Two 2006 Kubota ATVs are outfitted with RKO skids having high-pressure pumps, 70-gallon water tanks, five-gallon foam tanks and booster reels. They are deployed to special events where the potential exists for a large number of people to be exposed in an attack and in need of decontamination.
Twenty-nine ladder companies are designated CPC and have received specialized training. They are equipped with Level A and B suits, antidote kits, detection equipment, patient- removal equipment and other specialized equipment. Their function is search, rescue and removal of exposed victims and administering antidotes. These units are also designated Ventilation Support Units and are equipped with high-volume positive-pressure fans. They are assigned Rapid Response Vehicles like the SOC Support Ladders and can also be staffed and respond independently as needed. These Rapid Response Vehicles are 2001 and 2008 Ford/Knapheide utility trucks.
At the time of the attack, there was a single collapse rescue apparatus quartered at Rescue 3. Each rescue company is now assigned a collapse rescue truck. These apparatus carry cribbing, shoring, air shores, trench and hydraulic jacks, saws, carpentry tools, nail guns, concrete-cutting chain saw, air compressor, air knife, surveying transit, ultra-sound listening device, fiber-optic search probe and camera, pavement breaker, welder, dewatering pumps, exothermic torch and a hydraulic tool system. Collapse Rescues 1, 2 and 4 are assigned 2005 Mack/Ferrara apparatus, while Collapse Rescues 3 and 5 have 2009 Spartan/Ferrara apparatus. Collapse Rescues 1, 2 and 4 are quartered with SOC Support Ladder Companies located near the associated rescue company.
A 2005 Ford/Reading is equipped with a 250-cfm air compressor, two reels having 100 feet of air hose each, pavement breakers, heavy demolition equipment, and flexible and rigid tubes for use with vacuum trucks at trench rescues. It is staffed by one firefighter.
At the time of 9/11 attack, the department operated a tractor-drawn mobile command center. In 2004, two 40-foot Freightliner/LDV units were delivered and assigned to Engines 93 in Manhattan and 233 in Brooklyn. These units respond to third alarms, collapse operations and when special-called. They are staffed by the host engine company. They are equipped with 42-foot camera masts, generator, light towers, televisions, cameras, weather stations, computers, telephones and conference areas.
This unit, a 2007 Freightliner/LDV, is a smaller version of the Mobile Command Centers and is quartered at Engine 207 in Brooklyn. It is primarily used at special events.
To supplement existing Hazmat Technician units (squads and rescues), four hazmat engines have been designated and trained. In addition to their normal responsibilities as engine companies, Engines 44 in Manhattan, 165 on Staten Island, 250 in Brooklyn and 274 in Queens are each trained to the Hazmat Technician II level. Level A suits are carried on the pumper. Each company is also assigned a hazmat tender that carries Level B suits, absorbent material, drum and leak sealing kits, plugs and wedges, off-loading pump, grounding cables, over-pack drums, meters, non-sparking tools and other assorted hazmat equipment. Engines 44 and 165 have 2004 Freightliner/Utilimaster/LDV hazmat tenders, while Engines 250 and 274 have similar 2005 models.
Prior to the terrorist attacks, there were two dry chemical apparatus in service at Engines 228 and 229, both in Brooklyn. Four additional units were acquired in 2006. They are Ford chassis with 1,000-pound Ansul skids. They are assigned to Engines 33 and 84 in Manhattan, Engine 163 on Staten Island and Engine 326 in Queens.
Two 2006 Freightliner/Utilimaster/LDV trucks, each carrying 36 Dräger closed-circuit breathing apparatus, 36 extra oxygen cylinders and scrubbers, freezers to maintain ice blocks and a mask recharging station, were placed into service at SOC headquarters on Roosevelt Island and at Ladder 20 in Manhattan. These four-hour masks were acquired to extend operating capabilities at subway and underwater tunnel operations. SOC units, as well as SOC support ladder companies, hazmat engines, and selected battalions are trained to use these masks.
