Rapid Intervention: What Is It?

Recently, firefighters were killed at incidents where rapid intervention teams (RITs) were on the scene. The incidents in Passaic, NJ, and Phoenix are not the topic of this article, only the backdrop scenery. The fire service has embraced the need to have...


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.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Recently, firefighters were killed at incidents where rapid intervention teams (RITs) were on the scene. The incidents in Passaic, NJ, and Phoenix are not the topic of this article, only the backdrop scenery. The fire service has embraced the need to have units on the fireground devoted to saving firefighters who become incapacitated and need assistance getting to safety.

The only issue to be considered here is, do we in the fire service understand what RITs are and what they should be able to accomplish or are we believing that having a RIT on the fireground allows us to continue to behave as though they make us invincible?

We seem to believe that if a rapid intervention team has been deployed, then no matter what happens, they will get us out. This misconception - along with some others may be leading firefighters to believe RIT deployment gives them invincibility. However, I have found that there are more myths being promulgated than verifiable facts. Let's look at some of these and see if you believe them:

Myth - One unit can perform rapid intervention if it is highly motivated and highly trained.

Fact - This is only true when the victim (not victims) is on the first floor of a small (less than 20 by 30 feet) structure, (preferably in the front room, without building component failures or the fire is not a factor. Otherwise, in my opinion, the effort will require multiple companies. Specifically, it is recommended that the FIRST rapid intervention team have the mission of finding the victim(s), assessing their condition, assessing the scene where they are located, providing initial self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) replacement, if needed, and calling for additional resources when needed.

The additional units can bring in protection hoselines or other equipment that is needed. They may also have to perform other operations such as breaching or shoring that may be required to extricate the firefighters.

Myth - Training for becoming a RIT member is lengthy and costly.

Fact - I have seen the gurus, in my opinion, for this regimen (John Salka, FDNY; Robert Cobb, Jersey City, NJ; Fred Endrikat, Philadelphia; and Mickey Conboy, FDNY) teach the evolutions over two days in a train-the-trainer situation. It is the drilling and practicing of the learned skills that takes the time. All of the required tenets for this operation are usually taught in a basic class at the training center during a rookie course. Basic and advanced search, teamwork, rope handling and building construction should be taught. If they are not taught, then such training should be started before a department begins thinking about RITs.

Myth - Large quantities of equipment are needed to perform RIT assignments.

Fact - ALL of the equipment needed to perform RIT assignments is probably on your apparatus now. The addition of a thermal imaging camera is helpful, but not essential to begin. Rope and basic connectors will be the only tools that may have to be purchased. Other tools such as exit markers and the like can be added as the funds become available.

Myth - Resources can be diverted from the original problem to become part of the RIT operation should the unthinkable happen.

Fact - To depend on this postulate is almost ludicrous. When an emergency like this occurs, time is the most important adversary. This work requires maximum effort and clear thinking. Dragging a 250-pound injured or unconscious firefighter is enough to tax anyone, let alone someone who has been aggressively combating a fire. The incident scene is too unpredictable to allow for multi-tasking when lives are at stake.

Myth - Rapid intervention will be a limited operation in scope or location.

Fact - When rapid intervention is needed at large structures - commercial, multiple occupied or high-rise - or there are multiple victims, then it is entirely possible that this operation under the incident command system will grow to be designated as either a group or division. Actually, I prefer it to be activated as a group from the beginning.

This content continues onto the next page...