Rapid Intervention: What Should We Be Seeing and Doing?

The most experienced firefighter can have difficulty applying realistic approaches to rapid intervention methods, techniques and maneuvers especially if they haven't even pursued the training.Well it has been a good 10 years since rapid intervention began...


Improving the Odds

It is more important that each firefighter and officer be trained as thoroughly as possible in self survival skills and rapid intervention to ensure and enhance their safety and possible needed rescue of a distressed firefighter. This is true on any fireground, no matter what the response size or personnel presence is. If members are adequately trained, we can provide better outcomes for the fallen firefighter as well as for the rescuers.

Often times when a mayday incident occurs, firefighters rush in to help the fallen member before a rapid intervention response, even with the presence of a dedicated RIT on scene. This is not a lack of discipline but the reality of human nature for the need to save others that has been imbedded in our make up as firefighters. It's simple: we react through commitment and training to the emergencies and we really react to emergencies when it is one of our own. Without self survival or rapid intervention skills our reaction would for sure turn into additional losses especially when we're right there when it occurs.

So you see rapid intervention is truly a rapid response in the hands of any amount of well trained individuals who know what to do. When the RIT arrives whether its seconds or minutes into a mayday, it just provides those reacting in the immediate area a guarantee for an improved chance with a plan of action and additional resources where there may be none. Regarding maydays, if there's one thing that will defeat or decrease are probabilities of success its chaos.

The idea behind a well-trained rapid intervention team and their actions are to:

  • Acknowledge receiving their assignment as the RIT and announce their arrival at the scene through dispatch and command
  • Bring the proper personnel and equipment to do the job: rope bag, air supply, irons, thermal imaging, webbing, lights and wire cutters. Get secondary equipment not in use from immediate vehicles in the fire area involved in the incident: saws, ladder, etc.
  • Go to the sector involved in the offensive/defensive procedures, not to the command post. If you don't know where the sector involved in the offensive/defensive procedures is then report to the command post. At larger incidents (high-rise or commercial buildings or warehouse structures) report to a forward area. Check in with a sector officer. Announce your presence and sector position to command. If there is no sector established, establish it and inform command
  • RIT to establish their presence as soon as possible at the proper sector of the structure involved. Preferably where the firefighters enter the structure. Where has the hoseline made entry? Where is the primary search being conducted? Are there firefighters on the second floor? In the basement? Where is the main body of fire? Where is the fire going? Who's in charge of whom?
  • RIT's and their team leaders are to monitor all fireground radio communications and establish an additional radio channel for RIT communications if possible. This enables the proper tracking methods regarding movement and assignments as well as actions of firefighters within the interior and on the roof. Encircling the building also provides for visual movement and accountability of firefighters.
  • RIT's no longer just stand around, they are physically and extremely proactive like ants on an ant hill. Collecting secondary equipment such as a power saw, ladders and even establishing a second or third hoseline lead out if none is present to protect firefighters as well as themselves when needed.
  • When RIT's are in need of equipment they should go to the nearest engine or truck and confer with the operator and get it. Operators should be instructed through policy that if a RIT asks for something, they should give it up if it's still on your rig and not in use.
  • Good RIT's are proactive and allowed to function in that capacity. Seeking approval to perform proactive behaviors is time consuming and occupies radio traffic. Instead advise sectors or command personnel of your actions. If it's closed up, open it up without affecting fire conditions. With operations on the second floor of any type, the RIT should raise ladders to windows, at least two on two sides the structure. RIT's are to provide more ways out of a structure for interior firefighters which also provides the RIT more ways in to get to a firefighter in distress
  • RIT's should help out on hoseline advancements while insuring the integrity of the stretch (kinks, turns, doors etc)
  • A RIT for the fireground should be like having a giant safety officer for incident command. The RIT should inform and update his sector or command on the firefight from improved conditions to worsening conditions that are or have gone unnoticed.
  • RIT should continually monitor the possibilities of collapse and its warning signs. Every member of the team should have two sides of the structure in view at all times when not tasking.
  • In the event of a mayday the RIT can help firefighters that are racing inside to remain focused on protecting the rescue effort as well.