Michael “Mick” Mayers
Within the last ten years, line-of-duty
injuries and fatalities involving special operations prompted the development
of standards for technical rescue training and operations. In addition,
standards were developed for professional qualifications of rescue technicians.
It is apparent that not everyone understands
1670 (Training and Operations) and 1006 (Professional Qualifications),
or how these standards relate to their organizations. Many
agencies charged with responding to technical rescue were either going
all out to meet these standards or doing nothing at all. Some were
under the impression that 1670 was a document that covered qualifications,
when it actually discusses training and operations. NFPA 1006 refers
specifically to technician qualifications.
According to NFPA 1670 , the “Authority
Having Jurisdiction” shall establish levels of operational capability needed
to conduct operations at technical rescue incidents. These capabilities
are based on a community hazard analysis, risk assessment, training level
of personnel, and availability of internal and external resources.
Furthermore, agencies are required to establish written standard operating
procedures consistent with one of the following operational levels:
(a) Awareness - This level
represents the minimum capability of a responder who, in the course of
his or her regular job duties, could be called upon to respond to, or could
be the first on the scene of, a technical rescue incident. This level can
involve search, rescue, and recovery operations. Members of a team at this
level are generally not considered rescuers.
(b) Operations - This level represents
the capability of hazard recognition, equipment use, and techniques necessary
to safely and effectively support and participate in a technical rescue
incident. This level can involve search, rescue, and recovery operations,
but usually operations are carried out under the supervision of technician-level
(c) Technician - This level represents
the capability of hazard recognition, equipment use, and techniques necessary
to safely and effectively coordinate, perform, and supervise a technical
rescue incident. This level can involve search, rescue, and recovery operations.
Technical rescue involves separate disciplines
such as vehicle and machinery extrication, rope, confined spaces, trench
and structural collapses, water and dive operations, and wilderness situations.
If your organization is responding to these types of incidents in any way
whatsoever, you must at least train to the Awareness Level of NFPA 1670.
Since EMS, Law Enforcement, and Emergency Management agencies respond to
these incidents in conjunction with the Fire Department, they should be
preparing to at least the Awareness level as well.
NFPA 1670 goes on to state:
Operational procedures shall not exceed the
agency's identified level of capability.
Agencies shall provide for training and continuing
education in the responsibilities that are commensurate with the identified
operational capability of each member.
Minimum training for all members shall be
at the awareness level. Members expected to perform at a higher operational
level shall be trained to that level.
|What does this mean for
emergency service providers?
Departments need to consider the needs of
their community and prepare their teams to those levels.
||As a responder to
technical rescue alarms, you need to determine the level of response you
are compelled to provide, plan for it, train for it, and allocate resources
to handle it at that level.
Occasionally, rescuers believed that 1670
required the immediate purchase of a bunch of expensive equipment and the
assembly of technician level teams. There is nothing wrong with agencies
training personnel and operating at the Awareness level, so long as they
arrange for the response of external resources if they are not going to
handle it themselves.
|Emphasis of Awareness issues assure that
critical elements of the scene will be managed appropriately by all personnel,
not just the technical rescue team. Safety issues are addressed,
resource needs are identified, and the tech team can do the work instead
of managing the scene.
Your agency's commitment to respond to
a technical rescue assumes that you have accepted a duty to act.
In South Carolina, the fire department generally has taken on the responsibility
for mitigating technical incidents, or at least managing them until the
appropriate resources can be obtained. Some EMS agencies in South
Carolina currently respond to technical rescues as the principal provider.
Your own individual state laws will dictate who has the ultimate responsibility
for response. The level of response is dependent upon the scope of
your organization, and then only subsequent to analysis of your community
hazard assessment. A well-done hazard assessment should help your
organization determine the likelihood of need and the potential financial
and social impact on the community. This analysis then assists you
in creating a plan to obtain the necessary resources.
Since this discussion involves awareness
issues, I have chosen to point out the keys to developing a program based
on this level of response. These are the nuts and bolts of any operation
and particularly technical rescue, for if you fail to address these basic
needs, your program is bound to fail. The consequences of failure
can be injuries and fatalities to civilians and rescuers, as well as liability.
The key points of a successful Awareness
level technical rescue program will include:
Identification of Hazards- In order
to determine which hazards exist in your community, you must conduct a
hazard assessment. Which events are likely to occur? Which incidents
may not be as frequent, but are inevitable, such as acts of nature?
What disciplines are going to be required to handle an emergency of this
Forming a Plan- After consideration
of the hazard analysis, what level of response will meet the needs of the
hazard analysis? Do you currently have the resources (trained personnel,
equipment, apparatus, and procedures) to meet these needs? What reasonable
budget do you think you can sell to your controlling authority for these
needs? If you consider volunteers or external resources, what is
the likelihood they will respond? (They may have other obligations in disasters).
Can you develop a long-term plan and phase it in? Remember that in the
case of a multi-discipline hazard like a major building collapse, even
if you are the largest provider in the State, your organization is not
likely going to be able to handle it on your own. In these
cases you should consider entering into regional mutual aid agreements
or discussing options with the county or state emergency management divisions.
Obtaining Resources- Using the plan,
determine whom you have on staff that can help to plug in the parts.
Consider that your team needs to meet the identified level of response
and you are going to need the appropriate tools and materials for the situation.
Develop internal and external resource lists. Identify how to contact
increased resources, staging for more, and plan for expansion. Insure
that the organization is meeting OSHA needs as well, especially in the
confined space and trench disciplines.
Training Personnel- All personnel
with the potential to respond or arrive first on a technical rescue incident
need to have Awareness training. The training should be specific
to hazard as possible and should discuss your organization's approach to
the problem. Developing training using your hazard analysis, your
plan, and your SOGs develops ownership in the plan and will facilitate
user comfort when things get bad. Use this stage to identify and
develop your team leaders. Consider also asking contractors and utilities
to attend and obtain certification when you are conducting Awareness training
on structural collapse, confined space, or trench issues. By doing
so, your organization educates the people who will likely be first involved
in these situations and it also gives your employees perspective as to
how these situations are handled outside the fire service.
Implementing the Plan- Formally
announce the operational status of the plan by issuing a press release
and notifying your employees. This formal introduction gives the
plan a starting point and makes all the players aware that this is how
things will be done from here on out. The press release gets the
public involved and sets your agency up to discuss additional funding,
if that is necessary for the next stages of the project. This method
of implementation also provides a forum to present your current capabilities
and future plans to outside agencies like mutual aid departments, utilities
Testing and Re-evaluating - Finally,
schedule and conduct drills to test the personnel, to insure the plan is
being used. If the plan is not being used, remediate the personnel
or solve the problems that prevent the plan from working properly.
Arrival at the scene requires your agency
to either deal with the situation or ignore it. I don't anticipate
anyone in the fire service planning to ignore the situation, so my suggestion
is to plan ahead to develop or seek the resources to handle these emergencies
when they occur. Identification of potential liabilities, development
of a strategy to handle the incident, educating your personnel, and putting
a plan into action will at least see you and your colleagues through to
another incident safely.