Special Operations Training Ideas

When dealing in fire department Special Operations, we must constantly be thinking outside the box when it comes to new innovative training ideas that push our boundaries and keep our heads where they need to be. It is tough sometimes to come up with new ideas that will stimulate and challenge our members. Below are a couple of easy drills that you can do at your firehouse that will keep your guys on their toes and get them thinking.

Impalement on Rope


An ironworker slips and falls impaling himself 6 stories up….. the only way to access him…. rope rescue.

Nothing like ramping up a drill you have done 1000 times! Standard pick off’s can sometimes become a “going through the motions” drill for good crews, it is important to constantly push your members to the next level on the training ground…. an easy way to do that with pick off’s is to add new elements to it. Adding new elements/challenges will push your members out of their comfort zone and push their capabilities to the next level.


An impalement on rope is a great way to push it to the next level. Some issues that you can come across while doing this are:

  • Will the Rescue Diaper/Yates Harness/LSP fit on the patient with the impalement in the way? A good chance to get away from using that “one way” that we always do!
  • What cutting tool are you going to use?
  • How are you gonna get tools to the rescuer?
  • How are you gonna handle blade or battery changes?

This drill can be done with several different types of metals that will require different cutting tools to be used.



Confined Space Cutting and Tool Usage

This one was passed along by Lt. Grant Light from Cincinnati Heavy Rescue 9.

When talking about machine rescue or collapse rescue we are forced to use tools and equipment in tough and awkward positions, this drill is all about teaching members to use our cutting tools in these awkward positions in spaces where it is tough to see and move.


The drill is an easy one. Pay attention when you are out in your first due for anyone throwing out a fridge, freezer, stove, etc. Place the appliance at the end of a small piece of corrugated tubing and ratchet strap the appliance to the end of the tube so that it does not move.

Now you can use as many different cutting tools as you can to make the hole large enough to pass a rescuer through. To make the drill even more difficult you can stick metal or other stuff inside the appliance that will have to be cut.

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Mini Shoring for Collapse Rescue

Collapse rescue can be very costly, especially when it comes to training and drilling with your crew. Lets be honest not many departments have the luxury of being able to go out and build full size collapse rescue systems out of full dimensional lumber on a monthly basis.

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An easy way to still be able to drill, and keep this stuff in your guys heads is to build mini version of these shoring systems. You can use just regular lumber that you have laying around or you can buy actual to scale model wood from hobby shops.

This will give you the opportunity to work out load calculations, angles, nail patterns, etc.

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Remember that this does NOT in anyway replace your standard collapse training, this is simply a quick 1 hour refresher drill to keep this stuff fresh in everyone’s mind.

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Just a couple small ideas that can help keep your crew on their toes!

Till next time, training is everything!

Andrew Brassard

Milton Fire Department

Pumper 31



Swift Water Rescue Training

Hard work, passion, and a little ingenuity is all you need to come up with fantastic company level training. You don’t need a big training facility to put on great training, you just need to use some imagination.

This is a prop that the Austin Fire Department in Texas put together for training their members in car removals in swift water rescue situations.


They put a car into a boat launch so that most of the car was submerged, they then used handlines of an engine company and a fire boat to cause the river like effect. This allowed them to preform various removal techniques in easily controllable situations.



Not only does it get your members out doing swift water training but it also gets you out stretching hose, pumping your lines, ropes and knots, medical, setting up your ladder truck, and anything else that you wanted to put into the scenario.




So get out their and push your training to the next level. A serious “hat tip” to the Austin Fire Department on this training.

Hi Lift Jacks

Hi Lift Jacks are a tremendous tool in our rescue “tool box”, they have a great lift capacity and they have a tremendous amount of lifting/spreading/pulling distance that they can travel. I think that this tool has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years and I think that allot of it has to do with our over reliance on Air Bags as our primary lifting tool. For me though I feel that the Hi Lift Jack gives much more versatility than allot of people know about and they have tons of applications on the rescue ground.

Pulling Tool
The Hi lift jack can make a great pulling tool as well as a lifting tool; using some chain and shackles it can become extremely useful at pulling or lifting heavy loads also. Several different attachments can be bought to allow you to attach chain to with ease.

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Lowering the Center of Gravity and Extending the Reach
One of the biggest complaints about the jacks is that they can become unstable at height because of the center of gravity rising. One awesome attachment that I have seen is the OJ Sleeve. The OJ Sleeve got its roots from Retired Battalion Chief Ron Zawlocki of the Pontiac, Michigan Fire Department. I first saw it at a Machinery Rescue Class in Howell, Michigan. The design came out of necessity, when you think about it we have a bunch of great options for lifting things that are relatively close to the ground. We have air bags, bottle jacks, hydraulic spreaders, etc…. all these tools are great and provide a tremendous amount of lifting power, but they all have very minimal spreading distance and they can only lift very minimally off the ground with out cribbing. The OJ Sleeve solves the problem of lifting and spreading loads that are beyond 4 ft off the ground… extremely fast!



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The sleeve is a homemade sleeve and it is made to hold a 4×4 of any length vertically, this makes an awesome lifting post and it keeps the center of gravity in the lifting carriage extremely low to the ground increasing its stability.

The OJ Sleeve has a ton of uses such as:
• Closing the gap without using tons of cribbing
• Lifting things at height
• Pushing
• Stabilizing




The other great thing about Hi Lift Jacks is that they require no exterior power source other than muscle power. They do not require set up… they are simple and are always ready to work. I also love the fact that they will work in any condition, smoky conditions for RIT, under and around water, etc.

The Hi Lift Jack is a fantastic tool and has tons of uses, so dust them off and get them out of the compartment where they have been for years and train on them…. Use them to

Rope Rescue Edge Pro

Edge protection is a vital piece of the rope rescue puzzle but it is often overlooked or done improperly. Over the last 15 years of teaching rope rescue and working for a department that gets our fair share of high angle calls I have used almost every type of edge protection out there… most leave little to be desired.

Now their is a difference in wether you are doing a rope rescue in a urban setting (off of a crane or off an apartment building) or weather you are operating in a wilderness setting. If you are working in an urban setting the rope protection is fairly easy, a couple small rollers and you are set. But in a wilderness setting it can be slightly more difficult, the rope has several different rocks, tree roots, etc. that it can pass over. Several years ago I was shown a homemade version of edge protection that is still the best I have used to date.


The edge protection is made using small diameter wood dowels that are strung together with some old 6 millimeter cord. The dowels are cut to length, drilled, sanded and then they are ready to be assembled. Small sections of clear water pump tube can be used as spacers on the ends to keep the dowels spaced.


Once the edge protection has been made and it is placed on the rocks you will see how it can bend and be manipulated into the small cracks and forms to the shapes of the rocks. It makes a perfect “valley” for the rope to travel through, and you don’t have to worry about the rope wrecking your edge pro due to friction or sharp rocks.


The homemade edge pro folds up easily and is carried in our rope rescue bags, it weighs a little more then some commercially sold edge pro but I feel the extra pound is well worth the trade off.


The edge pro can also give you some added footing if the edge is slippery or there is the potential for loose ground. The whole edge protection cost about $20, which is well below the average cost for some edge pro.

Water Extrication

In all work that we do as firefighters preparation is one of our biggest keys to success. Training must be extremely realistic and must constantly be pushing us forward in our capabilities and our competence level. Aggressive and realistic training is the answer.

Below are a couple pictures of some auto extrication training that was put on at Bowling Green, Ohio Fire School, these are great photos of pushing your training to the next level. The fist time you cut a car apart in or under the water should not be at 3 o’clock in the morning at a real call!

What types of tools do you have besides the hydraulic cutters and spreaders that you can utilize underwater?

What types of water rescue gear do you have to help facilitate this rescue?

Do you have a mask and snorkel? What else could you use if you don’t have a mask and snorkel?

How would you stabilize this vehicle?

There is a huge difference between what you think will happen in these situations and what you know will happen….. Aggressive training is the key to success.waterex3waterex14waterex11waterex13