Regional Rescue Apparatus Order Pays Off for New Jersey Strike Team

(1) Each unit in the New Jersey Metro USAR Strike Team fleet is 102 inches wide and 22 feet, four inches deep. All the rescue trucks were required to have the same equipment in the same locations across the fleet.
(1) Each unit in the New Jersey Metro USAR Strike Team fleet is 102 inches wide and 22 feet, four inches deep. All the rescue trucks were required to have the same equipment in the same locations across the fleet. (Photos courtesy of Rescue 1.)
(2) A transverse compartment immediately behind the crew cab includes dual slide-out trays that can hold 2,000 pounds.
(2) A transverse compartment immediately behind the crew cab includes dual slide-out trays that can hold 2,000 pounds.

Regionalization of certain resources is not a new concept. There have been large-diameter hose task forces for many years, as well as rescue task forces. Supporting a rescue task force are strike teams. According to Battalion Chief Brian McDermott of the Paterson (NJ) Fire Department, assistant chair of the strike team, the main difference between a task force and a strike team is that a strike team is made up of like units.

New Jersey is no stranger to task forces or strike teams, and McDermott credits the state for taking the lead in using the regional concept. For example, there is the Union County Neptune Task Force, which can place a Kidde Neptune pump in service to pump water through 12-inch supply line to an Iron Man nozzle. In this case, various units from various departments converge to put the task force together. But, for the New Jersey Metro USAR Strike Team, the 11 units in the strike team are nearly identical.

The Team

The team formed in 2004, with the Newark (NJ) Fire Department, the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, the Paterson (NJ) Fire Department, the Hackensack (NJ) Fire Department, North Hudson (NJ) Regional Fire & Rescue, the Hoboken (NJ) Fire Department, the Bayonne (NJ) Fire Department, the Morristown (NJ) Fire Department, and the Elizabeth (NJ) Fire Department as its first members. The program expanded in 2009 to include Port Authority Police and the Middlesex County (NJ) Urban Search and Rescue (USAR).

The team consists of a minimum of 440 members. Every month a representative from each member department, the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety (NJDFS), New Jersey Task Force 1 (NJTF-1), the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHS&P), and the State Police meet to drive the present and future operations for the team.

Since its inception, the team has responded to multiple incidents including a natural gas explosion that leveled several houses in Irvington, New Jersey; a shoring incident in Dover, New Jersey; several responses to Paterson, New Jersey, one of which was a 10-story building under demolition that pancake collapsed; and a major parking deck collapse in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Depending on the call, when the team responds, the first wave of response is a partial response, consisting of a minimum of one officer and five firefighters on each unit. “They all must be trained personnel,” says McDermott. “We report to and work under the direction of the local incident commander (IC). All of our actions are approved by the IC.” If the incident calls for more units, a full response is sent, consisting of all 11 units and a minimum of 66 personnel. The Hackensack collapse, for example, was a full response, says McDermott.

The Rigs

The idea of having a regional fleet was originally conceived in 2003 and 2004. “Robert Hansson, the State Priority Chair for USAR, and Dennis Quinn, of the New Jersey OHS&P, came up with an idea to implement a program that would foster a regional concept in responding to infrastructure disasters,” says McDermott.

In terms of the units themselves, “The theory was to have the units standardized to maintain efficiency in both emergency response and training,” adds McDermott. “This also aids in reducing cost by purchasing in bulk.” The strike team took delivery of the first rescue trucks in 2005.

The initial apparatus order for the strike team was for nine heavy rescue trucks, which were all built by Rescue 1, located in New Jersey. Mike Marquis, vice president, Rescue 1 sales, says each truck is 102 inches wide and 22 feet, four inches long and is built on a Spartan Advantage chassis. Each has an ISC Cummins 320-horsepower engine and a 25-kilowatt Onan generator. “Each truck had to be built to the contract,” he says. “We did allow exterior paint schemes to match individual departments’ requirements, but we had to put the trucks together the same way. Basically they gave us their equipment list for us to try to fit their equipment in an organized fashion.”

McDermott says that all 11 are laid out the same. So, if a piece of equipment is in one location on one truck, it will be in the same location on another truck. They are all at training evolutions, and they respond together when called for service.

“The equipment, where we put it, had to be in the same compartment,” adds Marquis. “It didn’t have to be mounted exactly the same but it had to be in the same compartment.”

