Book Review: The Essential Technical Rescue Field Operations Guide

Book Review: The Essential Technical Rescue Field Operations Guide


Not too many years ago, fire/rescue pocket guides did not exist. Heck, not too many years ago (20 or so), most fire departments were not even trained and equipped to respond to many technical rescue incidents. Other than ropes, “rescue” usually meant rescuing victims from fires or transportation incidents.

Today, the rescue firefighter is charged with the responsibility of rescue or recovery from trenches and excavations, confined spaces, structural collapse and swiftwater (including, for some of us, oceans, lakes and rivers–and don’t forget ice rescue). Rope rescue, of course, is used in all of these incidents, along with a lot of other technical skills.

The Technical Rescue Field Operations Guide, 4th Edition, by Tom Pendley, covers all of these types of rescue except surf and dive–and it also adds helicopter operations and specific rescue medical situations, just to name a few. And it does all of that in a compact, durable, easy to carry package.

Training Aide
Before technical rescue, we didn’t have nearly as many specific numbers to remember or have to recall in short order on an emergency scene. Now we do! Few of us, if any, are able to recall all of this information without assistance.

Further complicating matters: Responses to technical rescue incidents certainly aren’t frequent. So the issue becomes that we’re carrying out low-frequency/high-risk activities that include lots of specifics in the way of numbers and rules, which are difficult to remember.

Training is one way to make up for the fact that we don’t go to a lot of rescues. There are varying levels of training; some only do it once to get “certified”–whatever that means to your department–then just go through the motions. But some departments do real-world technical rescue training at real-world sites, with mannequins that replicate real-world victims in respect to size and, more importantly, weight.

If you’re doing real-world training and you’re like me, you need something to help you ensure that you’re accurate and up to speed on technical rescue specifics. This guide is that something!

Comprehensive & Cost-Effective
One major thing that sets this guide apart from all the others is the fact that it covers all the technical rescue disciplines. You could buy five separate guides at a cost of about $20 each ($100) or you could buy this one guide for about $20. You might think that because all five disciplines are in the same guide that some information may be left out or watered down compared to the guides that only cover one subject, but that’s not the case. I’ve been using this guide both as a technical rescue student and instructor since it came out in 1999. I’m a big advocate of purchasing this guide for individual team members. I can’t think of a better way to spend $20—$25 on a rescue firefighter.

Just inside the front cover, the author states that “THIS GUIDE IS NOT ALL INCLUSIVE!” meaning that it’s not a starting point. It’s designed to be used after the initial round of training to help you remember what you should already know. There is, however, information included that can be used by any emergency service responder.

The Technical Rescue Field Operations Guide is modeled after NFPA 1006: Standard for Technical Rescuer Qualifications and OSHA for Trench and Confined Space. The author even marks pages with either a “TR” (technical rescuer JPR), “L1” (Level 1 skill) or a “L2” (Level 2 skill) so the reader will know how the skill coincides with NFPA 1006.

The guide is also modeled after the Phoenix Fire Department’s Technical Rescue Program. Knowing this in turn leads you to another valuable technical rescue training tool–the Phoenix Fire Department’s Standard Operating Procedures Volume 2, which includes PDF links to department SOPs on each of the technical rescue disciplines. Phoenix’s SOP manual was extremely helpful for me in the early 1990s when I was charged with the responsibility of starting a technical rescue team. I was able to use the SOPs as a foundation for building our own procedures, saving a lot of time because I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Departments looking to create or update their SOPs should check out this resource.

When the Technical Rescue Field Operations Guide was first published in 1999, it reinforced the Phoenix SOPs, which was great for training and continuity. This latest edition continues the tradition.

4th Edition Improvements
There have been some major changes to the 4th edition of the guide, which was introduced in July 2011. It features 40 additional pages, and the full-color illustrations are far superior to the 3rd edition.

Some of the new content includes usage information for the Arizona Vortex, the CMC MPD, high-angle offsets and highlines, and surface ice rescue. The structural collapse section has been updated to the 2009 edition of the Corps of Engineers Structural Operations Guide.

So there you have it. The Technical Rescue Field Operations Guide, 4th Edition, is a guide with durable pages and easy-to-understand pictures and information, covering all technical rescue disciplines, for around $20. Whether you’re trained and equipped for a few of these disciplines or for all of them, how could you go wrong? Although this guide will never replace high-quality hands-on training and experience, it’s a great product for anyone involved in, or just getting into, technical rescue.

For more information on the guide, visit