Rapid intervention operations are nothing new. They have been around for years and many fire departments use them on a regular basis. Rapid intervention team (RIT) drills and training programs are part of almost every fire service conference and seminar, and many departments train with and master...
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Rapid intervention operations are nothing new. They have been around for years and many fire departments use them on a regular basis. Rapid intervention team (RIT) drills and training programs are part of almost every fire service conference and seminar, and many departments train with and master these skills for use in rescuing trapped or distressed firefighters.
But many fire departments do not train or otherwise practice these vital firefighter safety and survival tactics and that is a problem. The specific RIT tactics that firefighters need to be trained and experienced in are extremely different from the more routine fire tactics use for fighting building fires. Some of the best and most experienced firefighters can have difficulty implementing RIT tactics if they have not been trained and exposed to these operations.
What tactics does a firefighter need to know to be an effective and efficient member of a fire department's rapid intervention team? There are probably dozens of unique, specific and useful individual tactics that rapid intervention teams carry out, and after several years of training and experience most may be learned, but there is a smaller core group of RIT tactics that any and every firefighter working on a team must know. These are the basic RIT tactics that every fire department is obligated to train its members on if it is embracing and practicing RIT operations for itself or neighboring departments.
Basic RIT Tactics
There are several urgent and hazardous situations that firefighters can find themselves in during structural fire operations. These are the situations that the rapid intervention team was designed to handle. Firefighters fall through floors, get disoriented, have buildings collapse on them, run out of air and get trapped by extending fire. Each of these situations can be handled with several different tactics depending on the firefighter's location, the building type and the fire conditions.
The tactics described below are the basic and minimum standard for a RIT firefighter:
Determine who needs assistance. This is most often the job of the RIT officer, but each and every RIT firefighter needs to be able to collect this information from various sources on the scene. Obviously, the incident commander may hand this information to the RIT officer, but there are several other methods of determining this information. One is to have a RIT firefighter monitor each radio channel being used at the scene. Any firefighter transmitting a Mayday or other distress signal can be heard by this member and the officer can be informed.
Listening to fireground radio transmissions also may reveal that a firefighter is getting into trouble, but may not be calling for help yet. Firefighters who sound like they may be lost or disoriented can be identified and assisted. Some portable radios have the capability of displaying the identity of the transmitting member. If a Mayday or distress call is made, a RIT firefighter monitoring the radio can see the identity of the firefighter in distress.
Select and assemble RIT equipment. There is an entire apparatus full of equipment that can be used to perform numerous functions and tactics at fire operations, but only a select few pieces of equipment are best suited for RIT operations. Knowing what equipment is needed, where it is on the apparatus, and how to transport it and assemble it near the command post is vital to the rapid readiness of the RIT. Every firefighter who is part of a RIT must possess this knowledge and ability.
Some of the basic RIT tools are a thermal imaging camera, search rope, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), power saw and rescue sling/harness. These tools are in addition to the standard hand tools carried by the RIT firefighters, such as halligans, axes and pike poles. All of these tools are not immediately brought into the building or hazard area, but assembled near the command post for RIT deployment.