Equipment for the rigs is divided into different categories and fits the mold of a type 2 rescue truck, according to McDermott. The categories are lifting and moving equipment, breaking and breaching equipment, cutting and burning equipment, shoring equipment, and miscellaneous equipment. “Future equipment will include a full cache of confined-space equipment, life safety rope and hardware, and thermal cameras,” says McDermott.

As far as training, “We are trained to structural collapse operations 1 and 2, confined space operations/rope and rigging, and trench 1 and 2,” says McDermott. “All of these classes are fully hands-on training with both technical and scenario-based exercises.” He adds that the training is provided through Rutgers University in cooperation with NJTF-1. “We are tasked with performing one live exercise annually as a group,” says McDermott.

Last year’s training scenario, for example, involved a simulated train tunnel accident. “This exercise tested all aspects of our training, which included recon and air metering, a vertical and horizontal breach, a trench rescue, and lifting and moving of heavy concrete,” says McDermott. “We have planned new training that will refresh current members and keep them on their toes. A special thanks should go to NJTF-1, which has instructed since day one and has provided us with KSAs to keep our people safe and perform when called on.”

Practical Advice

Putting together specs for a fleet of rescue trucks carrying the myriad equipment this strike team carries isn’t an easy task. In one way, if each truck will be essentially the same, it might seem easy because a group will just have one set of specs. Be that as it may, McDermott has some suggestions that fit large fleet orders as well as single-truck orders.

“Ensure that equipment is properly mounted, and place heavier equipment on rated roll-out shelves,” asserts McDermott. The strike team did just that, spec’ing out a transverse compartment immediately behind the crew cab that includes dual 2,000-pound trays that it loaded with 1,600 pounds of struts and bases. McDermott also suggests that rescue vehicles designed like the strike team’s, which do not have coffin compartments or walkways on top of the apparatus, should pipe the exhaust to the roof.

Marquis emphasizes the importance of end user input. “In this case, when the individual users had a say, it went a long way,” he says. “You have to know what you want and you have to discuss it with the manufacturer so it can help you build it.”

Positive Experience

Ultimately, both sides-the manufacturer and the end user-are pleased with the rescue units delivered. “We would be very happy to do more of these,” says Marquis. “We’ve gained a tremendous amount of recognition throughout the different paid fire departments in northern New Jersey.”

The same goes for the strike team. “The fleet is holding up very well,” says McDermott. “I had the pleasure of working with Rescue 1 when it was Paterson’s turn to receive our rig. They were professional and courteous and did some nice work.”

CHRIS Mc LOONE, associate editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, is an 18-year veteran of the fire service and a captain with Weldon Fire Company (Glenside, PA). He has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. While with Fire Engineering, he contributed to the May 2006 issue, a Jesse H. Neal Award winner for its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery.

Equipment Carried on New Jersey Metro USAR Strike Team Units

  • Lifting and moving equipment
  • Multiple paired air bags with the largest having a 70+ ton capacity
  • 50-ton jacks
  • Rope and rigging equipment, complete with high-strength rope, pulleys, carabiners, prussic rope, rigging straps
  • Grip hoist with cable and pulley
  • Hydraulic spreaders, straight and O-cutters, rams and pedal cutter with gas hydraulic pump (CORE Technology); these also include intrinsically safe portable pumps for hazardous atmospheres
  • Breaking and breaching equipment
  • Hydraulic jackhammers and hammer drills with portable hydraulic pump
  • Electric hammerdrill, sawzalls, core drills, chipping hammers, and cutoff saws
  • Battery-operated rebar cutter
  • Assorted hand tools for breaking
  • Cutting and burning equipment
  • Acetylene torch
  • Gasoline torch
  • Gas-powered saws with assorted blade styles
  • Shoring equipment
  • Tool belts complete with carpentry tools
  • Onboard air compressor and portable air compressor
  • Nail guns with nails
  • Circular saws and sliding compound miter saw
  • Multiple struts, extensions, and assorted bases; tread strut and lock stroke struts (for trench)
  • Miscellaneous equipment
  • Onboard and portable generators
  • Basic first-aid equipment, backboard, and stokes baskets
  • Four-hour rebreather units for extended recon
  • Roof-mounted light tower as well as portable and body-mounted lighting
  • Positive-pressure ventilation fan and confined-space fans

Note: Future equipment will include a full cache of confined space equipment, life safety rope and hardware, and thermal cameras.

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