It’s all a matter of perspective. If an entire fireground incident is being managed under the incident command system (ICS), then when things go wrong on the fireground it must mean that the ICS isn’t working, right? If that’s not the case, then the signals being sent out about the fact that...
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No matter how much you prepare for (and try to prevent) fireground emergencies, the fact remains that things may not work out. But we all know the difference between a true fireground tragedy and a failure to prepare. Don’t wait for the department to receive its own personalized fatality report to get ready, please!
Repackaging the Basics
Let’s face it, the wave of firefighter survival, rescue and RIT training that’s been going on for the past few years is nothing more than a repackaging of basic firefighting skills. These are the skills that every firefighter should be taught from day one. These are the skills that have become the least important part of basic firefighter training, and continually get pushed further and further back on the training priority list. What’s worse is that they’ve been missing for so long in basic firefighter training that the majority of firefighters on many departments have never had the training. That’s another reason why this training is for all members, not just the new ones.
Is rapid intervention rapid? In its current state, for most departments, the answer is no. The reality is that a firefighter rescue will take time, no matter how prepared you are. Can rapid intervention be rapid? Yes, it can. Proficiency, which comes from frequent and realistic training, increases speed. The most valuable commodity on the fireground is time. Training and preparation can buy time by providing a trained rapid intervention team that is ready to go – and that knows what to do – when a firefighter is in trouble.
The reality is that a trained rapid intervention team will get the job done much quicker than an untrained team. Let’s postpone the argument over the speed of rapid intervention teams until after we’ve taken the time, and put in the effort, to train all firefighters in the basics of firefighting (engine company basics, truck company basics, firefighter survival, firefighter rescue, rapid intervention operations, and – most importantly – preventing fireground emergencies). Only then will we have a realistic snapshot of what rapid intervention teams can do.
- It’s easy to ask the question and say things aren’t working when you’re not likely to be the one on the receiving end of the service. It’s frightening to ask the question and know things aren’t working when you’re likely to be on the receiving end of the service.
- It requires hard work, commitment and responsibility to conduct the training that’s needed to develop a successful fireground survival and rapid intervention team program.
- There are no excuses, none, for not being 100% ready to rescue one of our own on the fireground.
What follows is a department-wide rapid intervention team evaluation that justifies the need for revisiting the basics – under the repackaged training initiative called fireground survival and rapid intervention team operations (or whatever you’d like to call it).
The Fire Department Training Network assisted the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) last year in conducting a department-wide rapid intervention team evaluation. The training session was designed to evaluate the status of the department’s RIT program while responding to private dwellings (single- and multi-family residence fires make up the bulk of the fire load for the department). A future training session is anticipated to address the department’s RIT capability when responding to commercial building fires, a completely different scenario.
Many fire departments (Indianapolis included) have a blanket policy that provides for – and places – personnel on the fireground to act as the rapid intervention team. This session has provided an honest and realistic “snapshot” of the status of the RIT initiative in Indianapolis. The results are being shared so that they can be used to help departments develop a solid training program for their own members – one that will increase the chances of successfully rescuing one of your own.