Rapid Intervention is the latest thing the fire service has latched onto in an effort to make our job safer. Don't get me wrong I'm a firm believer in RIT. I also believe strongly that lifeguards are necessary at our beaches and pools. That is exactly what RIT is. In the last column we talked about radio issues, a modern safety tool that generally works very well-except for the occasional days when solar flares and sunspots seem to be adjusting the squelch for us.
Other modern tools, SCBA's, PASS alarms, Global Positioning Devices, etc. are great additions to our arsenal in our battle against fire and will greatly assist our RIT teams in their efforts to save lost or trapped firefighters. But I sometimes wonder if we are getting ahead of ourselves by buying new tools without giving some real thought to the tools we already have on our rigs.
Some of us are missing the obvious!
A case in point, I recently went out of state for the demonstration of a wonderful new fire safety invention. As part of the demo we requested a ladder from a local department's rig. When the ladder was delivered we were faced with a problem, it was a problem that I had seen before both at home and at work-the inability to raise a portable ladder quickly. Why? KNOTS!
In an attempt to make the ladder "safe" someone had tied a number of knots in the rope (halyard) after wrapping the rope around both the bed and fly rungs of the ladder. The knots were then cinched down with apparent super human strength. It took several of us more than five minutes to work the knots free and raise the ladder. I turned to one of my fellow instructors and remarked that I was glad I wasn't trapped at an upper floor window waiting for this ladder.
We talked about the need to have all first due equipment ready to go in a moments notice. It was obvious this ladder wasn't. Just because the ladder's on a pumper doesn't mean we might not need it. (Truckies make the same mistake!)
"Hold on lady, we'll be right with you!" We addressed the issue in a subsequent class and solutions were varied.
One way to solve the problem is to attach the rope to a lower rung of the bed ladder in a permanent fashion such as splicing and eye around a rung. Now when you pull the rope on the fly side the rope rolls over the pulley and spills to the ground. Some guys might not like this idea because they would like the option of tying the ladder off. Okay, how about just tying the rope around a bed side rung so in a pinch it would act the same as an eye splice (nothing to untie) during deployment, but you could untie the knot and secure the ladder if needed.
Just picture yourself as a member of the RIT team springing into action. You have a couple of thousand dollars worth of high tech gear laid out nicely at your feet when your radio crackles that a firefighter is trapped at a window. How fast can you untie a rope wearing fire gloves? A better question is how long can that firefighter remain where they are?
Just as a good pump operator can drop his tank and provide water in seconds during an emergency, the same should go for portable ladder placement and extension. It should take only seconds. Try that as a RIT drill. Send a team to select, transport, position and raise a portable ladder. (If you do it at a drill with more than one company have them utilize ladders from another company's apparatus. Just like in real life-it maybe the only one available)
It's the little things that make the difference in split second life-saving operations.
Just ask the firefighter trapped at a window.