Aerials As Rescue Aren’t Far-Fetched

A tractor-drawn aerial can block several lanes of traffic and carry lots of tools.
A tractor-drawn aerial for accident responses can block several lanes of traffic at once and carry lots of tools.
Quints have water and carry rescue equipment.
Quints have water for fire suppression and usually carry a variety of rescue equipment. (Staff Photo)
Anne Arundel County Fire Department has decided it's cost effective to have the truck company respond for rescue operations.
Anne Arundel County (Md.) Fire Department has decided it’s cost effective to have the truck company respond for rescue operations taking advantage of typically large caches of tools on board aerials. (Fire Apparatus Photos)
The aerial has other duties than motor vehicle accidents and tool placement will be thought out so they are available.
It is important to realize that the aerial will have other duties than just motor vehicle accidents and tool placement will have to be well thought out so they are readily available when needed. (Fire Apparatus Photos)

One focus of this month’s magazine is aerial apparatus. Now, you’re probably wondering what does this topic have to do with vehicle rescue and extrication – something that fits into the “Road Warrior” column.

Well, think back to basic firefighting class. Try to remember that one of the functions of the truck company is rescue, and we have always tagged that truck as a big toolbox.

Given that refresher, there are many departments that run a truck company for rescues. Even if you don’t have a truck company in your department or use it on rescues, or don’t run with one on mutual aid calls, you might get some ideas that could change your mind, or pick up a few general tips you’ll find useful.

Practiced Widely

From San Diego Calif., to Anne Arundel, Md., over the years departments have used their truck companies as rescue companies. The Owings Mills Fire Company in Baltimore County, Md., even runs a tractor drawn Seagrave aerial as its primary rescue piece.

In the age of doing more with less and thinking out side of the box, maximizing the capabilities of our special services and combining vehicles is something we should all consider.

For Anne Arundel County, it’s not a new concept. The department has been running its truck companies on rescue calls since the early 1980s.

A Second Look

Owning Mills has been doing it since the mid-1970s. For various reasons, time has forgotten the practice, but it may be time to look at it again using Anne Arundel County’s operations as a primer.

Anne Arundel started the practice of equipping its truck companies with extrication equipment and dispatching them to vehicle accidents with entrapment, and rescues to help provide coverage and supplement the rescue squads throughout the county.

This practice has grown to include all trucks in the department, even new quints. They not only have vehicle rescue equipment, they also have a good cache of water rescue and technical rescue equipment to help carry out the department’s mission.

The units carry a vast array of hand- and battery-operated tools, a preconnected hydraulic pump with hose reels, a portable pump for remote usage, an assortment of rams, cutters, spreaders, combination tools, air bags, low pressure air cylinders, pneumatic tools, scene lighting and related equipment.

The only real drawback to this type of response is the limited space on aerial apparatus because the units are expected to do other functions on a fire scene. This is illustrated best by the lack of space for large amounts of cribbing that a stand-alone rescue, or squad vehicle usually provides.

To compensate for space limitations, Anne Arundel has spent time laying out its apparatus and compartments with equipment access and purpose in mind. Personnel have equipped aerial apparatus for rescue no matter if it is a ladder, tower or quint.

When new apparatus is specified, room is planned for and dedicated to rescue equipment. Truck companies can be as well equipped as most medium and heavy-duty rescue squad vehicles.

‘Big Toolbox’

Keep in mind the truck company’s function is rescue and the truck is the original big toolbox. Think about crossovers between rescue operations and firefighting operations. The vast majority of extrication equipment can also be used for forcible entry. And, don’t forget, most aerial apparatus have lighting equipment, ventilation equipment and even high-angle rescue gear.

With tight budgets, using the truck company for rescue operations can also give us more bang for our buck by taking advantage of an existing fleet and combining services. Another advantage is reduced response times. In many cases, there are more truck companies around than rescue companies.

When considering the staffing on truck companies, keep in mind most “truckies” are well versed and have diverse training and experience, including rescue training. So, it’s a natural fit. When it comes right down to it, most truckies like working with power tools and breaking things – in the name of safety and service to the public. The connection between truckies and rescue operations also allows departments to focus training in one company area.

Looking at the rigs themselves, there are also natural connections there as well. In Anne Arundel, for instance, the department is running straight towers, aerials and quints as its truck/rescue companies. The department’s new quints are equipped with foam systems for vehicle accidents and fire responses.

In Baltimore County and Owings Mills, they even use a tractor-drawn aerial for motor vehicle accident responses. Talk about extra compartment space, not to mention being able to block several lanes of traffic with one apparatus.

If your department is considering converting an existing truck to respond on rescue calls, or developing specifications for a new one, make sure you leave ample space and access for all equipment. Equipment needs to be easily deployable, have sufficient power to operate and extra electrical capacities for scene lighting.

Locating preconnected reels is also important to make sure firefighters and rescuers have enough line, or hose to reach where needed.

From a response standpoint, the truck that rolls on rescue calls can respond as a single resource for all rescue responses, or it can be used as the initial responder, backed up by a heavy rescue squad unit.

Truckies As Rescue Backup

In Anne Arundel, the truck/rescue company runs as the initial rescue in its “first due” areas, unless the squad is closer. The truckies are also backed up by one of the heavy rescue squads on large accident scenes with multiple or complex entrapments and tricky rescues. Sometimes, a second truck company is sent as back up, all of which makes for a good team effort and helps develop the relationships between the companies when they find themselves working together on “The Big One.”

Give some consideration to upgrading your truck company to a truck/rescue company as there are some big advantages that will not only help the department in the event of a fire ground emergency by having extra rescue equipment available, but also take advantage of the ability to have more rescue units for response and an increased deployment for the everyday responses.

Isn’t rescue patient-based? If we are able to respond with the right equipment and training, quickly by having more units available, then we are getting to the patient and removing them from harm that much quicker.

I’d like to give special thanks to Battalion Chief Mike Cox and Firefighter Brandon Hiller of the Anne Arundel County (Md.) Fire Department for their assistance with this article.

As always stay safe and return to quarters.

Editor’s Note: Allen Baldwin is the manager of operations and incident response for the Pennsylvania Turnpike commission and a volunteer captain with the Gettysburg (Pa.) Fire Department. He has been a firefighter and EMT for over 25 years, once serving as a career fire chief. He is an instructor with the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and several community colleges.

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