Two six-wheel-drive Polaris Rangers were acquired in 2004. They are equipped with RKO skids having 20-gpm pumps, 75-gallon water tanks, a Stokes basket, booster reel, forestry hose and Indian pumps. While both are assigned to Staten Island for brushfire operations, they are used extensively throughout the city at street fairs, parades and other events where there are large amounts of people.
Two six-wheel-drive Polaris Rangers were acquired in 2004. They are equipped with RKO skids having 20-gpm pumps, 75-gallon water tanks, a Stokes basket, booster reel, forestry hose and Indian pumps. While both are assigned to Staten Island for brushfire operations, they are used extensively throughout the city at street fairs, parades and other events where there are large amounts of people.
Two six-wheel-drive Polaris Rangers were acquired in 2004. They are equipped with RKO skids having 20-gpm pumps, 75-gallon water tanks, a Stokes basket, booster reel, forestry hose and Indian pumps. While both are assigned to Staten Island for brushfire operations, they are used extensively throughout the city at street fairs, parades and other events where there are large amounts of people.
This unit operates as a mobile component of the Fire Department Operations Center (FDOC) and is staffed by a firefighter and lieutenant. It responds on all multiple alarms and large-scale emergency operations to furnish the incident commander with on-scene images, video, maps, floor plans, building information and data received from the FDOC while transmitting real-time images back to the FDOC. The apparatus is a 2002 Ford Econoline former Bureau of Fire Investigation surveillance vehicle.
There are 15 basic life support (BLS) and 16 advanced life support (ALS) ambulances with personnel trained to Hazmat Technician II level and capable of performing medical monitoring and intervention inside “hot” and “warm” zones and other contaminated areas. They are equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), Level B suits, meters and decontamination equipment. The apparatus are 2008 Ford/Horton units with extended bodies.
RescueMedicPinto.jpgRESCUE MEDICS
Five advanced life support (ALS) ambulances have personnel trained in collapse, high-angle, trench, confined-space rescue and crush medicine syndrome as well as Hazmat Technician II. They carry limited rescue equipment, Level A and B suits, meters and decontamination equipment and can treat entrapped victims prior to and during extrication. The apparatus are 2008 Ford/Horton units with extended bodies.
There are five MERVs, located at EMS Stations 4, 20, 22, 46 and 58. They provide an on-scene triage and treatment area and carry a full complement of ALS and BLS equipment and large quantities of medical supplies. Four are Thomas bus chassis with American LaFrance bodywork, two 2004 and two 2008 models, while the fifth is a 1993 International/Excellance.
These are 2001 Ford/Knapheide utility trucks quartered with the MERV units. They carry large quantities of oxygen, backboards, SKEDs, a tent and supplies to support long-term, multiple-casualty incidents.
This is a 2003 Blue Bird bus with Krammes bodywork, located at EMS Station 20. It is capable of providing oxygen therapy for up to 32 patients simultaneously.
A 2005 GMC/Cliffside Body Co. cargo truck has been outfitted with refrigeration units to carry various antidotes and controlled substances for use when a large number of victims have been exposed to harmful agents during a chemical attack. It is stored at EMS Station 58.
This vehicle is used by the Incident Management Team (IMT) and/or Planning Chief at major operations. The vehicle is a 2006 Freightliner/Utilimaster outfitted by LDV. It contains a briefing area, data processing area, kitchen, toilet, GIS/reproduction area, two-position operating area, generator, phones, radios, TV and image-projection capability.


