What is in this article?:
- Calgary Finds Success with Consolidated Technical-Rescue Teams
- Staffing, Training and Budgeting
(Appeared in print as "All Together Now")
The Calgary Fire Department has a long and proud history of innovation and leadership amongst the fire services dating back nearly 130 years. Through those years, the city and the department have grown exponentially from their modest roots.
Today, guided by values of pride, professionalism, teamwork and respect, CFD crews provide fire, medical and technical rescue services, while working to promote fire prevention and safety through educational programs. Through its public-education initiatives, the department reached 1 in 10 residents in 2011. Meanwhile, the department’s 1,400 employees serve a population of 1.3 million from 38 fire stations, and its crews responded to more than 50,000 incidents in 2011.
A source of pride in the department emanates from its strong technical response teams. CFD’s hazmat response, aquatic rescue, high-angle rescue, heavy rescue and aircraft crash-rescue teams are known for their skills and their timely and effective response. In fact, members of CFD’s technical teams often are called upon as subject-matter experts to offer guidance and support to other departments and agencies.
Recently, the CFD consolidated the traditionally separate technical teams into an Operational Technical Team Portfolio. The grouping allows the department to better coordinate and manage the efforts of the teams to meet ever increasing operational requirements and budget priorities. To achieve this, a comprehensive review of the individual teams has been undertaken to assess administration, staffing, training models, service efficiencies, equipment needs and budgetary requirements.
What They Do
The hazmat team responds to thousands of calls every year, including environmental spills, motor-vehicle collisions, fires and other disasters. The CFD has three hazmat trucks located in strategic areas of the city. In addition to their hazmat technician-level training, they also are CBRNE advanced-level trained, and form the city’s CBRNE response team, along with the Calgary Police Service and Alberta Health Services EMS. Responders from all agencies train together on an ongoing basis and are trained and equipped to deal with any significant threat that a CBRNE incident could pose.
Meanwhile, members of the aquatic rescue team are trained to peak performance in water rescue and dive recovery. This technical team is best known for its ability to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies on or near Calgary’s rivers, lakes and canals, while promoting safety and enjoyment of the city’s waterways in all seasons. While the CFD has three water-rescue stations located in close proximity to the busiest waterways, all engines and crews are equipped to perform initial shore-based aquatic responses. The aquatic rescue team responds to calls on nearly 50 kilometers (31 miles) of rivers, 15 kilometers (9 miles) of canals, two major dams and 18 lakes in the Calgary region.
Between May and October, more than 30,000 people take to Calgary’s waterways on inner tubes, canoes and kayaks, or simply enjoy a dip in the water. While the temperature may soar to 30°C (86°F), the glacier-fed waters of the Bow and Elbow rivers can be cold, swift and unpredictable.
The CFD’s heavy-rescue team specializes in all aspects of heavy rescue and other advanced search-and-rescue procedures. Members are trained extensively in analysis, search methods and rescue procedures in structures built with wood, steel, brick and reinforced concrete. They use a variety of specialized equipment, including hydraulic breaching tools and miniature search cameras. In addition to building collapse, the team responds to confined spaces, mechanical entrapment, vehicle extrication and trench rescue. The heavy-rescue team has served since 1983and was one of the first of its kind in North America. Members consistently expand their knowledge and technical ability to deliver world-class rescue services to Calgarians.
From high atop Calgary’s skyscrapers to steep riverbanks and worksites, CFD’s high-angle rescue team responds to situations that require rope-rescue techniques. The team also was one of the first of its kind in North America and since its inception members consistently have expanded their knowledge and technical ability to deliver world-class rescue services to the Calgary community. The team is strategically based out of the downtown area, allowing for rapid response time in both the urban core and surrounding areas.
The high-angle team executes rescues involving injured or trapped victims in a variety of challenging environments, including building exteriors and interiors, shafts, construction sites, tower cranes, bridges and electrical transmission towers.
Serving one of busiest airports in the country, the CFD is one of only a few Canadian departments to provide aircraft-disaster services. Crews stationed at the Calgary International Airport attend a variety of calls — both on and off airport property — and are the primary responders for aircraft emergency standbys and medical calls. Aircraft rescue team members undergo training and certification to prepare for all types of aviation-related incidents. Crews also inspect construction activities on airport property involving open flame, sparks or hazardous materials.
In addition to fire-suppression and technical-rescue requirements, technical team members are heavily involved in delivering community-focused programs, including public education related to fire prevention and safety.