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The Rapid Intervention Command Board

A rapid intervention team (RIT) deployment on the fireground is one of the most stressful and chaotic situations that any firefighter can encounter. Without a strong command presence, additional members can be placed at greater risks, further complicating an already dangerous situation.

In order to handle the scene more efficiently and safely, operations should be divided into the components of fire suppression and rapid intervention/managing the Mayday. It is critical that fire suppression operations continue to reduce the hazards present to everyone operating on the fireground. A fire attack group should supervise all suppression activities while "RIT command" should manage RIT operations. To assist with this command and bring order to the scene, a simple RIT command board can be placed into operation.

Command Board Setup

The RIT command board helps to systematically maintain accountability, ensure air management, provide for focus on the RIT tasks, coordinate resources, and document pertinent information. It is simply a white board that is divided into a table of columns and rows (see Photo 1). The board can be premade and carried in a command vehicle or it can be drawn up on scene. The board has columns for: RIT team number (example: RIT #1 or RIT #2) and assigned members, entry time, seven minute update, 10 minute work time, and the time the team exits the structure. Each row is assigned to a team number for the information pertaining to their entry into the structure. This board allows RIT command, or an assigned aide, to easily document all of the needed information.

The RIT command board is based on the need to have strong accountability of members in the hazard area. This includes both the operational RIT members and the distressed members that remain within structure. This accountability data indicates who is operating in the structure, the approximate location where the team is operating and the progress of their assigned task.

Tracking Crucial Times

The time should be recorded on the board when RIT #1 makes entry into the structure. At this point all the times, with the exception of the team's exit time, can be filled out on the board. This allows RIT command to be able to scan the board and receive tactical benchmark times for all operating teams.

The seven minute update allows RIT command to receive a progress report from the team. The concept behind the update is to allow the team uninterrupted work time by reducing the number of requests for updates. The crew can focus on their assigned task instead of having to stop progress to answer radio calls. An update should be requested if the team has not provided one to RIT command by the seven minute mark.

The update made to RIT command should consist of: the team's location, current conditions, if the distressed member has been located, the status of the distressed member and any resources needed. This information should be documented on the board for future reference. This update is used to brief the next team that is making entry and ensures that necessary resources are being deployed. This update also allows RIT command to make an estimate of additional resources that might be needed to mitigate the situation. At this time RIT command should deploy the next team, RIT #2, to make entry into the structure.

At the 10 minute mark, RIT command should alert the team to make their way out of the building. The 10 minute work time is based off the average consumption of a 30 minute SCBA cylinder. The objective is to have all team members out of the structure before their low air alarms begin sounding. The goal is to minimize the chance that additional members will become distressed, further complicating the situation.

Resource Allocations

Having the next deployed RIT, RIT #2, making entry at the seven minute mark allows them to be arriving near the distressed member around the time the previous team begins to exit the structure. This ensures that the distressed member is not left alone for an extended period of time. In addition, it helps to alleviate the chaos of four to eight RIT members congregating around the victim.

Once the team has exited the structure, RIT command should document the time and ensure full accountability of the team. The team leader should have a face-to-face with RIT command to pass along peritnent details that could assist the operation.

The compilation of information on a RIT command board assists in bringing order to what can be an extremely chaotic scene. It provides a simple and systematic way for RIT command to ensure that all the objectives are being met in a safe and effective manner.

JONATHAN HALL is  a firefighter with the Saint Paul, MN, Fire Department. He previously served as a training and safety officer for the Township Fire Department in Eau Claire, WI and is a certified fire instructor for the Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire. Jonathan frequently teaches firefighter survival and rapid intervention team concepts in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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