Evaluating Rapid Intervention Teams

Jim McCormack reviews rapid intervention teams and focuses on prevention so that the teams are not needed.

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...

To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.


Complete the registration form.

  • Basement scenario – “E14 missing one member, L14 has PAR.”
  • Second-floor scenario – “L14 missing one member, E14 has PAR.”
  • Radio requests to E14 or L14 from command – “Radio keyed with no response given.”

This simulated a common communication problem that occurs on the fireground as well as added frustration to command’s part of the evaluation.

Radio Transmissions

Fireground communications are poor at best. Messages go unanswered, are often misunderstood and are sometimes answered by the wrong people. The following radio transmissions were used throughout the incident to provide radio traffic during the RIT deployment. If command called for only emergency traffic, then the transmissions were continued to see if they were acknowledged as emergency messages:

  • “Command from E14, we need another line in here.” (No response was given by E14 if called back by command.)
  • “E14-C from E14-A, E14-C from E14-A.”
  • “Pumper 14, we’re losing pressure. Pumper 14, we’re losing pressure.”
  • “Command from L14. Chief, we need to get the roof opened up.” (No response was given by L14 if called back by command.)
  • “L14-C from L14-A, L14-C from L14-A.”

The above messages were transmitted as emergency messages or conditions to see how command responded.

Safety Considerations

  • Operations channel 6 was designated as the training channel.

  • The operating RIT was monitored at all times by a member of the training staff equipped with a thermal camera.

  • Trainers equipped with 21¼2-gallon water extinguishers monitored the burn barrels during the evolutions.

  • A safety team was standing by and immediately available in the event a problem was encountered.

  • A charged hoseline was staged and available in the event it was needed.

  • A ladder was placed to the second-floor porch to facilitate emergency access/egress. An external staircase located at the rear of the structure was also available for emergency access/egress to the second floor.

Overall Findings

The length of the scenario was based on the air consumption of each individual rapid intervention team; there was no set time limit. Each scenario was terminated when the RIT exited the building with the victim or due to a low-air situation.

The scenario was not designed for success or failure; it was strictly an evaluation of current capabilities. The addition of resources and/or additional RITs to each scenario would have resulted in a higher number of removals, but that was not the objective. The results help provide the insight and justification needed to develop and implement a complete fireground survival program.

The results:

  • There were 126 rapid intervention team evolutions.
  • The missing firefighter was found 44 times (35%).
  • The missing firefighter was removed 11 times (9%).
  • Emergency air supply using the RIT air pack was established eight times.
  • The missing firefighter was rescued with the emergency air supply established four times.

The times:

  • The average time from arrival to entry was three minutes, 50 seconds.
  • The average time to locate the missing firefighter was nine minutes. The shortest time was three minutes, longest time was 19 minutes.
  • The average time to remove the missing firefighter was 14 minutes, 54 seconds. The shortest removal time was nine minutes and longest time was 19 minutes.
  • The average time from cylinder of air was 14 minutes, 13 seconds from time of entry to time of exit.

When a RIT member’s low-air alarm started to sound, the team was given approximately one minute to notify the officer and have at least two members exit, with an appropriate radio transmission. If the appropriate action did not occur, the instructor notified the member (and team) that they must begin exiting the structure. The instructor followed the team out.

The overall evaluation provided numbers that were very real – and realistic. The scenarios were developed to provide a realistic challenge, one likely to be found during an actual emergency. Conducting an evaluation similar to this will help give your department a realistic view of its current RIT capabilities when responding to similar structures. The evaluation will also help to identify both equipment and training needs as it relates to RIT operations.