The mission of the Special Operations Command (S.O.C.) is to plan, equip, and train the Special Operations Forces, and to respond to fires, emergency operations, technical rescue incidents, hazardous materials incidents, chemical/biological incidents and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), terrorism, domestic attack incidents, and to provide the Incident Commander with specialized equipment and personnel extensively trained in the above disciplines.

Additionally, S.O.C. performs other duties as assigned and provides extensive planning for scheduled operations and special events to ensure the safety of both Department members and the public at large. When dispatched to working incidents, the Special Operations Command functions as an integral part of the existing Philadelphia Incident Command System, reporting to the Incident Commander.

In addition to the above, S.O.C. provides the interface with both Federal and State assets for Urban Search and Rescue (US and R) through Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 (PA TF-1).  Approximately thirty-five (35) members of the PFD are currently rostered with elements of PA TF-1. To support this effort, S.O.C. also serves as point of contact for the Southeast Counter Terrorism Task Force for matters concerning Urban Search and Rescue.

In order to address increasing demands in the areas of technical rescue, hazardous materials, and terrorism-related operations at the local, regional, state, and Federal levels, the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) has reorganized and upgraded its operational capabilities.  The Philadelphia Fire Department Special Operations Command (S.O.C.) went into service effective 0800 hours on February 1, 2003, under the Office of the Deputy Commissioner/Operations.

To complete this action, a number of administrative changes had to occur. 

  • The Hazardous Materials Administrative Unit moved from the command of the Deputy Commissioner of Technical Services to the command of the Deputy Commissioner of Operations.
  • On February 1, 2003, the Special Operations Command also assumed administrative and operational control of the Hazardous Materials Administrative Unit, HazMat Task Force 1, Heavy Rescue Company 1, and all PFD Marine Units.
  • At this time, S.O.C. was also tasked with enhancing the capabilities of Engine 47 and Engine 72. Both of these Companies received training (to standards) for hazardous materials technician and technical rescue technician.  Additionally, a number of back up personnel, (not assigned to S.O.C.) were trained.  This increased the total number of personnel available per shift who were qualified in these two areas. Both Engine 47 and Engine 72 became Squad Companies effective December 1, 2004.