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...

The afore mentioned proactive behaviors are just a minor glimpse into the attitudes and adjustments firefighters and their departments should be moving towards regarding rapid intervention. It must be remembered that throughout many areas of the country rapid intervention can barely exceed the expectations of the "Two In/Two Out" standards required by OSHA and the NFPA. None the less departments should still be involved and train on all aspects of firefighter rescue and survival no matter what the response or manpower situation in providing Rapid Intervention.

Implementation and Training

Fire departments no matter what the size or whether career or volunteer, should implement successful firefighter rescue and survival programs which include rapid intervention techniques and philosophies. Training involving these areas of firefighting should occur at least once every 60 days if not incorporated into more frequent training routines. The techniques, maneuvers and skills should be simplistic but innovative and are meant to be in order to produce high success rates under extreme duress. If firefighter rescue and survival skills along with rapid intervention skills are becoming too complicated and unobtainable during training then it is being presented incorrectly. In the end this will cause nothing more than the unthinkable - additional injuries and deaths on the fireground when the real mayday presents itself on the fireground. Department administrators should send firefighters to solid programs with experienced instructors in order to bring back appropriate training and philosophies in firefighter rescue and survival. This helps guide and establish strong policies and training programs.

Any firefighter or line officer could be assigned to RIT functions on any given response or fire incident and therefore needs to have acquired sound techniques and maneuvers in firefighter rescue and survival. Just as important is that each and every firefighter should have thorough training in their self-survival skills. This provides departments and their members an intimate understanding of what a firefighter in distress will be and should be doing during their own mayday. This allows rescuers a better chance in resolving and assisting distressed firefighters with better predictable behaviors that are known to everyone. Training has to be ingrained into behaviors repeatedly.

Implementation of appropriate and relevant operating guidelines as they pertain to each department's abilities and their mutual aide counterparts is vitally important. This means in order to have a truly successful training program in firefighter rescue and survival you need to involve your neighbors. It does little good if your department is proactive as hell while the mutual aid company arriving at your working structure fire as an assigned RIT hasn't a clue! Another final note is the importance of standard operating guidelines for your department and your responding neighbors when it comes to establishing RIT's on the fireground. Your RIT, whether it's the thin two or three firefighter team or the gracious four to five firefighter team, it needs to be set into place immediately.

We have heard on various radio and dispatch procedures of RIT's being put into place well behind the first-in companies, sometimes so far down the line in the response that they should be called rehab teams not RIT's. This type of response serves little comfort to the firefighter on the inside of the fire fight. It also starts to look ridiculous to the point of useless when everyone is out of the extinguished smoldering structure or even worse showing up after the mayday with an unfavorable outcome. Firefighters are more subject to distress in the earlier stages of a fire. Having dispatch or command assign a RIT from a fourth or fifth arriving engine or truck is pushing the envelope. It invites the syndrome of "being caught with your pants down" when a firefighter inside is in need of assistance now.

MIKE MASON is a 23 year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant currently assigned to Downers Grove, IL, Fire Department Engine Co. 3 and heads the high rise districts and its policies for his department and all responding area departments. He is a Certified Instructor III and Fire Officer II along with being a staff instructor for the Downers Grove Fire Academy and other academies throughout the state of Illinois. He is the author of R.I.C.O., Rapid Intervention Company Operations which is recognized as the largest and most comprehensive text available on Rapid Intervention. You can reach Lt. Mason can by e-mail at: mike@ricofirerescue.com.