Firefighter Rescue; A Responsibility Or Disease?

Being a fire service trainer, I have heard just about every reason as to why an individual or department should not do rapid intervention training. You have all probably heard most of the reasons yourselves or quite possibly expressed some of your own. To be quite honest with you, I've grown tired of defending the reasons why we must do it. I have had it with company officers, chief officers, firefighters, and even instructors barrage me with ludicrous reasons for not learning the skills to rescue our own people. Most of the reasons these individuals are giving me are all the more reason as to why we should be training in these skills.

Complaints such as these below:

  • "It's too strenuous"
  • "You will never use that, it's not practical",
  • "The training is too dangerous"
  • "Those procedures will take too long if someone goes down"
  • "We aren't in good enough shape to train like that"

With the most disturbing comment of all, if you can believe this one, " I don't really care to help someone that goes down". These remarks, and the many more that I have collected from across the country, could possibly be the reasons as to why we can't rescue our own people.

The magnitude of this firefighter rescue disease is frightening. I honestly feel it is actually affecting the rapid intervention concept in this country. The negativity towards this concept and rapid intervention training is by far the majority.

For the life of me I can't figure out why. What would make a firefighter not want to learn how to rescue one of their own? Is it laziness? How about ignorance? Maybe they're even medically or physically unable to? We have become so used to a certain way of doing things and performing set routines that we have lost sight of what is important.

We come first.

We must never forget that. The fire service has the sole responsibility to rescue our own. If we are incompetent in that area someone may die. Quite possibly even someone you know. On earth, death is final. You cannot come back. Frankly there are people in this business that I would sorely miss if they left us. Death by fire is tragic. Death of a firefighter by fire who could not be rescued is atrocious. For those of you reading this that are in the negative majority that I speak of, I urge you to change. Learn new rescue skills with an open mind before commenting. Try out new procedures and practice them keeping in mind that maybe, just maybe, someday it may save the life of a firefighter.

We all need to step up to the plate and train in firefighter rescue. It is a responsibility and an attitude we must accept. For those of you that just won't change, I urge you to get out. Leave us now. Retire, resign, or change jobs. Whatever it takes to get you as far away from the fire service as possible, do it. If you do not have the desire or the skills to rescue a downed firefighter you have no business on the fireground.

Brute strength and common sense is not always enough to get a downed firefighter out of a burning building. You also need skills in case that doesn't work. Is this harsh? Sure it is and so is our profession. Remember that firefighters are responsible for rescuing firefighters. Everyone on the fireground must be qualified in Rapid Intervention Operations, not just the RIT.

Keep in mind that you may very well become the one that is trapped. You better hope that someone like you is not tasked to come get you because you may not get out. Let's all take an honest vow right now to better our skills at firefighter rescue. Everyone you work with will reap the benefits. Remember death is final, you won't get a second chance?


James K. Crawford is a firefighter with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire assigned to Truck Company #33 and a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine and Firehouse.com. He is a Fire Suppression Instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and the Assistant Chief of Training for the 171st Air Refueling Wing Fire Department, Pennsylvania Air National Guard-Pittsburgh. He is a graduate of the Pittsburgh Fire Academy and the Air Force Fire Academy spending four years on active duty as a firefighter. He has over 23 years experience in the career and volunteer fire service. Jim lectures nationally on the subject of Rapid Intervention Teams and is the President of Rapid Intervention Training Associates and founder of RapidIntervention.Com

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