The Rapid Intervention Reality of Your Department

The first four installments of this series described preliminary items that must be understood to have a successful rapid intervention team (RIT) on the fireground. Posing the question “What is the true rapid intervention capability for your fire...


The first four installments of this series described preliminary items that must be understood to have a successful rapid intervention team (RIT) on the fireground. Posing the question “What is the true rapid intervention capability for your fire department?” and using National Fire Protection...


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Point 15 – Our firefighters are proficient in removing downed firefighters from upper levels using ladders and aerial devices.

Once out the window, we must be proficient on getting the firefighter down to the ground level. Trying to figure this out on the fireground when seconds count is not the place to try to figure out what way is best. This is a firefighting basic and is really no different than the skills that we should already possess that are necessary for removing civilians.

Are all of the members of your department trained and proficient in operating the aerial device that may be present on your fireground? This may seem extreme, but what happens if a “Mayday” occurs and that device is needed to perform rescue and the driver/operator is not readily available?

Point 16 – The members of our department are skilled at various techniques to remove a firefighter from a sub-level or below-grade rescue situation.

According to studies conducted by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), more than 65% of collapse fatalities have occurred during fire attack operations.

The easiest method to effect a rescue in a situation such as a firefighter falling through the floor is to enter and extract the firefighter through an alternate entrance/exit to the space in which the person has fallen. This is more than likely not going to be possible or the most time efficient in all circumstances. When an alternate entrance/exit is not available, it becomes obvious that the quickest method for retrieval will be the area in the floor through which the firefighter fell. Raising the downed firefighter back up through the floor will require a great amount of weight to be lifted by a minimal number of rescuers. This may sometimes have to take place in an area that is confined or restricted.

Many alternative techniques have been introduced and perfected to rescue a firefighter in a floor collapse. Different techniques should be trained on consistently to find out which ones work better or are more comfortable for the people performing them. A “Mayday” situation is not the time to try to learn them.

Point 17 – Our firefighters have the knowledge and skills to create anchor points and simple mechanical advantage systems.

Most firefighters are intimidated by the use of ropes, but it does not need to be that way. Techniques that are kept simple can be very useful for RIT or survival operations.

One of the most crucial steps involved when using rope for rapid intervention is the establishment of an adequate anchor. If one is not readily available, the firefighter must understand how to fabricate one. This can be difficult when a RIT is working in near-zero visibility. The major consideration when establishing an anchor is that it will support the weight of the load being placed on it.

The basic mechanical advantage systems incorporated into rapid intervention for the purposes of dragging, lifting or raising downed firefighters are meant to decrease the weight of a downed firefighter, making the task more efficient for the rescuers. These mechanical advantage systems are not meant to be set up in the same manner as with high-angle or vertical rescues that require additional expertise and equipment in regards to their safety and function. The rescue of a downed firefighter is not meant to be a technical rescue incident; time is of the essence – things must be kept simple and safe.

The concepts of mechanical advantage are easy to use. In fact, most RIT techniques are easier and quicker to perform with a proper pre-rigged 2:1 mechanical advantage system – even in a dark, smoke-filled environment.

The 2:1 mechanical advantage system is the simplest to set up and the easiest to understand. For these reasons, it is the preferred system to use for rapid intervention operations. Another advantage is that only a minimal amount of equipment is required to set up a 2:1 system.

Point 18 – Our firefighters know how to lower downed firefighters from upper levels using various techniques using basic equipment that includes the use of 2:1 mechanical advantage and high-point anchors.