RIT Activation & Deployment
Once this initial RIT crew is activated, another two-man crew must be assembled in the same manner as the first and ready to make entry to relieve the first crew. Hopefully, the downed firefighter is at least located. The air supply should be transferred next. Assume the downed firefighters air supply is low and in need of a change. Again, if the conditions are deteriorating rapidly, forget the air supply, just find him and go. Next, convert the downed firefighter's waist belt into a crotch belt. If you don't, when you start pulling on the shoulder straps of his SCBA, you will pull that unit right off of the downed firefighters back. Now you have a whole new set of problems.
Once you start this process of removal (if you are the initial RIT crew), chances are that this initial crew is going to run low on air due to adrenaline, conditions and obstacles. Here is one of the hardest parts of RIT, leaving your injured fellow firefighter, inside of this burning house because you or your other RIT member is running low on air. If you do not leave them for the next RIT crew to bring out, chances are good that you and/or your other rescue member are going to run out of air and possibly add to the rescue mission. You are probably going to be a little closer to the exit than the original downed member. Who do you think will get pulled out first? The first member that is found will and that will be you. What has happened to the original downed firefighter who has been in much longer than you? They have to wait for the next set of rescuers. Translation: they are S.O.L. and more than likely DOS. When you start to run low on air, get out and let the next group finish what you have courageously started.
I ran a drill with an old crew of mine with two other crews present. I purposely ran my bottle half way out prior to beginning the drill, unbeknownst to my crew. The two other crews hid the mannequin and walked around as we were searching. These other crews served as a way to duplicate the pressure of a real fire situation. You never want to look bad in front of another crew, never. We found the mannequin and began the SCBA switchover. My vibe alert went off. I had to tell my guys five times that I was low on air and that we had to leave. I kept getting, "I almost have it, I almost have it!" Remember, this was a drill. Imagine the same scenario in real life.
The only thing harder than leaving a downed member inside is writing off the building, along with the missing or downed firefighters and not letting anyone else go inside because to conditions that no one could survive. That is unimaginable. Ask District Chief Mike McNamee of Worcester, MA. That is courage.
Once again, we are talking about residential buildings, not commercial. That is a whole other beast and a different article. This is just one man's suggestion. If you have a better way or a better idea, then do it. That is what this article is about. If your department does not have a solid operating procedure for the way that RIT is performed, then do what you have to do and change it, either with the help of your BC or just the way your individual crew does it. Make it work. Don't be content standing in the front yard waiting for something to happen, be proactive and be ready. These are your brothers and sisters inside, show them some respect and be ready at a moments notice to help them when they need it the most.
For all things RIT, check out Pittsburg Assistant Chief James Crawford's articles. Firefighter Robert Faas has also written a good article on RIT. As a follow up, we will discuss the different methods of removal for a downed firefighter in the next article.
Please send any ideas for future training drills, or suggested improvements and variations on this drill, to my e-mail. You and your department will receive credit for any ideas used in future articles.
LARRY MANASCO, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a lieutenant with the Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department. He currently works in one of the busiest engine companies in Fort Worth, where he has been for 13 years. He was an assistant instructor for FDNY Battalion Chief Salka's "Get Out Alive" hands-on training class. Larry has presented a webcast titled Company Level Training on Firehouse TrainingLIVE. He has participated in a Training & Tactics Talks podcasts on Radio@Firehouse.com. To read Larry's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Larry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org..