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This scenario is a follow-up from our last training article. We will assume that this rescue of a downed firefighter is being performed by an activated rapid intervention team (RIT). A two person team has made entry into a residence with a good idea of the location of the downed firefighter. The RIT has located the firefighter and placed him on top of the search rope.
Our training session will begin at this point. We will go over several key points to cover with your crew and the follow-up article will address several different methods that you can use to train your crew with. Attempt to start any training session with some important facts about the subject matter. This time can also be used to give your crew a heads up about some of the small details that you will be looking for during the training session.
Each Scenario Brings New Challenges
The rescue of a downed firefighter can be performed multiple ways, based on the situation that is presented to the rescuing firefighters. These different scenarios must be discussed at length and trained on to be able to function and make quick and correct decisions. Let's go over a few of the more common scenarios that rescuers may be faced with.
First is a lost firefighter or a firefighter that is low on their air supply or unconscious due to their air supply having been expended. This scenario will more than likely have limited visibility and low to moderate heat conditions. These conditions will allow for the RIT to change the air supply of the distressed firefighter and if necessary, convert the distressed firefighter's waist belt to a crotch belt. These activities take some time and can only be performed when conditions allow. With ongoing training, these tasks can be performed even faster.
The second set of conditions is not as favorable for rescuers. These conditions are limited to zero visibility and extreme heat. These conditions demand a rapid entry and exit. There is not time to change the downed firefighter's air supply or to convert a waist belt to a crotch belt. As a matter of fact, in conditions such as these, you as a rescuer will be lucky to gain access and locate the downed firefighter. These conditions include backdraft, flashover and collapse. Even though these conditions demand a rapid entry and exit, there is more to pulling the firefighter out than just a simple snatch and go.
With our first set of conditions (limited visibility and low to moderate heat) you have a little time to perform a few tasks that will improve the condition of the downed firefighter and improve your chances as a rescue team to successfully remove the downed member. First, as a rescue team, you have made entry with a search rope, thermal imaging camera, a hand tool (preferably a Halligan), an extra airpack and a general knowledge of where you are going and who you are going in after. Before making entry, make sure that the extra airpack is in the on position. You do not want to be fumbling around in the dark trying to turn that airpack on. That is time wasted that you just don't have.
Command must be notified once the downed firefighter has been located. At this point you must assume that the downed firefighter's air supply is low or out. With one hand on the downed firefighter's regulator and the other on the replacement airpack's regulator, switch the air supply. The reason for having a regulator in each hand is to assist with placement of the new regulator. By keeping a hand near the opening in the face piece, you will be able to place the new regulator faster and with more ease due to limited visibility. If you suspect that the downed person is not breathing, then also turn the purge valve into the open position. This can be done anytime a firefighter is in need of rescue if you wish.