- Photo courtesy of FDNY.

Photo courtesy of FDNY.

In this column, I will discuss a buffet-style option of setting up an emergency response team’s training program. To accomplish this, I will use as an example a course given to new members of FDNY’s Special Operations Command (SOC) and how it evolved to fit a large variety of ever-changing needs.

This will be related to how an industrial team can utilize this buffet approach to set up a training program to address their particular needs.

The Rescue Technician course is a three week course that along with the three week Hazardous Materials Technician II course comprises the initial entry training for new members of SOC. The curriculum was initially adapted from the New York State (NYS) Fire Academy course of the same name. Even when it was initially adapted it was customized to address specific situations and equipment.

The reason that this was possible is that while the NYS course was geared towards a varied audience the SOC course is geared towards one particular audience. In addition to providing for our initial training needs it also allowed FDNY SOC to begin receiving NYS certifications for these courses. This was useful when documenting our training in situations such as being certified as a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team.

In its initial format, following the state model, it was a two week course that provided an entry (or awareness) level or training in some of our core disciplines such as: high angle, collapse, trench and confined space rescue. To fulfill our training needs this initial training is later followed up by full courses and in some cases advanced courses in each of the core disciplines.

This course not only laid the foundation for further training but it also made the new members immediately useful when responding to these types of incidents.

As the course developed, curriculum was added and modified to fit the particular requirements of FDNY SOC. One example of this was the addition of a water rescue awareness day. When a member of SOC completes this course and their other core courses they are considered a collapse technician and thus eligible to put in an application for a position on New York City’s USAR team, New York Task Force 1 (NY-TF1).

However to be a collapse technician, one of the requirements is water rescue awareness training. To fulfill this requirement, it was added to the curriculum. Later as we recognized the value of the water rescue training other items were added to the water rescue curriculum such as training the new members to assist SOC’s rescue divers with their equipment, deployment and operations.

In this case, what started as an effort to fulfill certification requirements evolved into training that enabled new members to be of immediate use towards fulfilling an important mission.

Another example of an evolution of the curriculum was the inclusion of advanced firefighter rescue techniques as well as other training that has been found to be useful in aiding firefighters in distress, such as team search techniques which are useful in finding people missing in large areas.

The reasons that this advanced training is included in an entry level course are that even though the members taking the course are new to SOC they are all experienced firefighters and the rescue of missing or trapped firefighters is generally considered SOC’s most important mission.

 - Photo courtesy of FDNY.

Photo courtesy of FDNY.

As the rescue technician course stands, it consists of the topics that are deemed important to include in the members initial training for different reasons.

  • Overview
  • High angle
  • Confined space
  • Trench collapse

The introduction, high angle, confined space, trench and collapse portions of this course are intended to give an overview of the general operations of SOC companies as well as an entry level of knowledge on these specific topics so the members can be an immediate asset at operations.

  • Specialized tools
  • The Tactical Support Unit (TAC)

The specialized tools and TAC unit days of the course are an introduction to some of the specialized equipment carried by and delivered for the use of SOC companies. At a minimum, this should enable new members to set up this equipment for the use of members with a higher level of training.

  • Firefighter rescue team search
  • Thermal imaging camera

The firefighter rescue, team search, and thermal imaging camera portion of the course bring the members to an advanced level of training on the important topic of rescuing a lost, trapped or missing firefighter.

  • Auto extrication
  • Water Rescue, including ice rescue and SCUBA operations.

The auto extrication and water rescue days offer an advanced level of training on topics which SOC companies may be called to assist other FDNY units. In addition the SCUBA portion of water rescue  offers a base level of knowledge required to assist members that have this advanced training.

  • Man-in-machine entrapments
  • Subway operations
  • Elevator and escalator rescue
  • Heavy rigging

Man-in-machine entrapments; subway operations; elevator and escalator rescue and heavy rigging are all standalone components. These days of the course provide a foundation for members to operate at these specialized scenarios.

Collectively the individual components of the Rescue Technician curriculum:

Fulfill portions of the certification and training requirements of new members of SOC as well as some of the requirements of members who will apply for NY-TF1 of the SOC Task Force.

Our goal is to immediately make new members a useful part of the team during technical rescue operations (even if only at a basic level).

Lay the foundation for future training.

Provide advanced training on topics of special significance e.g. firefighter rescue.

Some of the ways that this tailored approach to training can be utilized by industrial teams in addition to those reasons it is utilized by FDNY (listed above) include:

Provide members that can support the operations of members trained to a higher level. This can be a cost effective force multiplier.

Provide a base level of training for members of an emergency team. Building upon this base, select members can specialize on given topics such as Hazmat. Again this can be a cost effective alternative, opposed to having all members trained to a higher level on all pertinent topics.

It can be used to train for a tiered response where a large portion of personnel can be trained on the hazards and more common occurrences specific to a given facility and the immediate actions to take while waiting for personnel trained to a higher level.

A course designed upon this type of format can range from an all-inclusive day of training, to a course more like the FDNY SOC’s consisting of three weeks or more, followed up by more advanced training. This can include the SOC mode of training where after receiving advanced training some members receive specialized training.

If assigned to a squad company, this can be training offered at numerous hazardous materials schools around the country; if assigned to a rescue company this can be SCUBA training; and if the member is on the SOC task force it can be swift water rescue and swift water boat operator schools.

This buffet or probably more appropriately termed an a la carte approach, allows you to order only what you want off the menu so you end up with the training program that is appropriate for whatever your training needs are.

James Kiesling is a captain with the Fire Department, City of New York’s Special Operations Command. He holds as AOS in fire protection technology from Corning Community College, a BS in fire and emergency services from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an MA in homeland security and defense from the Naval Postgraduate School.