The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, destroyed a large portion of the FDNY’s special operations capabilities. More than 90 of the firefighters and officers killed that day were trained technicians assigned to rescue, squad and hazardous materials units. Many more would subsequently retire as a result of that day. Many special apparatus were also destroyed when the towers collapsed.

In the weeks and months that followed, the department identified potential areas of concern in the event of future terrorist attacks, considering the likely potential of multiple, simultaneous incidents. This planning was coupled with an all-hazards approach to deal with natural disasters as well as terrorist incidents. Among the factors considered was the ability to handle multiple, simultaneous large-scale incidents by having each borough capable of sustaining operations independently, as much as possible, without relying on the response of special units from other boroughs. In an effort to rebuild the department with greater special-operations capabilities, extensive training, procurement of tools and equipment, and the acquisition of many new apparatus were required.

To accomplish this, units were selected and trained in specific specialty areas and many new special apparatus were acquired. To ensure the optimal availability and distribution of resources, a tiered response system of layered response grades of incrementally higher levels of specialized capabilities was established. This allows for deployment of an appropriate mix of special units, while maintaining adequate capabilities to manage additional incidents citywide. Existing engine and ladder companies, as well as EMS units, took on additional functions and designations, and specialized vehicles were acquired, providing capabilities that did not exist prior to the attacks.

Many of these units are pre-designated to operate as part of specific task forces such as Technical Decon Task Forces, Collapse Task Forces and Rescue Medical Task Forces, to expedite the assignment of specific resources to an incident.

While the terrorist attacks of 2001 took a tremendous toll, decimating the department, these new initiatives and others have helped to currently position the department to deal with future threats and incidents. In addition to the apparatus pictured, the department has placed the following units into service:

Fire Department Operations Center (FDOC) – Known as the “War Room,” the FDOC is staffed by both fire and EMS personnel. It tracks citywide resources, monitors multiple radio networks, and can access maps, building diagrams, photos, building data, floor plans, satellite images, multiple databases of other agencies, live feeds from news media helicopters and other sources to provide information to on-scene incident commanders.

Air Recon Chief – Selected battalions have been trained and equipped to function as airborne observers. They are deployed as required via New York Police Department helicopters.

Planning Chief – Selected battalions have been trained to operate as planning chiefs at large-scale incidents. Their function is to gather required information, coordinate with the incident commander and plan for deployment of resources for the operational period.

Transit Liaison Officer – Selected battalions have been trained to operate as liaison officers between transit officials and incident commanders. They respond to the respective transit operations center during a transit incident.

Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness – Personnel analyze terrorist attacks worldwide, develop tactics and training programs, perform threat analysis of potential targets, conduct full-scale exercises, interact with federal and local agencies, and produce informational bulletins for field units.

Reserve SOC Units – A fully equipped reserve rescue apparatus is quartered at Ladder 20 in Manhattan. A fully equipped reserve squad apparatus is stored at Engine 270 in Queens. A fully equipped reserve hazmat apparatus is stored at Engine 206 in Brooklyn. These units can be activated immediately with recall personnel. They are sometimes used for special events where a specific threat hazard has been identified.

Decontamination Engines – Twenty-five engine companies have been trained to the hazardous materials operations level as well as in specialized decontamination. Their purpose is to support hazmat operations, and to perform decontamination for responders and exposed civilians. Level B suits, a tent and decontamination equipment are carried in the associated ladder company’s Rapid Response Vehicle.

Incident Management Team (IMT) – Approximately 120 members have been trained to national standards to operate as a Type II Incident Management Team (IMT). They have been deployed outside the city several times for major national incidents and are used to manage major planned events in the city.

Auxiliary Water System – The Auxiliary Water System was designed to replace water mains damaged in an attack, as happened at the World Trade Center. Components of the system can also be used at major dewatering operations. The system consists of three skid-mounted, large-capacity mobile pumping stations. These are fed by smaller, submersible pumps. A 2011 Kenworth T370 roll-off unit can transport the pumps, which are kept at Engine 159 on Staten Island, Ladder 20 in Manhattan and Rescue 3 in the Bronx. The satellite units and airport hose wagons are transitioning to six-inch hose to use with this system.

Hazmat Battalion – Members are trained to the hazmat technician level and the unit responds to significant hazardous materials incidents, whenever Hazmat 1 or a Hazmat Technician unit responds.

Portable-on-Demand (POD) – There are two 2004 Mack roll-off units and 10 pre-loaded containers of shoring material and collapse equipment. One unit is kept at the Fire Academy, while the other is quartered with Ladder 79 on Staten Island. Both have loaded containers attached. The other eight containers are strategically positioned at facilities throughout the city.

JOHN A. CALDERONE is a battalion chief with 39 years of service in the FDNY. He holds a degree in fire protection technology and has served in a wide variety of assignments. Calderone has authored several books and numerous articles and is the editor of Fire Apparatus Journal. A version of this article appears in the book WTC: In Their Own Words. Copies may be purchased at http://www.firehouse.com/wtcbook.