Special Operations: Fire Departments Don't Just Put Out Fires
Many fire departments have numerous specialist teams. It would be a very basic description of a fire department to say they only extinguish fires. Firefighters work to prevent the loss of life and to protect the environment in many ways. Whether it be in municipal, airport or industrial settings fire departments provide many valuable services.
Here is a quick overview of some but not all of the specialist teams in operation today:
“HazMat teams” are personnel specially trained to handle dangerous goods. Dangerous goods include materials that are radioactive, flammable, explosive, corrosive, oxidizing, asphyxiating, biohazardous, toxic, pathogenic, or allergenic. Also included are physical conditions such as compressed gases and liquids or hot materials, including all goods containing such materials or chemicals, or may have other characteristics that render them hazardous in specific circumstances.
Urban search and rescue (USAR) involves the location, extrication, and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped in structural collapse due to natural disasters, mines and collapsed trenches. The causes of USAR incidents can be categorised as accidental and deliberate. USAR services can be faced with complex rescue operations within hazardous environment. Incidents experience shows that people are often found alive many hours and days after rescue operations commence, and the corresponding services should be planned accordingly.
Bomb Squads provide the highest quality service by rendering hazards safe, investigating crimes and educating the public. They ensure the protection of life, infrastructure and property. There are few fire department run bomb squads. Only around 40 across the United States.
Technical rescue refers to those aspects of saving life or property that employ the use of tools and skills that exceed those normally reserved for fire fighting, medical emergency, and rescue. These disciplines include, confined space rescue, ski rescue, cave rescue, excavation rescue, and building collapse rescue, among others. In the United States and Canada, technical rescues will often have multiple jurisdictions operating together to effect the rescue, and will often use the Incident Command System to manage the incident and resources at scene.
Swiftwater rescue is a rescue dealing in whitewater river conditions. Due to the added pressure of moving water, swiftwater rescue involves the use of specially trained personnel, ropes and mechanical advantage systems that are often much more robust than those used in standard rope rescue. The main goal is to use or deflect the water’s power to assist in the rescue of the endangered person, as in most situations there is no easy way to overcome the power of the water.
Aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) is a specialized category of emergency response that involves the response, hazard mitigation, evacuation and possible rescue of passengers and crew of an aircraft involved in an airport emergency. Due to the potential for a mass casualty emergency in an aviation emergency, the speed with which response personnel and equipment reach the scene of an emergency is of paramount importance. The timely arrival of resources and the initial mission to secure the aircraft against all hazards, particularly fire, increases the likelihood of a positive outcome for all involved.