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The various materials used for the sensor or focal plane array will make a difference in the image that we see on the screen of a TI, so a firefighter must understand that as well as which sensor is present in the camera being used – especially if the department owns several different makes or models.
An error commonly made is the way we train with TIs. Firefighters often train with TIs in a non-fireground environment (in the absence of heat conditions as present on the fireground). Training in this sense can provide an image that may be inverted in comparison to what may be actually encountered in a real situation and may also lack the “masking” of objects that can take place with fire conditions present. Firefighters in turn become accustomed to interpreting images that do not reflect what they can be expected to encounter.
Point 9 – The members of our fire department have trained on basic and advanced search procedures such as vent-enter-search (VES) and rope-assisted search procedures (RASP).
Does your department practice search techniques on a regular basis? When was the last time that your crews actually deployed rope and performed a team search? Preparing to perform fireground searches must be mental as well as physical. Basic skills such as orientation drills and mental mapping must be conducted on a regular basis. A simple, but effective drill is to bring firefighters into a room with their masks obscured, have them search the room just as if it were a real incident and then have them draw the room on a sheet of paper once back outside. This helps in developing the senses needed to search under the most adverse conditions.
Large-area searches present challenges and dangers that are out of the ordinary for firefighters. Are they familiar with these and do they fully understand the method or techniques practiced by your department for these types of operations?
Point 10 – The members of our fire department are skilled in and have practiced getting an air supply to a member who is out of air or trapped.
This is probably one of the most neglected areas when it comes to RIT training. Most Maydays on the fireground take place after crews have been working at the incident for a while. Getting air to the downed firefighter has to be our first priority after finding them. Are all of your department’s SCBA units up to date with the presence of universal air couplings? Do the members of your department understand how to work every option for getting air that is present on your rapid intervention pack?
Point 11 – Our department members are skilled in operating specialized rescue equipment and have practiced using it under hostile conditions.
The RIT is not a technical rescue team, but will have a duty to attempt the initial rescue efforts of trapped firefighters. The RIT’s capabilities will be limited by the members’ training and available equipment. Firefighters drill periodically with specialized tools and equipment in conditions that let them concentrate and see what they are doing. Can these members operate tools such as shores and airbags in hostile conditions as may be encountered in a situation involving a trapped firefighter?
Training is the key to successful RIT operations and staying out of trouble on the fireground. Knowing the basics needed for RIT operations can mean the difference between life and death. Train on them safely and know them well. The fireground is not the place to learn new skills.
Next: Points 12 through 18.