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The first three installments in this series, beginning in January 2011, talked about preliminary items that must be understood to have a successful rapid intervention team (RIT) on the fireground and asked what the true rapid intervention capability is for your fire department? Using National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1407, Standard for Training Fire Service Rapid Intervention Crews, as a guide, 18 points have been identified that can be used as minimum benchmarks in evaluating your department’s capability.
The first five points that were discussed in parts two and three (July and August 2011) dealt with preparedness and pre-loading. The remaining 13 points deal with specific skill competencies that should be essential for all firefighters functioning in the role of the RIT on the fireground.
Point 6 – Our fire department uses firefighters who are properly trained to fill the rapid intervention function on the fireground.
Rapid intervention is one of the most dangerous and important functions on the fireground, so why wouldn’t we want our best trained firefighters assigned to that task? Rescuing a downed firefighter will be one of the most physically demanding and mentally taxing events that take place on the fireground. Training for this event can be just as demanding and needs to be if success is desired (Figure 1).
Each year, roughly 10% of firefighter line-of-duty deaths take place on the training ground – the only time we have control of the conditions we face. The leading causes of training deaths such as overexertion and falls can be applicable to the training that must take place in relation to rapid intervention. Safety always has to be the number-one priority when training. Firefighters involved in any RIT training evolutions involving elevation differences must have a Class 3 safety harness and belay line in place – using self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) in the training environment does not qualify as this. If using live fire for training scenarios, NFPA 1403, Standard on Live-Fire Training Evolutions, should always be strictly adhered to.
Solid RIT skills come from having a thorough knowledge and understanding of the basics of firefighting. Proficiency in SCBA, personal protective equipment (PPE), fire behavior, building construction, ropes and knots, ladders, tools and equipment, forcible entry and communications provide the basic foundation to build RIT skills. If our people do not possess proficiency in these areas, how can we expect them to perform at a level where advanced skills, such as the rescue of a downed firefighter, are needed?
Once firefighters have a solid background in the basics, they also must be trained in self-survival skills before progressing into the rescue of one of our own. This provides an understanding of what firefighters being rescued will be trying to do to save themselves prior to the RIT getting to them and serve as a basis of what can be expected to be encountered. Some skills that should be included in this area are window hangs, wall breaching, drywall ladder establishment and emergency-egress techniques such as ladder bails and rope slides (Figures 2, 3 and 4).
Point 7 – Members of our fire department understand the limitations of SCBA and the principles of air management, and are skilled in using the SCBA to its fullest potential.
SCBA must be known and understood, inside and out, by every firefighter. Techniques needed to troubleshoot and correct low-order failures in hostile conditions are a necessity, as are techniques that may be necessary to navigate life-threatening situations (Figure 5).