Heavy rescue vehicle

A heavy rescue vehicle is a type of specialty emergency medical services or firefighting apparatus. They are primarily designed to provide the specialized equipment necessary for technical rescue situations, as well as search and rescue within structure fires.[1] They carry an array of special equipment such as the Jaws of life, wooden cribbing, generators, winches, hi-lift jacks, cranes, cutting torches, circular saws and other forms of heavy equipment unavailable on standard trucks. This capability differentiates them from traditional pumper trucks or ladder trucks designed primarily to carry firefighters and their entry gear as well as on-board water tanks, hoses and equipment for fire extinguishing and light rescue. Most heavy rescue vehicles lack on-board water tanks and pumping gear, owing to their specialized role, but some do carry on-board pumps in order to broaden their response capability.


Heavy rescue apparatus can be popular choices for incident command vehicles, federal and local law enforcement (command/communications, SWAT, bomb response, etc.), rehab, HazMat incidents, light & air, urban search and rescue (USAR), and more. Furthermore, many heavy rescue vehicles can be outfitted based on their target environmental setting, such as municipal, industrial, or wildland. These configurations, determined by the operational agency and district, and worked out with the manufacturing company, provide a plethora of options for storage, response, equipment, size, and more. Manufacturers such as Pierce, Smeal, E-ONE, Seagrave, SVI Trucks, and others all have unique options that can be specifically tailored based on the ordering organization's needs and desires.


Depending on the size of the vehicle and the equipment it carries, a heavy rescue vehicle might fall into different categories, such as light, medium, heavy rescue, or technical rescue. While each of these categories often have overlapping tasks, they may be classified differently for the sake of dispatch on certain kinds of incidents. For instance, in Loudoun County, Virginia, the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Department operates Medium and Heavy Rescue apparatus, which are categorized based on equipment carried. In Loudoun, to avoid confusion, a medium rescue is referred to as a Squad Truck or a technical rescue (or just Squad), while a Heavy Rescue, which carries more equipment and is almost always larger, is referred to as a Rescue (or Heavy Rescue). This differentiation exists to allow vehicles that would not normally be classified as medium rescues, such as certain rescue engines, or tower/ladder trucks to be dispatched on calls requiring a higher level of technical rescue, if the regular squad has been dispatched. This in turn leaves the heavy rescue apparatus available, as opposed to sending them on a call that could have been handled by a medium rescue.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association in the U.S.) standards 1006 and 1670 give guidance for the operation of heavy rescue vehicles and also state that all "rescuers" must have medical training equivalent to EMT-Basic standard to perform any technical rescue operation, including cutting into the vehicle itself.[2][3] Therefore, in most all rescue environments, whether it is an EMS Department or Fire Department that runs the rescue, the actual rescuers who cut the vehicle and run the extrication scene are Medical First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians, or Paramedics, as a traffic collision has a patient involved.

Railway heavy rescue

In addition to traditional fire brigades and rescue departments, tram or railway companies may have their own heavy rescue squads specialized in responding to tram or train wrecks including derailments.[4][5] For example, railway rescue squads may carry specialized equipment for railway crashes, like heavy hydraulic jacks, heavy truck-mounted cranes for lifting and moving derailed locomotives and train cars, and equipment for capping leaking tank cars.[6]

Hazardous materials

Heavy rescue vehicles can also be outfitted specifically as hazardous material response vehicles. In this role, they carry the necessary specialized equipment to respond to and deal with hazardous material incidents. Apart from a pump and tank(s) for water and/or foam, they will carry things like chemical protection suits, decontamination supplies, material for absorption of chemicals, and supplies to plug leaks in storage tanks.

See also


  1. For example, Pelastustoimen yleisopas: raivausauto (A general guide for rescue vehicles: rescue vehicle) (In Finnish). Ministry of the Interior, Finland. http://www.pelastustoimi.fi/raportit/pelastusajoneuvojen-yleisopas/raivausauto, retrieved April the 28th, 2007
  2. NFPA 1006 Standard for Rescue Technician Professional Qualifications. 2003 Edition. National Fire Protection Association.
  3. NFPA 1670 Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. 2004 Edition. National Fire Protection Association.
  4. For example, Helsinki City Transport’s tram rescue unit in http://www.fireimages.net/displayimage.php?pos=-9508, retrieved on 9th of May, 2007.
  5. For example, VR railway rescue squad in http://www.fireimages.net/displayimage.php?pos=-18186, retrieved on 9th of May, 2007.
  6. Visiiri 2/2006, pp. 6 – 7, on the heavy rescue unit of VR Railway Company in Helsinki, Finland, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-05-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), retrieved on May 9th, 2007. (In Finnish)
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