From Bravo Fleet Infobase
A Hazardous Situation Response Team, more commonly referred to as a Hazard Team, is a special unit stationed aboard many Starfleet vessels, intended for use on away missions and other situations that require high levels of skill but are too dangerous for a ship’s senior staff.
The basics of Hazard Team doctrine were written by Captain Surval during the Cardassian War, in a paper analyzing the impact of the loss of senior staff during hazardous situation and ground combat missions on starship operational effectiveness and suggesting the then-radical idea that an alternative option ought to be made available to starship commanders. While the data was irrefutable, concern about handing operational authority over these situations - situations with profound Prime Directive ramifications and the potential to start wars and diplomatic incidents - to junior officers were seen as far outweighing the dangers of using senior staff, so Commander Reese’s report was shelved.
During the Dominion War, the USS Resolute was operating near the Badlands when it received a distress call from a civilian freighter. When faint human and Bajoran life signs were detected aboard the freighter, the captain, following standard procedure, sent an away team led by the ship’s Executive Officer and also including the Chief Engineer, Chief Tactical Officer, and Chief Medical Officer to the freighter to provide aid. It turned out to be a trap - the freighter’s crew were already dead, the life signs faked, and the Cardassian ship hiding behind the third moon of a nearby L-class planet sent a signal to detonate spatial charges set around the freighter’s warp core once the away team was aboard. The ensuing battle, where Resolute fought without most of her senior staff, nearly destroyed the ship and cost it three-quarters of its crew, and only the timely arrival of the IKS Rotarran and her escort prevented the destruction of the Resolute, which was, by then, under the command of an ensign flight controller.
The Resolute incident brought the Hazard Team concept back into discussion, and, by the end of the war, about a dozen starships were testing variants on the idea to different degrees of success. After the war, Captain Surval of the Arms of Rotterdam published the document that became the core of the standard Hazard Team operational manual.
Structure and Doctrine
A Hazard Team usually consists of six to ten members, most of them NCOs and none members of the ship’s senior staff or first-shift bridge crew. A single member of senior staff is assigned as a training officer, to oversee the team’s development and keep it in line with the Commanding Officer’s operational philosophy, but apart from that, the Hazard Team operates independently of the ship’s command structure.
The commander of the Hazard Team is always an officer, usually a Lieutenant though on a smaller ship their rank can vary more widely. The remainder of the team consists of specialists in various fields, who are expected to bring their expertise to the missions to which the team is assigned.
Members of the Hazard Team continue to perform their normal shipboard duties, and are, when not involved in Hazard Team work, treated as normal members of the crew. They also have two to three training sessions per week. During these training sessions, they train in combat scenarios, conflict deescalation, and high-stress work.
On away missions, Hazard Team members often carry specialized equipment. While standard-issue gear includes a Starfleet phaser rifle, a heavy combat uniform, and a tricorder, both cultural and mission needs can call for further or replacement gear. Many Hazard Teams stock Cardassian phaser rifles for their reliability and simplicity of use, and those with cultural familiarity with other weapons might choose to carry those instead of or in addition to their rifles. Multiple models of experimental battle armor have been issued to Hazard Teams, but so far none has shown sufficient effectiveness to enter general use. Medics will carry expanded medkits, scientists discipline-specific equipment, and engineers toolkits. The Hazard Team’s visual signature is the Starfleet Hazard Equipment Harness, an efficient system of mesh and hooks for carrying and distributing the weight of large quantities of gear, maximizing the carrying capacity and mobility of its users.
Hazard Teams in Play
- On a ship with a Hazard Team, the senior staff will not beam down for dangerous away missions. Those missions will instead be carried out by the Hazard Team, with support from relevant shipboard specialists as necessary.
- The training officer will conduct briefings before planned operations, and set emergency protocols for the Hazard Team. Hazard Team training can be exceptionally valuable when repelling boarding actions, so members of the Hazard Team might have different battle postings than others who are members of the same department they are.
- Be creative in designing specialized equipment for your Hazard Team’s members! This is an opportunity to let your interest in Star Trek and military equipment run a bit wild. Just remember, when you are working on their gear, that there are reasons why the phaser rifle is Starfleet’s standard weapon - its mix of durability, firepower, and versatility shouldn’t be exceeded by other gear. Other weapons might be better than a phaser rifle for specific tasks (a Cardassian phaser is easier to use and even more durable, but lacks the Starfleet rifle’s firepower and versatile fire modes, for example, while a Lagashi powergun might exceed its firepower but have no stun or wide-area options, and a slugthrowing rifle would be inferior to a phaser on all three of those axes but function in even the most advanced dampening fields). Especially with alien officers, and those who have connections to alien cultures, this is a strong opportunity.
- Similarly, gear: Star Trek is a setting where heavy armor is just not all that helpful without being so heavy that it severely restricts mobility in humanoid wearers. The offensive capabilities of modern energy weapons simply outstrips the ability of armor to protect its wearer by such a vast margin that armor is not worth the effort, unless you expect rather a lot of melee combat (where modern materials science gives light armors like Klingon synth-leather and Cardassian plate significant effectiveness). The Hazard Team harness provides some protection from slashing strikes and slugthrowers, but against phasers the standard tactic of “don’t get hit” is still by far the most effective.