FDNY’s Haz-Tac Battalion

July 3, 2023
Mark Bonilla describes the unique training that members of an exclusive unit of the department's EMS Special Operations Command undergo to prepare for high-risk/low-probability events.

They call New York City “the city that never sleeps.” It’s home to more than 8 million residents. These people are surrounded by beauty—the ocean, rivers and skyscrapers, including One World Trade Center, which is the tallest building in the city at 1,792 feet/104 stories. The New York City subway infrastructure reaches a depth as far as 173 feet below street level and stretches more than 248 miles.

The men and women of FDNY respond to more than 1.5 million medical emergencies per year. Working in a dynamic city requires these members to prepare for high-consequence/low-probability events. These can include terrorist events, natural disasters and pandemic outbreaks. FDNY EMS Special Operations Command Haz-Tac Battalion is prepared to respond to these types of incidents.


The Haz-Tac Battalion is composed of more than 400 members who are trained to the Hazardous Materials Medical Technician (Haz-Tac) level by the department’s own Haz-Tac Training Unit.

The members of the Haz-Tac Battalion are competitively selected from EMS members who seek the additional responsibilities. All personnel must attend a 160-hour initial training program. They also must attend 40 hours of additional training annually, during which they learn how to operate in different levels of chemical protective clothing (CPC), terrorism awareness and how to manage patients who might be sick or injured from the “product”.

Haz-Tac Battalion members are equipped with CPC and SCBA. Haz-Tac EMTs and paramedics can provide patient assessment/treatment in Hot Zone and Warm Zone environments alongside FDNY firefighters.

Additional treatment protocols to specific hazmat exposures are authorized for Haz-Tac-trained members as well.


The Haz-Tac Battalion works hand and hand with FDNY’s Hazmat Company 1, Chemical Protection Companies (CPC engines) and Hazmat School. Collaborating resources of hazmat and Haz-Tac operations has proved to be successful over the years.

Recently, with the help of the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Haz-Tac training program became Pro Board-certified to the Hazmat Operations Level. Further, the program is one of the only EMS agencies in the country that trains its members to operate in the Dräger Rebreather.

Nerve agent release

Having one of the largest transit systems and being one of the most target rich environments in the world, New York City is extremely vulnerable to attacks. One of the incidents that members routinely train on is a nerve agent release in a New York City subway system, based on the Tokyo subway sarin attack. (On March 20, 1995, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult organized a nerve agent release on Tokyo’s transit system. In all, 13 people were killed and more than 6,000 people were exposed to the agent.)

For response to a nerve agent release, the members of Haz-Tac Battalion are trained to go down range to treat patients with the DuoDote nerve agent antidote kit. The members are paired with extraction teams for the soul purpose of treating downed patients and members with the antidote as quickly as possible prior to decontamination.

Haz-Tac Battalion members also would be utilized in the decon area to continue to treat patients with additional DuoDotes, atropine or benzodiazepines for seizures if necessary.


During the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa in 2014–2016, the Haz-Tac Battalion was instrumental in the treatment and transport of infected or suspected infected patients. The Battalion was placed on high alert and utilized for the detection and utilization of suspected Ebola patients.

The first confirmed case of Ebola in New York City was handled by members of the Haz-Tac Battalion.

Because of the extensive training in the fields of chemical protective equipment and biological agents, Haz-Tac Battalion members often partake in drills for transporting Ebola-positive patients from neighboring areas outside of New York City to Ebola receiving hospitals.

Radiological incidents

At radiological incidents and incidents that involve a radiological dispersal device, specific treatment protocols only can be administered by Haz-Tac Battalion units based on the type of exposure received by the patient.

If explosive devices are used to disperse radiological materials, response might need to be done with the additional demands of trauma care. Radiological surface contamination can be addressed in the pre-hospital environment, but radioactive shrapnel must be addressed in the hospital setting. Utilizing reverse isolation, Haz-Tac Battalion members are able to transport such critically injured patients while they protect the members who perform the transport.

For radioactive iodine, Haz-Tac Battalion members are able to treat utilizing potassium iodide pills, to protect the thyroid. For other forms of radiation, such as thallium and cesium, members utilize Prussian blue.

Sharing its expertise

Thirty-nine EMS units that are trained to the Hazardous Materials Medical Technician level are spread throughout the five boroughs of New York City. These units fall under the FDNY EMS Special Operations Haz-Tac Battalion and report to one of two officers who respond citywide to cover more than 300 square miles. Haz-Tac Battalion ambulances are dispatched to medical emergencies in addition to their hazmat response mission.

The Haz-Tac Battalion is engaged with federal, state and local agencies to share experiences and develop best practices.

The local U.S. Army Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team (WMD-CST) and the U.S. Marines Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) train annually with FDNY.

As the Haz-Tac Battalion continues to train, reevaluate and hone its mission statement, it always looks back and appreciates those who got the unit to where it is today and always remembers the lessons those people taught the battalion.


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Dec. 27, 2006

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