The Rapid Intervention Reality of Your Fire Department

The first installment of this series discussed preliminary items that must be understood to have a successful rapid intervention team (RIT) on the fireground. The next question that must be asked is this: What is the true rapid intervention capability for...


The first installment of this series (January 2011) discussed preliminary items that must be understood to have a successful rapid intervention team (RIT) on the fireground. The next question that must be asked is this: What is the true rapid intervention capability for your fire department? An...


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In addition, an officer should be assigned to the role of RIT chief. This additional officer provides another command layer at the operational level and provides direct accountability for a deployed RIT. Filling this role allows the company officer assigned to the RIT the ability to function as part of their crew and focus directly on the rescue effort being undertaken. This layer also helps in preventing freelancing from occurring in the rescue efforts (Figure 1).

The RIT chief position does not necessarily have to be filled by a chief officer, but it requires a disciplined individual who is knowledgeable and can demonstrate a strong leadership presence. This position will directly support the RIT operation and provide several advantages in handling a fireground Mayday. One of the advantages of its implementation is that it decentralizes command which reduces confusion, redundant or conflicting orders and radio traffic. Other advantages directly related include:

  • • The presence of a RIT chief lets the RIT officer focus on the rescue efforts
  • • The position supports the RIT with manpower, equipment and special needs
  • • Direct management controls freelancing in the rescue effort
  • • They provide direct accountability for the deployed RIT
  • • A RIT chief provides a set of eyes to the RIT to constantly monitor fireground conditions
  • • They ensure that the backup RITs are in place and briefed about the rescue plan

All communications from the RIT officer should be directed to the RIT operations chief, who will be providing resources and making decisions related to the rescue. The RIT operations chief should also be mobile to a degree from the interior to the RIT’s point of entry to get a true indication of the operation taking place in the rescue effort. If they must be committed solely to the interior, it is important that a second RIT chief be placed into action on the exterior to monitor conditions.

The RIT chief and RIT officer should work together to make certain that all necessary tasks and considerations are addressed prior to a Mayday. A RIT chief/RIT officer checklist can prove beneficial in this situation. Checklists and forms can provide training documents prior to an incident or spark the memory during an actual incident. Operating in a Mayday situation is a very-low-frequency and ultra-hazardous event – why would we not want our people operating in key positions to have the tools they need to be successful?

Checklists do not put out fires and solve problems, but they aid the incident commander, especially if that person is alone in first few minutes of a working incident. Tactical worksheets need to be designed to coincide with department policies and the way incident commanders have been trained (Figure 2).

Point 4 – My department members understand their role and are able to practice continual ongoing risk assessment when functioning as a RIT on the fireground.

Does your department have a policy covering risk/benefit analysis taking place on the fireground? Risk/benefit analysis is something that must take place every time that we are going to commit our people to immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) conditions. It lays the foundation for every decision that we will make at that incident. NFPA 1500, 1521 and 1561 all require every fire department to have a policy on risk in place to be followed. This type of policy does not have to be lengthy and extensive. It can be very simple; it just needs to be understood by the members of your department.

One important principle of risk analysis that is often overlooked is the concept of fire flow on the fireground. In a nutshell, if we have enough water to meet the required fire flow, we can generally commit members to interior operations. This is a general assumption that does not take into consideration other factors, such as building construction and occupancy. If we cannot meet the fire flow, then we should be in a defensive posture. (If your gut is telling you something does not seem right, don’t second-guess yourself.) Resources can always be recommitted if an error on the side of safety is made, but if you decide that you should be defensive even one second too late, you can never get back what is lost in that second (Figure 3).

Situational awareness, or the ability to have perception mirror the actual environment, is another concept that must be taken into consideration. Many factors affect our situational awareness: